Guest blogger Bart Weiss is director of the Video Association of Dallas and VideoFest. He will be blogging from his trip to Nigeria as part of the American Documentary Showcase. You can read his previous post here.
Day five started early.
Our wake-up call came at 5:30, and for some reason I had no sleep. We got to the airport, went thought security, took the bus to the plane and saw a bunch of bags outside of the plane. Apparently, you have to identify your bags before they can go on, which kind of makes sense. But I had not seen that before, and for that mater I did not see my bags. So pretty much everybody was on the plane except me and my bags. I had visions of never seeing my bags again. But then they showed. This baggage mess made us very late, so when we finally got to Lagos (pronounced like the toys) our first program was almost over before we got there.
The traffic in Lagos is slow – very slow – so you have to build in lots of extra time to get anywhere. I understand that aside from the usual causes of congestion, the profusion of potholes made things much worse. So as the traffic comes to a halt, people come up to your car and try to sell you everything. Who is sitting in their car and says to themselves, “You know, what I really need is a clock.” I guess you can do a little window shopping and save some of that wasted time.
There was some confusion over what we wanted the program to be. There were Master classes scheduled for Thursday. As it turns out, we only had public screenings that day and we got done a bit early as well. These screenings were in a cinema multiplex that could have been anywhere. It was in a mini mall, where there were all kinds of stores – including an Internet cafe. I imagined someone sitting there sending me an e-mail telling me I had won some money. Surprisingly, while in Nigeria I didn’t get one of those.
The first film we had to screen was a Streetfight, about a 2002 election in Newark, N.J., between two african Americans – newcomer Cory Booker and long-time old school politician Sharpe James. The film led to lots of discussion about political corruption in both countries. There were also some scenes in which Booker is charged as being too white, which we heard in the Obama election. There was, as there was in all of these screenings, discussion about cinema verite.
While this film was going on, we were interviewed by two newspapers and two video somethings. I am not sure if these was TV stations, cable news, cable access or web news. Nevertheless, we talked about what we hoped to accomplish here, why we came and how we can help the industry here. We talked about bringing a new (to them) form of documentaries for them to see and talked in detail about how we made them so that they can address the issues in Nigeria themselves. We also talked about how they can make films that could be exported to festivals around the world. Most of the films created in Nigeria now are for internal consumption.
The next film we showed was Whiz Kids. On one level, the film is another one of those that follow people through a competition, which produces great characters. More importantly, though, it talks about how important science is for kids, and how smart some of our kids are. Even though this was mostly a general audience (there were lots of filmmakers there) the discussion of this film mostly was about process.
We didn’t have an evening program, so for once we were done early. So we checked into where we were staying, a place called “The Guest Quarters,” which is within a complex that include army baraks. This was a little Americana in Africa – they took U.S. dollars and had a basketball court outside. We took a bit of a nap, and then went and had our first real authentic African dinner, which was great. They had something called pounded yams, which were white and round and had about as much taste as grits. But the African beer was great. Then we went home and started to pack, because I had to check out in the morning.
Check back Wednesday for a report on Day 6.