The agenda of the film is clarified by the context in which it is unveiled. United Nations COP21 is around the corner and this is perhaps the most optimistic convention on Climate Change since the inaugural edition in Rio 1992 which has since become one of the biggest disappointment on the “international community”. The optimism in the air is further strengthened by the launch of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) in September of this year which has taken over the Millennium Development Goals (MDG). Even though the Nigerian government is counting on fossil fuel to fund its near future development, environmental issues are poised to become a relevant consideration, by the appointment of Haj Amina Mohammed as the Minister of Environment. Haj Amina Mohammed was the senior special assistant to Nigerian president on MDG, then as special adviser to UN Secretary General on post-2015 development planning, so part of the architects of SDG until its launch while working with the UN.
The production quality of the film is impressive. It could easily pass for the Nigerian version of Al Gore’s documentary Inconvenient Truth which became a phenomenon in itself; for many, there was the climate change issue, and there was Inconvenient Truth. Advocacy via good quality films are convenient for audience from middle class Nigeria, which is why Youtube advert-clips are getting better and better in terms of quality. One technical issue in the experience of watching the film is the frequent and rapid subtexts showing profile of those interviewed which competes for attention from the message being passed; I found myself snapping back into the film trying to figure out what I missed for the last few seconds.
There were useful facts and specifics with regards to data on location, date and quantification of the climate crisis. For these I encourage you go watch the movie. Though some of these predictions are not new to some, it rings a different chord in us when it is presented by fellow Nigerians; it feels more believable. For instance “By 2050, much of Lagos and 75% of the Niger Delta could be underwater”, “Nigeria annually loses approximately 150,000 hectres of land to advancing desert”. If you are Nigerian, how does it feel reading this, knowing it is coming from the works of Nigerians. In the documentary, you are shown familiar beaches in Lagos, and for those who remember scenery of the beautiful beaches on Lagos in the 90s, now you have an explanation; climate change.
In its effectiveness as a tool for advocacy to the middle class, therein lies a conundrum worth resolving: does the movie-grade quality of the documentary gets it to be regarded as entertainment, or is it both entertaining and advocating without the former undermining the latter? One thing repeatedly happened during the screening; the audience reaction to what they considered was indistinguishable from similar audience reactions in blockbuster movies. The thing with blockbuster movies is that the funny lines are usually cheap and almost predictable, but what is even more predictable is the synchronised laughter and giggles of the audience in the cinema. Except for one funny statement about a traditional ruler taking environmental crisis seriously because it is heading to his house, the other “funny” moments were hardly coined to be funny. In fact they were mostly funny only to the middle class because the joke was on the interviewee speaking broken English; audience were laughing at the interviewees not with them. It was a sort of mockery of a character who is actually not a character but a person explaining their problems. These are people we meet everyday and who we don’t find funny when they talk to us, but when they appear on the big screen with high quality production, they become funny in a mocking way.
Just as these “funny” and entertaining moments on big screens distract movie viewers from seeing the underlying politics, ideology, social commentary, and even nothingness that pervaded blockbuster movies, I fear the message of the documentary may be missed. Let us not dismiss that Climate Change has become a formidable ideology; and I support it being fully aware of this.
Talking about politics and ideology, a review will not be complete without mentioning the sponsors and supporters of the movie. There is the EU, National Security Adviser’s office, … and Shehu Musa Yar’adua Foundation of course who is the executioner of the project.
These are the stark predictions of an interviewee, which is believable if climate change continues worsening globally, “People from the North will come down, people from the south will come up”. Yet I am amazed that Nigeria’s climate crisis may be the reason to eventually coexist more tightly, geographically. Whether that would birth peaceful coexistence or its opposite, only time will tell. Unless humanity does something about the crisis, and re-understands its role in the cosmology and ecology.