Communicating Change And Societal Values In Selected Nigerian Home Movies

Project and Seminar Material for Theatre Arts

Communicating Change And Societal Values In Selected Nigerian Home Movies


It is a widely accepted notion that Nollywood movies contain negative content such as drug addiction, armed robbery, sexual immorality, women and child abuse amongst others, which in effect elicit negative reaction from its viewers. These negative reactions often result in negative societal consequences. This research work explores the positive values projected in Nollywood movies as it relates to different facets of the society and how it by extension promotes societal change. To achieve this, literary materials and select movies were critically analysed against the cultural norm theory of De fleur and Gerbner‘s cultivation theory. On the basis of the theories proposition, the prolonged exposure of viewers to these positive contents will begin to impact positively on such viewers and an adoption of the values will translate into positive societal change. The research attempts to establish that irrespective of the negative content of Nigerian movies, some positive values and norms which when adopted will project positively in different facets of the society also exists in some movies. To reflect this, three (3) movies;
The Meeting, Mr. And Mrs, and Half of a Yellow Sun reflecting political, social and historical aspects will be analysed. Qualitative research will be used in other to gain a deep understanding of the values and norms inherent in the select movies. In the course of this research, certain issues were made evident, prominent amongst which is that Nollywood producers are giving more attention to details to ensure they tell the Nigerian story professionally. The researcher recommends among others that Nigerian home movies be maximally explored as a development communication medium.

Chapter One

General Introduction

The word change has so many meanings depending on the context in which it is used. However, one major point that keeps reoccurring is the move from one state to another. Change in a society refers to an alteration in the social order of the society, it may include changes in nature, social institutions, social behaviours or social relations. Thus change can refer to any significant alteration over a period of time in behaviour patterns, cultural values and norms.

The world today is changing so fast economically, socially, politically and even physically. The argument however is whether the change is for the better or for the worse. This change is made rapid by the increasing new ways of communication especially the media which has increased accessibility to knowledge. This has changed the ways individuals, groups, and societies think, feel, behave and interact.

In spite of the seeming objectives of the new communication mediums, a great deal of fear and outrageous optimism permeates opinions about its attendant negative consequences. This is so because the inundation of too much information is a potential threat to the ability to process which information is actually needed. Film has over the years become a pervasive and ever present entity in our lives, as well as a strong influence for constructing meaning in our everyday live. Social Comparison Theory posits that ―people will [at some point in their lives] compare themselves and significant others to people and images whom they perceive to represent realistic goals to attain‖ (Botta, 1999: 26).

1.1. Background to the Study

Over time, viewers have been influenced by images projected in films and in recent times, the family ideals, beliefs and culture are being influenced by what is seen outside the home and the movies which sometimes contradict what is known to be true? The character, personality and identity of a person are shaped through many different means, and with the unlimited access to anything and everything through films, identities are being skewed. These negative impacts of films however, do not dissuade the fact that some movies project positive themes, depict reality and advocate the triumph of good over evil which in the long run have the capacity to result in positive outlook of the viewer. Film images today, both positively and negatively influence the viewers‘ identity and this impact has been said to be more on the youth in our society. Payne (2008:31) puts it thus, ‗Film and television have, long been feared for being capable of transmitting socially objectionable messages…. With easier access and quicker results, audiences of film content are exposed to a tremendous amount of information fed to them. This influences and shapes their identities. The good thing, however is, not all of it is negative and if well projected and managed these content can be used positively to help the future of our society.

Exposure to information around us has an impact on the formulation of our ideals, opinions, and outlook on life. Viewers today, especially children, take on personality traits of artistes whom they idolize and consider role models. This goes to show that if they are overly exposed to such movie content, some part of their newly formed identity will be based on this medium.

Films have become a significant force in modern culture especially in developing countries such as Nigeria. Viewers are bombarded with messages which reflect the culture and beliefs of the producing society and these are spread nationally and internationally. The movie projects a complex of mutually interdependent perspectives and values that influence a society and its institutions in various ways. In Nigeria, For example, certain currents of popular culture may originate from, (or diverge into) a subculture representing perspectives with which the mainstream popular culture has limited familiarity or does not accept. The culture of Nigeria is shaped by its multiple ethnic groups; the variety of customs, languages, and traditions among all of Nigeria’s ethnic groups gives the country a great deal of cultural diversity. This cultural diversity has driven the nation’s innovative popular culture which is basically classified as good morals, obedience, humility, respect for elders etc.In recent times however, there has been a general outcry as regards the ‗imported‘ popular culture which is gradually enveloping all facets of the Nigerian society, with maximum influence on the Nigerian movie industry- which is believed to propagate to the world the Nigerian culture and values. The incursion of this alien ways over our ‗traditional way of live‘ has become a source of concern as it is seen as a diversion from the morally upright well behaved, sensitive and responsible Nigerian. The common belief in Nigeria is that home movies negatively project the culture of Nigeria. That is why Frank Aig-Imoukahuede in Opubor (1995:47) confirms that

Many Nigerians have complained of the poisonous content of films shown on the screens in Nigeria a great number of people have criticized the nation‘s television for featuring materials which contradict or erode the quality of life and undermines the people‘s values and norms. What is needed are films for self projection, for presenting the fact of life in Nigeria.

Indeed in recent times films being produced feature contemporary real life stories, history and events; however, this is not to say that in the recent past produced movies do not reflect life as we can hardly say that these movies were created in a vacuum though they sometimes may be exaggerated. Nigerian movies now reflect diverse issues as it affects us from culture to history, politics to values.

Nigerian video films reflect the way of life of Nigerians, as much as it tells stories of our past and present. Consequently making Nigerian movies socially rooted. The movies produced by persons sharing same cultural milieu as the audience depict the culture of its audience; the village scenes, political and traditional justice systems, land tenure, costumes, hair-dos, tattoos, drumming, singing, dancing, indigenous foods and drinks, as well as religious beliefs all culminating into telling the history of Nigeria and its unity in diversity. For instance, the first Nigerian video film, Living in Bondage‖, projected socio-cultural traits and propensity of the average Igbo trader, who will stop at nothing to have a breakthrough in business. Thus, Nigerian video films are not only rebuilding such cultural values but playing a very significant role in Nigeria‘s socio-politico-cultural influence in Africa, and by extension the Western world. It is pertinent to note that in its two decades of existence, Nollywood has gone through some generic and developmental trends.

Values refer to appropriate courses of action or outcome; they reflect a person’s sense of right and wrong or what “ought” to be. Values tend to influence attitudes and behaviour as it identifies what should be judged as good or evil. They help solve common human problems for survival and are responsible for why people do what they do and in what order they choose to do them. Values was summarized by Professor Moemeka in his article titled:
―Communalism As A Fundamental Dimension Of Culture,‖ as follows:

  1. The Supremacy of the Community
  2. The Sanctity of Authority,
  3. Respect for Old Age or the Elderly
  4. The Usefulness of the Individual
  5. Religion as a Way of Life.

In addition to those mentioned by Moemeka, it can be deduced that warmth of human relationship, resilience and love of country are embodiments of the serial values. People‘s perception about the universe makes for the basis for the formation of their scales of values. Therefore, a people‘s attitudes are explainable against the backdrop of their cosmology. Various values found in our society will be made explicit through an analysis of selected movie.
There is no denying the fact that some values are held dear to us and these values took different dimension by the incursion of Western values which were and are still being communicated largely through the medium of films. One would then be compelled to ask, Do these negative influences of home movies bring about cultural and behavioural change?‖

Opubor et al (1995:1) answers this thus, Of all the media of communication, the motion picture has perhaps the most universal appeal and impact; a film can rise above the limitations of language, and cultural barriers by the power of its visual images, its use of music and sound effects and can succeed in conveying much the same message to audience of heterogeneous background. The ability of film to transcend beyond diverse cultures is obvious in the consumption of movies around the world. In Nigeria for example, Indian and Chinese movies amongst others
are consumed by a large number of the population irrespective of the fact that they hardly understand these languages. Viewers can on the average understand and describe the subject matter of such movies, on the other hand, Nigerian movies; Yoruba, Ibo, pidgin etc are consumed not only within the shores of Africa but in parts of the Western world and such viewers also recognize the themes of the movies. If indeed as it has been proved that these negative influences bring about cultural and behavioural change it wouldn‘t be wrong then to say that positive influences when portrayed would elicit positive changes. Thus this study is an attempt to analyse the positive societal values; cultural, political and social value content of Nollywood movies which has been so accused of projecting negative vices, as Nollywood‘s impact and transformation of Nigeria‘s culture, politics, society and economy cannot be underestimated, and neither can its influence on viewers.

1.2. Statement of the Research Problem

Critics have argued that Nigerian movies reflect negative ways of life which is often imbibed by its viewers and this in turn result in their display of negative behaviours, attitude and values. This argument is valid in the light of the earlier produced movies. However, with the commendable development of the industry in thematic expressions and production, the statement becomes questionable. This research will serve to prove that the statement has become obsolete by analysing recent Nigerian movies.

1.3. Aim and Objectives of the Study.

The aim of this research work is to establish that, Nollywood movies communicate positive values in all ramifications of the society and thus has positive influence on its viewers.

The study will seek;

  1. To demonstrate the various positive trends projected by Nollywood movies
  2. To correct the notion that Nollywood movies only reflect materials which contradict or erode the quality of life and undermine the people‘s values and norms.
  3. To show how Nollywood can be improved as a medium of transformative communication for the nation.

1.4. Research Questions

  1. What are the positive trends projected by Nollywood movies?
  2. Do Nollywood movies reflect only materials that contradict or erode the quality of life and undermine the people‘s values and norms?
  3. How can Nollywood be improved as a medium of transformative communication?

1.5. Scope of the Study

A lot of recent Nollywood movies today are enriched with imitable values which will bring about positivity in our actions. However, for the purpose of this research three movies will be used to analyse the social, historical and political issues in our society.

1.6. Justification of the Study

The general conception in most quarters is that Nollywood movies encourage illicit behaviour in viewers especially the youths in various aspects; violence, sex, robbery, organized crime, prostitution, murder, occultism, treachery, infidelity, etc. while for some, Nollywood movies impact positively in minimal areas of culture, triumph of good over evil, love, serves as a medium of talent development, entertainment, communication and a few others. Thus, conducting this research will establish that Nollywood movies contain projections which bring about desired attitudinal change on its viewers. The study also explored and reviewed the societal-values as found in Nollywood movies.

1.7. Research Methodology

This section describes and explains the methodology deployed in this study and what informed my choice of methods. The study is a qualitative research conducted in order to explore the various societal values that are being projected in Nollywood movies. This is with an intention to bring to the fore, the significant contributions of Nollywood to the developmental growth of our nation and Africa at large. This choice of research method is ideal considering that a qualitative research is aimed at gaining a deep understanding of an event, rather than a surface description of a large sample of a population it generates data about. Research methodology is a systematic way to solve a problem. It is a science of studying how research is to be carried out and the procedures by which researchers go about their work of describing, explaining and predicting phenomena (Chinnathambi, et al, 2013)

1.7.1. Selecting the Research Method / Instrument

The research method is a crucial element‖ in the research process as it determines the response gotten which will in effect confirm the answers being sort. For the purpose of this study, the descriptive method of research was used. Creswell (1994) in an attempt to define the descriptive type of research said it is to gather information about the present existing condition. Emphasis is here placed on describing rather than on judging or interpreting. Descriptive research is mainly concerned with describing the detailed nature or condition of a given situation as it exists at the time of the study. In terms of finance, the descriptive approach is quick and less expensive. Here judgement is mostly subjective however; it is flexible in that during the duration of the study, further investigation may be conducted.

In this study, the descriptive research method will be employed so as to assess the various societal values being projected in Nollywood movies and establish how they impact positively on viewers and how this positive impact can manifest into national development. I chose to use this method considering the objective to explore available literatures and the object (movies) in question to obtain first hand data. The flexibility of the descriptive method is quite advantageous for me. Qualitative approach generates verbal information rather than numerical values (Polgar & Thomas, 1995:9). That is to say that qualitative research provides rich and well-grounded descriptions and explanations as well as unforeseen findings for new theory construction. Unlike the quantitative which makes use of statistical analysis, qualitative data gathering methods are only concerned with understanding the occurring phenomena in their naturally occurring states. It is worthy to note that qualitative instruments evoke a more realistic feeling of the research setting which cannot be obtained from statistical analysis and numerical data utilized through quantitative means. For this research, two types of data will be gathered; primary and secondary data.

The primary data will be derived from an analysis of select movies. While the secondary data on the other
hand, will be obtained from published documents and literatures relevant to the subject matter.

1.7.2. Analysis of Movies

A total of 3 Nigerian movies spanning political, social and historical themes were analysed to establish their content of societal values. For each movie,different values were identified and critically assessed.

1.7.3. Library Research / Internet Sources

To achieve a communication research of this nature may be very difficult without the use of library and internet materials. The diverse literatures drawn from these sources will greatly enrich this study and make room for an understanding of theories used as well as the analysis made.

Chapter Five

Summary and Conclusion

5.1 Summary

The broad objective of this study is to examine communicating change and societal values in select nigerian home movies using three movies as case study. The selected three movies were The Meeting, Mr. And Mrs, and Half of a Yellow Sun reflecting political, social and historical aspects will be analysed.

The qualitative research design was adopted for the study. Using analytical and interpretative method, the themes and narratives in the two selected text were explored. Data for the study was collected from primary and secondary materials. The primary materials are The Meeting, Mr. And Mrs, and Half of a Yellow Sun reflecting political, The secondary sources materials were information garnered from library, journals and articles of which the researcher made inference to back up the topic under discourse.

5.2 Conclusion

With the advancement of technology, television, which is one of the mass media, entered every home and television channels started to increase and diversify over time. Rapidly developing mass media can be one of the factors that deeply affect social change, as it directly targets society. When mass media are used for purpose, they can contribute to the transfer of culture from generation to generation, and when it is not used for purpose, it may cause deterioration in the development of children and youth, family and community structure.

Findings of the study revaled that an attempt has been made to interrogate the portrayals of women in recent Nigerian Video-films, against the backdrop of earlier studies that affirm damaging, inaccurate, and stereotypical depictions of women. Chinwe Egwuagu’s Mr & Mrs has been analysed as an exemplar of this new trend that projects women largely in positive light, emphasising such virtues as unconditional love, forgiveness, self assertion, effective communication in marriage, and wisdom in handling marital squabbles. The film equally makes an attempt to deconstruct some of the aged-notion about mothers-in-law and wives, dismissing their short-comings as frailties, rather than expressions of their villainous nature. The fact that the film projects women largely in positive light, undoubtedly, presents the audience with positive models whose actions can be emulated so as to resolve whatever similar crises they are confronted with. Besides, the film has attempted to provide some kind of guidance and direction to couples as a way of maintaining a healthy relationship.

Also is the Chimamanda Adichie in Half of a Yellow Sun portrays the images or symbols of dismal situations and pains which recur very often in the society, appropriately depicted the conditions prevalent in the era of Nigeria-Biafra war. She advocates the themes of discipline, peace, love, honesty among the people in the society and elimination of ethnic prejudice, intimidation, man’s inhumanity to his fellow man, and social misdeed in our society as she discusses events and experiences of the Nigeria-Biafra war. The strength of her novel is driven by the energy of creativity that revolves around her evocation of the psychological impact of horror and terror that the obnoxious war unleashed on its victims.

5.3 Recommendation

In as much as the researchers acknowledge the gallant achievements that Nollywood producers have made so far, it must not be forgotten in a hurry that they have, over the years, neglected the importance of good sound production in video films. Proffering financial insufficiency is their usual excuse, but most video film producers record revenue in excess compared to their expenditure. If output of the professionalism and quality is considered a priority therefore, it becomes indefensible for concerned parties to tender lack of fund as an excuse for wishy-washy sound production in video films. Hence this research recommends that filmmakers must begin to adopt appropriate quality sound as an important aspect of film design. This, according to the researchers, would enable them create better film designs and thus, develop good sound communications using semiotic approach, be it music or sound effects, that will make the film have much effect; the reason being that the synchronization of sound and visual images is capable of enhancing the intended mood or scenario. Films have the potential to aid – and in moments create – instrumental social change. However, there are many lessons to be learned from the mode of visual interpretation of film. Specifically, what are the communicative potentials of the Nigerian video films? How do they function in a larger political program for social change? Culture plays an important role in visual stories; and if well employed artistically, evokes all moral virtue that instigates social change. In the case of video film, the texts have the potential to contribute to the process of solidification and promulgation. The ability for video film to reach significant audiences through such a powerful medium makes it a natural and necessary tool for social change, one that can no longer be overlooked in the study of rhetoric and social change.

Finally, the media should serve as the watch dog of democracy and should perform the task of protecting the people‟s interests. Through its offerings, the media should play a pivotal role in enabling the people to be aware of political happenings, their rights, and actions of the political class as well as expectations from the grassroots. The home video as a medium of communication can be in the frontline of the battle to maintain and sustain the country‟s budding democracy and its ideals. The home video films should be seen as the eyes, ears and voice of the people as they are recognized as representations and representatives of the people through balanced portrayals. sThe audience of the home video films should be educated and informed while also enjoying entertainment. The Nigerian government through its agencies handling political communication, political awareness, political mobilization and political socialization should not be left out in the provision of contents for the home video film productions; collaboration would be helpful to enhance the film productions.

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