Monday, 19 January 2009

Kano State Censors Northern Nigerian Filmmakers

See full size imageVice President of the Motion Pictures Practitioners Association of Nigeria (MOPPAN), Dr. Ahmad Saari reported on the film industry's reactions to new government guidelines enacted in 2008 following the release of a pornographic clip involving a Nigerian film star.  The clip was in fact a private video taken before the actress had become a star and not connected with the Northern film industry (Kannywood) and had surfaced early in 2008.  Kano state is predominantly Muslim and thus it's laws incorporate Shari'a law.

The new guidelines are as follows (English has not been edited for corrections):

    1. Singing and Dancing is prohibited.
    2. Actresses are prohibited from appearing in trousers, skirts or short tops.
    3. Dressing in see-through or tight costumes that expose body features is prohibited.
    4. Male Actors are prohibited from appearing in tight fitted clothes that expose their features or haircuts that do not fit with our culture.
    5. Actresses are prohibited from combing or exposing their hair.
    6. Indecent utterances and seductive actions or immoral dialogue are prohibited.
    7. Ridiculing of any religion, tribe or a section of the community is prohibited.
    8. It is prohibited to use children in films that are prohibited.  (If the films are already prohibited, does this really add anything?)
    9. Re-inserting expunged scenes from an already censored film, and taking such film into the market is a major crime.
    10. Fetish (things associated with witchcraft, animism and traditional religions) activities and the wrong use of weapons are prohibited.
    11. Producers are prohibited from releasing posters and trailers without the permission of the board.
    12. Films must have a clear meaning (message) with appropriate names.
    13. No films can be produced in Kano, or brought in for sales or exhibition without the permission of the board.
    14. All Actors or Actresses and other filmmakers are prohibited from doing film business without obtaining license from the board.
    15. Sleeping overnight at film locations with males and females are prohibited.
    16. No films shall be made without censorship of its script.

In reaction to the new guidelines and corresponding six month ban on film activities, MOPPAN convened a Stakeholders Forum that included representatives from the National Film and Video Censors Board, the Nigerian Film Corporation and the Nigerian Copyright Commission.  The consortium of national organizations agreed upon a number of resolutions, full text of which can be found in the Communique.

The resolutions present an interesting dichotomy of respect and anger.  The stakeholders agreed to abide by both the national and state laws with respect to making films, and they agreed that more Nigerian films should include and conform with Muslim values.  However, the stakeholders also argued that their fundamental human rights were violated in the creation of these new guidelines and related six month suspension imposed on film activities in Kano state, because the government did not give the film industry a chance to defend itself.  The resolutions seem to say, "we respect the Muslim faith and culture and agree that your actions would be warranted had we insulted the faith in anyway, but we have not; you are punishing us for something we did not do, and that is unfair."

The movie industry is one of the most important sectors of the Nigerian economy and a major proponent for increased enforcement of intellectual property laws.

[Image from http://www.ngex.com/nigeria/places/states/kano.htm]

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