The saying that if you give a hungry man a fish, you will feed him for a day but if you teach him how to fish, you feed him for life is so true for eight teens from northern Nigeria who are making science- fiction movies using a broken smartphone.
No doubt, they love watching sci-fi movies but unlike other teens their age, the Critics Company, as they call themselves, are determined to make their own. They came together in 2016 and started creating short films with special effects they learned from YouTube videos.
Using a broken tripod stand to hold up a smartphone with a cracked screen, they shot a ten-minute film called “Redemption.”
This film caught the eye of international media organizations like Reuters, Aljazeera and others who celebrated them for making history by successfully making the first Nigerian sci-fi movie. According to one of the young filmmakers, Godwin Josiah, their aim was to show that kids in the north are doing something different.
Support has since started pouring in. Veteran filmmaker Kemi Adetiba, tweeted enthusiastically about them in June and helped them raise $5,800 to upgrade their equipment.
Imagine what they could do with formal training in sci-fi movie production.
Ironically, this same Youtube medium that can create porn addictions that wrecks the lives of other teens is empowering and enabling these eight youngsters to acquire skills in movie production. This shows that it is not the media as such that is to blame when youths get hooked on internet porn but the lack of focus and motivation among young people.
Serious-minded teens can sift out the best and most useful things in social media and use them to advance themselves without necessarily falling prey to harmful contents as these eight teens have aptly demonstrated.
Still, it takes guts and drive and thinking out of the box. It demands finding a dream, pushing forward, and following that dream to its logical consequences.
In life, honest and productive work is usually rewarded with fame and success, and Godwin Josiah and his cousins are making themselves useful with a broken smartphone.
Nigeria has over 70 million teenagers, but still, teen productivity is so low. Experts say that this is due to skill deficiency in the Nigerian educational curriculum, which is shockingly theoretical rather than practical, and many teens leave school ill-equipped to earn a living. Hence the high rate of youth jobless, resulting in political unrest, economic instability, drug abuse, crime, prostitution, human trafficking, terrorism, and kidnapping.
The Critics Company have alerted people to the possibilities of digital media like YouTube to tutor themselves in skills that can fetch money or jobs or even help them start their own businesses.
Many handy skills can be learned via YouTube: from air-conditioning repairs to fashion designing and computer programming and countless free online tutorials on software development. Furthermore, an average low-end smartphone is chockfull of useful apps, such that an average user cannot exhaust 1% of its capability. There are apps that can transform a smartphone into a math lab, reader, and multimedia learning platform and many other things, and most are available free.
The triumph of these teen is good news for a region considered by most as educationally backward and where teens are often school shy. The Kaduna state governor, Malam Nasir El-rufai has praised their creativity, invited them to the statehouse for a special visit and is generally making a fuss of them. He has also offered the government’s support and constituted a team of senior officials to work on the details with their family.
Josiah and his cousin are blazing a path for African teens to follow, and confirming that with courage and determination, any African teen will not only survive but actually thrive in these polluted waters through hard work, unrelenting focus.
Their fame and success has even wider relevance. Teens the world over should cease being passive consumers of social media content and become innovators, leveraging on these platforms to create and market their own ideas and become creators, and contributors to human progress.
They are an indictment of those who engage in online scams popularly known in Nigeria as “419”, a scam that has given millions of Nigerians a very bad name.
They are also showing up the so-called Nollywood industry [Nigeria plus Bollywood], still stuck in their abysmally low-quality films, rife with poorly written scripts and stale storylines revolving around timeworn themes of sex, money, and power.
They may yet give the Nollywood oligarchs a run for their money and possibly break their stranglehold on the industry.
With sci-fi movies like Star Wars and Avengers grossing over $900Million and $800Million respectively, a sci-fi skill set is not a bad investment and the Critics company could be pioneers in a business that could bring much needed foreign exchange flowing back into African pockets. Time will tell.
Reprinted from Authors-choice with the permission of author Chinwuba Iyizoba.
Further reading on global cultures’ adapting to new technologies:
Can the newest technology liberate the poorest communities? In Haiti, new technology bypasses many development pitfalls. In poor countries, development can stall in one of many stages of upgrading older systems. But when Haiti adopted the cell phone over landlines, there were no stages, and the country has never looked back
The Hills Go High Tech: An American community finds its way in the new digital economy. Kentuckian Ankur Gopal offers a touching TED talk at Palo Alto on how his grandmother joined the digital revolution and never looked back
Quell the cell and the kids do well? That sounds simplistic but it worked at a girls’ school in New Zealand that focused on disadvantaged girls. A ban on cellphones in class saw St Joseph’s Maori Girls College reach the top 10 for University Entrance in this year’s high-school league tables.