Nollywood and Health Security in Nigeria: An Evaluation of Tunde Kelani’s Dazzling Mirage
Rasheedah LIMAN, PhD
Department of Theatre & Performing Arts
Ahmadu Bello University (ABU)
The contribution of Hollywood, Bollywood and Nollywood films in re-imagining and reinventing the nations to which they belong cannot be overemphasized. Films centred on issues of health always play vital roles in generating awareness and prevention of hereditary and infectious diseases. Although Nollywood is estimated to be the second largest film industry in the world, critical evaluation however reveals that this film industry has not been able to adequately facilitate health awareness campaign in Nigeria. While a lot of public campaigns have been done on deadly diseases such as Malaria, Polio, HIV and Ebola, little awareness campaign is waged on hereditary diseases such as Sickle Cell Anaemia (SCA), even though it is one of the commonest preventable inherited diseases. To underscore the urgent need for awareness campaign, Nigeria is said to have the largest population of people with SCA, having annual rates of about 150,000 SCA births. This is the context in which Tunde Kelani’s film, Dazzling Mirage, is a welcome development. The film has x-rayed the predicament of people suffering from SCA and its implications on relationships, cultural attitudes and national development. This paper therefore analyses how the film, through its artistic and innovative techniques, highlights health problems in Nigeria, an issue that has been largely ignored by Nollywood films. The aim is to demonstrate how Dazzling Mirage successfully critiques Nigeria’s healthcare system and the need for collaboration in order to create effective awareness and support for sufferers of Sickle Cell Anaemia.
Health communication is the sharing of health-related information in order to improve health. Health communication has also been defined as “any type of human communication whose content is concerned with health” (Rogers page?). It is a key communication strategy to inform the public about health concerns and to maintain health issues in promoting public agenda. The purpose of disseminating health communication is to create awareness, influence personal health choices, and improve health literacy and enlightenment in society.
The importance and effect of mass media and other technological innovations, such as the video film, to disseminate useful health information to the public cannot be overemphasized. Unlike the print or radio medium, television or video film media have been found to have more impact on their target audience due to their dramatic, audio and visual functions (Akpan & Anyianuka 1). According to Ojo,
The mass medium of film has the advantage of planning, researching, scripting, shooting and re-shooting, and editing and re-editing messages before they are finally packaged for viewers. Socially relevant messages such as health messages can therefore be strategically produced to raise awareness with a view to encourage a change in the attitudes and behaviours of people towards the health theme in question (16).
Over the years, both government and non-governmental organizations in Nigeria have utilized both the print and electronic media (newspaper, radio, television, film, of recent, new media) to address socio-economic, religious, politics and health related issues. Film plays a vital role in social mobilization and information. Film is of course used to popularize government policies and ideologies amongst the masses. Owing to its ability to hold a captive audience, films are used more than any other means of mass communication to promote ideas of positive social transformation as well as to consolidate and build new relationship between culture and national development. For example, the National Orientation Agency (NOA) and the Ministry of Information and Culture use films to promulgate awareness on issues such as the HIV/AIDS epidemic, anti-corruption, poverty alleviation, etc.
This is necessary because the media possess the ability and capacity to improve knowledge, set agenda for public discourse and influence public opinion and policy formulation all over the world, including Nigeria. In all these contexts education is generally viewed as the only means of changing peoples attitudes and behaviour towards diseases. However, on its own merit, education may not bring about intended behaviour change if methods of delivery are not made appealing and relevant to receivers. The role of the media is thus crucial, as media campaign in Nigeria remains a vital tool for educating literate and non-literate populations. Accordingly, information has been packaged on the platform of entertainment education or edutainment in order to change attitudes and behaviour in a creative manner. Here, neither the educational content nor the entertainment content outshines the other; rather, “the two hybridize to create a model for health communication that simultaneously captures the human imagination through the creative arts and utilizes the substantial work and knowledge generated in the health sciences” (Nahm et al. 59, as quoted by Ojo page?). Health concerns on HIV, Malaria, reproductive health and the more recent outbreak of Ebola have been effectively managed through edu-tainment enlightenment campaigns via the media.
The Nigeria video film industry popularly known as, Nollywood, has also served as a pivotal medium in addressing some of these health related problems. However, little awareness campaign is waged on hereditary diseases such as Sickle Cell Anaemia (SCA) in Nollywood films, even though it is one of the commonest preventable inherited diseases. To underscore the urgent need for awareness campaign, Nigeria is said to have the largest population of people with SCA, having annual rates of about 150,000 SCA births. This is the context in which Tunde Kelani’s film Dazzling Mirage is a welcome development. This paper therefore seeks to highlight the importance of this kind of health communication film in creating effective awareness, prevention and management of the disease within the Nigerian society.
How successful is Tunde Kilani’s Dazzling Mirage in creating awareness of SCA among its audience? Is there a balance between entertainment and enlightenment values? Do the entertainment elements of the film overshadow the enlightenment aspect? These are some of the cogent questions that this paper seeks to explore through critical content analysis of the 2014 film, Dazzling Mirage. First, the paper explains what Sickle Cell Anaemia (SCD) is all about.
Sickle Cell Disease (SCD)
Sickle Cell Disease (SCD) is a genetic condition that is inherited when a child receives two sickle cell genes – one from each parent. It is an inherited disorder that affects haemoglobin in the red blood cells and it is characterized by the presence of abnormal haemoglobin, particularly the haemoglobin S that carries oxygen within the red blood cells (Lim page?). In SCD, the red blood cells become hard and sticky and take a C-shaped form called a “sickle.” The sickle cells die early, which causes a constant shortage of red blood cells. Also, when they travel through small blood vessels, they get stuck and clog the blood flow. This can cause pain and other serious health problems such as infection, acute chest syndrome and stroke. People with the most severe form of SCD have a 20-30 year lower life expectancy than people without SCD (CDC page?). The only cure for SCD is bone marrow (stem cell) transplant. However, this procedure is risky, and can have serious side effects, including death.
SCD affects millions of people throughout the world and is particularly common among those whose ancestors came from sub-Saharan Africa. SCD is estimated to affect 1 out of every 500 Black births. In West African countries such as Ghana and Nigeria, the frequency of carriers is 15% to 30% and Nigeria has the highest number of people with sickle cell disorder with about 150,000 births annually, (Koffi, Egunjobi & Akinyanju page?). People who inherit one sickle cell gene and one normal gene have sickle cell trait (SCT). People with SCT usually do not have any of the symptoms of SCD, but they can pass the trait on to their children. If a person has the trait, there is a 50% chance that he or she could pass the trait on to his or her children and this is true for every pregnancy. Therefore, it is very important that people know their “sickle cell status” and the easiest way to find this out is to have a blood test. Tests are available through primary care providers or SCD community based organizations.
People who are at high risk of having a child with SCD and are planning to have children need genetic counselling in order to be aware of the risk (likelihood) of having a child who has the disease. Therefore, educating and counselling the Nigerian public would constitute the most affordable and feasible methods of prevention. More needs to be done in the area of sickle cell education and advocacy in Nigeria especially as SCD is increasing at a worrisome rate (Ojo 29). Effective media interventions particularly the audio-visual nature of film or movies has proven to be very effective in changing some health awareness and the attitudes of individuals to some diseases. With respect to Sickle Cell Disease, Entertainment-education has the potential to assist in generating knowledge about the disease and promote awareness, stigma reduction, as well as the treatment and management services that exist for Sickle Cell Disease. It is in this light, that this paper highlights Dazzling Mirage as a veritable movie in addressing some of the issues surrounding Sickle Cell Disease.
The Film: Dazzling Mirage
Nigeria has an active and well-established Video film industry, which appeals to the populace for entertainment and education. Indeed, the contribution of Nollywood to the development index of Nigeria is varied and tremendous. Dazzling Mirage is a 2014 Nigerian film produced and directed by Tunde Kelani. The film features actors, such as, Kemi Lala Akindoju, Kunle Afolayan, Bimbo Manuel, Yomi Fash Lanso, Taiwo Ajai Lycett and Seun Akindele, among others. The film is apparently an adaptation of a novel of the same title written by Olayinka Abimbola Egbokhare. It was adapted to screen by Ade Solanke.
The film tells the story of a young sickle cell patient and the myriad social and emotional challenges she faces as the result of her health conditions. The film is an inspiring story centred on Funmiwo, a young, beautiful and talented advertising executive, who is living with sickle cell disorder. Funmiwo has the plan of settling down in marriage with her long time lover Sanya. The relationship appears to be a very loving one despite the frequent health crisis of sickle cell disease that affects Funmiwo. She tries her best to be positive and looks forward to being a successful young lady. However, trouble starts when Sanya’s mother, Mrs. Fadipe, insists that Sanya cannot marry Funmiwo because according to her, Funmiwo will not be able to bear children and she can die any moment due to her disease.
Meanwhile, Dotun, a handsome young man who is Funmiwo’s boss in her advertising organization finds himself attracted to Funmiwo because of her hard-work and tenacity. Apart from working hard to successfully execute some of the projects earmarked by her organization, she also becomes a strong advocate for the sufferers of sickle cell disease. Funmiwo receives a lot of commendations both from her organization and the general public. Her advocacy in creating awareness and enlightenment among the general public towards sickle cell disease also creates and fosters great respect and admiration from her boss, Dotun.
Initially, Sanya has strongly resisted the persistence of his mother who even went to the extent of bringing a young lady into the home of Sanyo in order to seduce him. Sanya eventually betrays Funmiwo by accepting Bukola, his mother’s choice of a fertile and healthy lady. Funmiwo also discovers that Sanyo is having an affair due to his mother’s negative and biased reaction towards her illness. She is disappointed and heartbroken. Later on, she becomes very ill and is admitted into a hospital. At this point of the narrative, a doctor was presented explaining the causes and effects of sickle cell anaemia and how it is important for families and friends of sufferers to show their understanding and support to the patient. Fortunately, Dotun, Funmiwo’s boss and admirer, steps up and stands by her side throughout her ordeal in the hospital. He shows her affection and love and Funmiwo eventually fully recovers.
Although, she suffers disappointment and heartbreak because she has invested so much, physically and emotionally into her relationship with Sanya, Funmiwo picks herself up and is able to recover from her grief with the help of Dotun who does everything to reassure her. Eventually, he gains her trust and love. Their relationship blossoms considerably. Funmiwo and Dotun become married in a beautiful and spectacular traditional Yoruba marriage. Unfortunately, following another bout of SCA attack, Funmiwo collapses after the marriage. She becomes seriously ill. The doctors try to revive her but all hope seems to have been lost. We then see the birthday celebration of a little girl in another scene. Dotun is seen very busy welcoming guests. At that moment Funmiwo appears from the front door of a beautiful mansion, looking very healthy and beautiful. She and her husband welcome their guests and later pose for family photograph with their beautiful daughter.
The film, Dazzling Mirage successfully tells the tale of Funmiwo who, somehow by a twist of fortune, has overcome social stigma, prejudice and her own low self-esteem. Consequently, she successfully achieves her career objectives, marriage and motherhood, all at the same time. The message here is that Tunde Kelani is able to create a hero out of a sickle cell anaemia sufferer. The film intentionally targets people living with sickle cell disorder; people who have the sickle cell trait and how they relate with their family members, their friends, employers, colleagues, associates, healthcare workers, and the society as a whole.
The director, Tunde Kelani, believes that the film is his own way of contributing towards public awareness of genotype-related issues like Sickle-Cell Anaemia. According to Kelani, “all of us are connected directly or indirectly to the sufferers of this ailment. I have also had personal relationships with sufferers of this ailment and I consider it my responsibility to bring their story to fore.” He also reiterated this statement in a question and answer session with this researcher when he says, “this film is aimed at creating awareness and national dialogue in addressing sickle cell disease. We hope that an awakening is created through this film.”1 Indeed, Dazzling Mirage is a beautiful love story that needs to be told and Kelani has succeeded in making a film that thoroughly entertains and yet raises awareness of social issues that are not only important but also deserves to be urgently addressed. Also in a discussion with Olayinka Abimbola Egbokhare, the writer of the novel of the same title, which is adapted into the film Dazzling Mirage, she asserts that the film is not a critique of the Nigeria Healthcare System but an edutainment film that is geared towards creating awareness about sickle cell disease in Nigeria.2
The relevance of the movie’s storyline is in tackling a compelling national issue creatively and artistically. The confluence of entertainment and education, particularly as it concerns the discourse of Sickle Cell disease is really the high point of the film. While addressing a serious health communication issue such as Sickle cell, Kelani has through his film, Dazzling Mirage, portrayed the necessity of paying attention to the importance of the centrality of culture to the perception of health issues. The film is set in Yoruba cultural context with all the rhythms and vibrancy of a culture that celebrates life at every given opportunity. In the process, Kelani recreates the rich culture and traditions of the Yoruba people in all its ramifications. The film projects aspects of Yoruba material culture, its rich cuisine, styles and values. This Nigerian culture is also put on display through its music, dances and of course, the costumes and outfits of the actors and actresses that elicit the cultural diversity of Nigeria. For instance, the scene of the marriage between Funmiwo and Dotun is really spectacular because of the various traditional and cultural portrayals.
Dazzling Mirage is almost a total departure from the normative of most Nollywood films in various aspects. The film is well researched concerning sickle cell anaemia. It carefully details how it is contacted and its devastating effects on its sufferers. The reaction of cross-sections of Nigerian society is somewhat mixed. Generally, the reception accorded to sufferers has not been very positive because some people are still strongly discriminating against sufferers. The film reflects these various dimensions. However, the film projects the Nigeria healthcare sector and medical doctors in a more positive light compared with the dominant narrative in which Nollywood movies project both the Nigerian doctors and health sector as ineffective. For instance, we often see that the doctors portrayed in Nollywood films never get to successfully investigate any medical condition. Sometimes, they end up referring their patients to spiritualists.
Furthermore, hospital scenes in Nollywood movies are often depicted as empty wards where rooms contain nothing but decrepit beds and worn out white bed sheets. Adeosun in his article, titled, “Nollywood’s Myopic lenses and Portrayal of Healthcare in Nigeria” submits that,
In a Nigerian movie, anybody can be a doctor. One rough-looking guy with some guttersnipe language can actually be a doctor. He can be dressed in any manner and since most movies place doctors side by side with sorcerers, there are times you might actually not be able to distinguish between the two. Any non-Nigerian watching Nollywood movies would think Nigerian doctors do not know the basic rudiments of examining a patient. I have seen a doctor listening to heart sounds with his stethoscope’s bell on his patient’s wrist. Another doctor estimates gestational age after auscultating (examination with stethoscope) his patient’s pregnant abdomen (2).
It is true that Nollywood films usually portray a caricature of Nigerian doctors, as pointed out by Adeosun, but the state of Nigerian hospitals is correspondingly deplorable due to government neglect and inadequate provision of necessary healthcare facilities. Contrary to Adeosun’s observation, however, the projection of doctors and hospital in the film Dazzling Mirage is typically realistic. Apparently the role of the doctor is well researched and the director actually used what appears to be a public hospital instead of the private empty, one room hospital that viewers are used to seeing in Nollywood films. Although one does not automatically expect Nollywood films to produce great health communication movies like Hollywood’s Grey’s Anatomy, House or Medical Emergency, but certain standards should be maintained in terms of proper health information research. Fortunately, Dazzling Mirage has achieved all that. The film seems to measure up to a good standard in terms of its quality cast, characterization and action. In terms of the balance between entertainment and education, the film has created an artistic equanimity. In order not to bore the viewers with too much information and education, entertainment elements such as dance, music and humour were appropriately deployed.
At the end of Dazzling Mirage, Funmiwo, a woman facing stigmatization and rejection has been able to overcome all the biases against her. She also succeeds in encouraging the public to treat sickle cell patients with care, love and affection. That in a sense translates into giving patients hope despite their uncertain fate. The film ends on a happy note with Funmiwo surviving the most critical bouts of the SCA attacks to the extent of even bearing a child. However, the director of Dazzling Mirage has surprisingly failed to highlight the implication of that scenario. As a matter of fact, there is a one in four chance that the little girl may also be a sickle cell sufferer and that in itself creates another vicious circle. The director’s intention may perhaps be to have a happy ending or not to foreclose the chances of sickle cell sufferers of having children. Either way, I feel it is a minus for the film to ignore the health implication of child bearing in the context of sickle cell anaemia. At least, the viewers should be given the true picture of the reality of sickle cell disease. It is now left for individuals in this kind of situation to take their own decision. This notwithstanding, the crucial message in Dazzling Mirage on sickle cell disease is that it is the reality that we all have to live with and measures urgently need to be taken to curtail its spread in Nigeria.
- This Researcher had the opportunity of asking Tunde Kelani, the director of the film Dazzling Mirage some questions concerning the film. This was done at the question and answer session after the Preview of the film during the Kwara State University (KWASU) Conference 2014, at Kwara Hotel, Kwara State, on Friday, 28 November, 2014.
- Discussion with Dr. Olayinka Abimbola Egbokhare, the writer of the novel with the same title adapted for the film Dazzling Mirage. The discussion took place during the Mabel@50 Conference in Abuja, on 7 May, 2015.
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