The purpose of this work is to examine the societal and existential challenges militating against children, the portrayal of children using the theory of Infantism and the Psychoanalytic Film Theory. Today, the rights of the child are routinely violated in households, schools and society in general which include denial of educational opportunities, subjection to violence, female genital mutilation, child labour, early marriages, exposure to child prostitution, physical and emotional neglect, conscription into militias which all depicts the plights of the child. Findings have shown that such issues like lack of parental care, negligence, lack of education, physical neglect, maltreatment, child labour among others exist in the selected Nigerian films like ‘Plantain Girl’, ‘Emotional and Physical Neglect’ among others. Results have shown that if the theory of Infantism and the Psychoanalytic Film theory is adhered to, it will give the child a proper place in society and bring child-consciousness to all since the child’s place in the 21st century has become very deplorable and demands urgent attention if the child is to be liberated.
Background to the Study
Film and media studies focus on the aesthetic, cultural and social significance and interconnections of Cinema, television and new screen technologies. It is concerned with the teaching of screen literacy as it applies to moving images and screens. Cinema, television, global media, advertising, mass-entertainment, local and indigenous media and documentary from the emergence at the end of the 19th century to the internet revolution, the production and consumption of its images has constituted a major, social and cultural force in the 20th and 21st centuries.
Film and media studies develop skills in the analysis of film, television and media texts with emphasis on theoretical cultural and historical knowledge necessary for critical engagement (Papaho, Tari 9). Film has gained dominance with the emerging understanding that literature now depends on the aspect of culture being considered because literature has gone beyond the book to oral and video expressions. The earliest films were in black and white, under a minute long and without recorded sound, but in 1880’s several films became longer and the fist rotating camera for taking panning shots was built in 1898. Earlier scholars of film emphasised how film differed from reality, but after the Word War 11, the French film critic and theorist Andre Bazin reacted against this approach arguing that film’s essence should reproduce reality not difference from reality and ever since then movies continue to depict reality in films. It is these issues that have given rise to film theories and this work uses selected films to discuss children’s issues (Andre Bazin, 2).
Film began gaining prominence in 1950 with the first permanent theatre showing films named ‘Nickelodeon’ (Bordwell David, 63). By 1910, actors began to receive screen credit for their roles and the way to the creation of film stars was opened. From then, American films had the largest share of the market in Australia and all European Counties except France. New film techniques were soon introduced; like the artificial lighting, fire effect and enhanced atmosphere. As films grew longer, specialist writers were employed to simplify complex stories derived from novels. By 1920, the United States researched what is still its era of greatest-ever output producing an average of 800 feature films annually as film was now believed to provide entertainment to the people (Tracy Daniels, 11).
In Africa though, film production dates back to the early 20th century when film reels were the primary cinematic technology in use. The Cinema of Egypt is one of the oldest in the world with the first screening of a film by the Lumiere Brothers in 1896 and the first Egyptian short documentary filmed in 1970 (Alex, Cinema 122). The flourishing years in the 40s, 50s and 60s are considered its golden age. During the colonial era, in the French Colonies, Africans were legally prohibited from making films of their own. The ban stunted the growth of film in Africa. In 1955, Paulin Soumanou Vieyra originally from Senegal shot a short film in Paris ‘Afrique Sur Siene’ which explores the difficulties of being an African in France during the 1950s and it is considered to be the first film directed by a black African.
The first African film to win international recognition was Sembene Ousmane’s ‘La Noire de’ also known as “Black Girl’ which portrayed the despair of an African woman who was to work as a maid in Africa. Sembene is considered to be the father of African Cinema (Cinema, 136). The Nigerian film industry is the largest in African in terms of value, number of annual films, revenue and popularity and second and third in the world. However, other film industry includes Ghana film industry which is now experiencing upsurge in business. Until recent years, the industry was bedeviled by drain of talents and professionals, stale story lines and little investment. But today, although similar challenges still pertain, the industry has improved and can boast of artistic movie professionals who are in a healthy competition with the likes of Van Vicker, Nadia Buari, Yvonne Nelson, Majid Michael, John Dumelo and other (Dino Felluga, 28).
The Kenyan film industry is also a recognised industry which focuses on documentary films about the poor living conditions of the people in the cities. The Kenyan government has made strong effort the enable to Kenyan Cinema to be more established with the creation of the Kenyan Film Commission in 2006. The South African film industry has also grown, notably with the first African film in Foreign Language Award for the Movie ‘Tsotsi’ in 2006. ‘The Egyptian Film industry which is annually animated by the Cairo International Film since 1896 have produced more than 4000 films’ (Vaughn Zach, 129).
Nigeria’s film industry dates back to the 1960s when the first set of Nollywood films were produced by great filmmakers like Hubert Ogunde, Jab Adu, Ola Balagun, Moses Olaiya (Baba Sala) (Akin, 85). These professionals were considered to be the first generation of Nigerian film makers especially with the establishment of the Ogunde Theatre in 1945. By 1970, the first indigenous feature film was ‘Kongi’s Harvest’ written by Wole Soyinka Produced in Nigeria and directed by an American. As time went by, others began to produce films like ‘Alpha’ (1972); ‘Build Frog in the Sun’ (1974), ‘Amadi’ (1975). However, others believe that ‘Living in bondage’ by Ken Nnebue (1992) was the first film, but the first Nigerian movie to get international fame was ‘Osoufia in London’ released in 2003, featuring Nkem Owoh (Ukwa), the famous Comedia actor (Akin Adesokan, 81).
Nigeria’s film industry began with English language but now have subsets to suit the different tribes of the nation. In Yoruba they are films produced using Yoruba language like ‘Elulu’, ‘Timutimu’ and the popular ‘Aye’ – an award winning Yoruba film. In Hausa films like ‘Gidan Mari’, ‘Dattijo’, ‘Saudat’ and in Igbo, we have popular faces of professional actors and actresses in films like ‘Ada Eze’, ‘Adaora’, ‘Udalaoma’. In Ibibio, there are also films with the Ibibio language like ‘Eteidung Ntebrekemem’, ‘Ufan Eka’ and the popular Emem Isong’s film ‘Ayamma’ (Akin, 90).
The major preoccupation of Nigerian films and, of course, the local Nigerian films remains self-representation, where the films showcase the rich tradition of storytelling and culture and ‘they are movies made by Africans for Africans, unlike something like Hotel Rwanda by an American director and filmed in South Africa’ (Peter Hugo, 122). Some of these concerns are corruption, marriages, ritualism, power tussle, armed robbery and children’s issues. Although Nollywood has been greatly criticised for portraying a different culture entirely, its main preoccupation remains self-representation.
As earlier said, Nigerian film industry is the largest in Africa. Joseph Haynes asserts that studies of African films have tended to be Pan African while noting that Nigeria is one of only three countries, along with India and the United State of America with great production of films (9). Nigeria’s film history can be partitioned into four eras namely the colonial period: 1903-1960, the Independence period: 1960-1972, the indigenisation Decree period: 1972-1992 and the Nollywood period: 1992 – present (Adegbola Tunde, 92). The colonial era begins with the first exhibition of film in Nigeria at the Glover Memorial Hall in Lagos in 1903, which was highly political. The production of state films replaced colonial era and such several factors like economic reason gave rise to Nigerian films, so during the oil-boom in the 1970s Nigeria had gone far in making films.
Film studies emerged in the 19th century and deals with various theoretical, historical and critical approaches to films. The early film schools focused on the production and subjective critique of film rather than on the critical approaches, history and theory used to study academically. Since the time film was created, the concept of film studies grew to analyse the formal aspects of film as they were created. In 1919 the Moscow Film School was established to focus on film interpretation. Now, film could be considered a genre in literature because literature has gone beyond the prints to the films. Although film and literature looks different, they have a similar imagination and understanding and as such this research adopts film as its primary texts. Statistics show that about eight million children of school age are out of school. Some who are of school age are on the streets hawking. Most of them live on the streets and become hoodlums (Florence Amagiya, 93). Over the years, the industry has promoted certain images especially about the child which critics have frowned at. For example, Nigerian films mostly depict a ritualistic society where children mostly 0 – 15 are used for rituals just to pursue power and wealth. Again, the industry showcases maltreatment of children. Children are often used as breadwinners in the family against education, some are sent out to be househelps to rich men in the city who often molest them sexually, leading to rape (Farinde Kehinde, 15). It is against this background that this research undertakes to study children’s issues with a selection of the following Nigerian films, ‘My Home’, ‘Home Teacher’, ‘Emotional and Physical Neglect’, ‘Child Abuse’, ‘Plantain Girl’ and ‘How to Train a Child’.
1.2 Statement of the Problem
Today, in Africa the rights of children are routinely violated in households, schools and society in general. Some of the violations are almost institutionalised and accepted in some circles as norms. They include denial of educational opportunities, subjection to violence, female genital mutilation, early marriages, child labour, exposure to child prostitution, drug pushing and abuse and in worst cases, conscription into militias and criminal gang. These issues have intertwined in relation to the main needs of the child which includes protection, empowerment and equal opportunity.
Critics have tried to present the picture of the contemporary African child. Scholars like Emenyonu, Ernest have come up with works depicting the plights of the African child and also criticising the negative misconceptions about the African child in his article Children’s Literature in Africa: Time to Rethink, Attitudes and Misconceptions. Akachi Ezeigbo explores concern for children in her works which reifies her commitment to Africa-centered and authentic literature that fulfils multiple roles in society. She also takes time to explain the need for children’s literature in her work 50 years of Children’s Literature in Nigeria: Prospects and Problems. Cyprian Ekwensi is worthy of mention as one of the first to write for children and adolescents in works like Drummer Boy (1960). Chinua Achebe’s Chike and the River (1966), The Drum (1977) and others like Mabel Segun’s My Father’s Daughter (1965) and Ngugi Wa Thiongo’s Weep Not child. Children continue to be physically, psychologically, sexually and verbally abused against the main needs of the child. The portrayal of children and children’s issues in films has gathered momentum, there is lack of actual interrogation of these issues in literary criticism as there is a serious dearth of criticism on children’s issues in Nigerian movies and this is the gap this research fills. Therefore, this research intends to generate a critical discussion on the depiction of children in the following Nigerian films, ‘My Home’, ‘Home Teacher’, ‘Emotional and Physical Neglect’, ‘Child Abuse’, ‘Plantain Girl’ and ‘How to Train a Child’.
1.3 Aims and Objectives of the Study
The aims and objectives of this research are:
i. To critique the portrayal of children in the film “Emotional and physical Neglect”,
ii. To examine the societal and existential challenges militating against children in the film ‘Home Teacher’,
iii. To critique children’s issues from the Infantist and psychoanalytic perspectives in the film ‘How to Train a Child,
iv. To study the stylistic choices in the films in relation to the subject matter of the research.
1.4 Methodology of the Study
The purpose of this research include; to critique the portrayal of children in the film “Emotional and physical Neglect”, examine the societal and existential challenges militating against children in the film ‘Home Teacher’, critique children’s issues from the Infantist and psychoanalytic perspectives in the film ‘How to Train a Child, study the stylistic choices in the films in relation to the subject matter of the research. The primary sources of this research work are films; hence a purposive selection of suitable Nigerian films like ‘Home Teacher’, ‘My Home’, ‘Emotional and physical Neglect’ and ‘child abuse’ has been made. To further help in the research are textbooks, articles, and journals. The selected films are painstakingly viewed and reviewed, with scenes relevant to the theory of Infantism and the Psychoanalytical Film theory critically analysed.
1.5 Scope of the Study
This research pays attention to films and uses Infantism and the Psychoanalytic Film theory. The research limits itself particularly to the Nigerian context. The six Nigerian films selected are ‘Home Teacher’, ‘My Home’, ‘Corrupting the Young’, ‘Child Abuse’, ‘Plantain Girl’ and ‘How to Train a Child’.
1.6 Significance of the Study
This study generates critical materials which will be useful in further research in this area as it will contribute to existing body of knowledge. It will stand to bring a conscious awareness of the children who are often seen as weak and timid while gradually bringing such stereotype to an end. It also helps to bring about the dignity of the child since the child is cradle of human growth and progress.