Osuofia and Transnational Moral Relativity

Image Credit: Wikipedia

When the movie was starting, I was interested in just watching the reaction and gaze from Osuofia in Europe. I was expecting a sort of anti-colonial, anti-European sentiment. While those tendencies were there, such as Osuofia getting slapped and other occasions, I was really taken with the narrative and the sort of ideology that it presented. It wasn’t as clear cut as I had thought it would be, and the ending of the movie really struck me. Instead of a sort of purist anti-colonial set-up where Osuofia triumphs over his brother’s fiance and the multinational African character; all of them are seen lying and cheating to get Osuofia brother’s money.

So near the end of the film, we see how the fiance and the executor of the will were planning on tricking Osuofia out of his money, and the fight they have in order to get it. Samantha gets him to sign the paper and the executor of the will then double crosses her. What I found really interesting was how, in Africa and Europe, Osuofia is not really a hero or victim as much as I anticipated. He makes many lewd comments towards Samantha and expects sex out of him signing the paper, thereby cheating on his wife. When she promises to go to Africa he makes sure to tell him that the old woman and children that say he is their father and husband, that they are just lying.

All of the characters in this film are very morally relative in this sense, and not just the European ones. It makes me wonder where the film positions the blame. We know that Osuofia is very poor, very much in debt and unable to provide for his family. What the film doesn’t clarify as much is who is to blame for that. Does he waste his money, or does he have a problem with the Union not spending the money properly? And does his greed get worse after being in Europe, or was that always there? Such as how he makes himself, and his daughters, weep after realizing his inheritance is real.

Discussion Questions:

  1. Where does the film place the blame for this moral relativity? If it does at all?
  2. Do you think that the film suggests that greed and moral relativity is itself transnational and makes no suggestion that the blame is anywhere but in the characters?
  3. How does the abrupt ending and loose ends of the film contribute to that understanding?

Is Osuofia a Nigerian President?

Osuofia The Wikipedia

Osuofia in London reminds me of another film I watched long ago. It was an Egyptian film titled Hammam in Amsterdam. Basically the same idea. The villager who needs to go to the civilized world to finish a job and then the subplots are about what he sees there that is so different to what is back home.  This Nigerian film is showing two opposites; the civilized vs. the uncivilized, the simple vs. the smart, and the naïve versus the cunning. It is a story that is likely to happen. I really liked the performance of the actors especially the leading actor. It was a comedy that carries a message. How this simple man had his life changed all of a sudden because of a relative how lived and worked in London. He did not deserve the money so it was easy to be stolen from him. This film to some point echoes Xala in my opinion. The man who got a position that he does not deserve. A man who acted like a hero while he was a coward and lazy. Is the writer of this film’s story or script meant to criticize Nigeria and its leaders? I know from different friends that Nigeroan leaders are not just and Nigeria is going thjrough some difficult time. I have even wrote about a novel titled Sozaboy and when I did the reading of the resources I found that the writer of that novel was set an unjust trial and based on the verdict was executed. Some claim that he was executed because he addressed the issue of Shell Company and the fact that the company was responsible for polluting the ground of some farms.

What is the role of the females in this film?

Why is it a comedy?

 

Can Humor Travel?

We were encouraged to consider our experience of Osuofia in London as viewers outside its intended audience. For me, I was quickly reminded of how difficult it is for humor to travel transnationally—just because a joke can be translated (or is even in English) doesn’t mean it’s universally funny. And scrolling through the film’s YouTube comments, its intended audience—both Nigerian and from other African countries—were utterly delighted by this film.

Even though I found the film only occasionally humorous, and the plot seemed to drawl on for ages, overall I still enjoyed the viewing experience. Considering how the film constructs its audience, I found many points at which I suspected I was supposed to laugh. I found the scene where Osuofia instructs his daughters and his wife to start mourning his brother’s death was vaguely humorous, but YouTube commenters consistently listed that as the most hilarious and memorable scene. Watching Osuofia travel through London made me wonder what about these moments could carry a film. But Osuofia’s cross-cultural mishaps—and the fact that he remained stubbornly devoted to his own ways—fall far outside the Hollywood pattern.

Hoffman’s observations about Nigerian film and their ability to draw and speak to their audience makes sense after viewing this film. It’s not necessary for me to understand the film, or find it funny in the way that its intended audience would. It reminded me of the time I was on a train in the Sichuan province of China, talking to a Chinese guy who was watching How I Met Your Mother on his laptop. He said (via my friend; his accent was too thick for me to understand) that so many of the jokes in How I Met Your Mother were difficult for him to follow. The Chinese subtitles were insufficient to fully communicate all the contextual information he would need to understand the joke—and even if those were present, would the US style of humor be funny to him?

In that vein, the demand (that apparently exists based on articles we’ve read) among academics that African film speak directly to the postcolonial political situations of their countries seems like a bit of an oversight. In the US, we have serious Hollywood films and blockbusters, sitcoms and HBO series, cartoons and late night television, soap operas and cooking shows, and on and on. US media travels worldwide, into other markets that, like China, produce their own range of media in the same spectrum. Hoffman’s point that Nigerian film shouldn’t be taken any less seriously because it lacks a purposeful treatment of politics, or that its product is low quality, seems like it could be extended further: just because Nigerian films don’t produce works easily suited for academic analysis, doesn’t mean they’re not just as valuable as those that do.

Discussion Questions

  1. How did you react to the humor in this film? What moments were funny, and what moments seemed lost in “translation”?
  2. Hoffman writes that this film “cleverly subvert[s] notions of the desirable West.” In what places of the film do you think it achieves this?

Nollywood’s “Niche” and “Audience”

After watching Osuofia in London I realized that the primary focus of the film–and of Nollywood film production by extension–is entertaining a specific audience: the Nigerians. It’s hard for me to place “Nigerian videos” in any of the known cinematic traditions we have discussed so far; first, second, third and even fourth cinema traditions, are all too specific categories to enclose these videos into their fold. Osuofia in London is preoccupied too much to be worrying about imparting any of the characteristic of the known cinematic traditions or ideologies that grapple with nationalist or post-nationalist thought processes that we are familiar with. However, even though we might eventually enjoy some of comedic elements in the film, we still feel a little disappointed, and even outsiders at times, when we watch films like this that are intended for a specific audience. But I also think that such an alienation of audience-ship, on some level, re-enforces the idea that Nigerian videos are simply not interested in entangling with nationalistic or Pan-Africanistic politics. Rather, it speaks to a specific audience that is rural based and simply aim to entertain. We can hear this notion reverberate in the film in the voice of the narrator that draws distinctions between the complicated “urban” “foreign” modes of life that is still far removed from the  Nigerian rural setting: the latter, in many instances, is privileged as far as the characters are concerned. One can also notice that the “comedy of errors” is usually caused by the complications caused by the complicated life-style (in this case in London) and not by the simple Nigerian country life. This is what creates the amusement for the local audiences who are the primary entertainees of the film.

Although, one might also wonder why simply focus on entertaining and not consciously involving in cultural politics of any kind? I think it might help if we know more about the relationship (or a lack thereof) of Nigerian cinema with other dominant modes of production in the rest of Nigeria or with the bigger Pan-African identity. What are the some of the reasons or motivations that draws Nollywood away from the globally known cinematic traditions or modes of production?

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Osuofia in London and Nollywood Cinema

Nollywood_9

Source: https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/6/65/Nollywood_9.jpg

By Walter Bender

I have never heard of Nollywood before this class, and I’m surprised how enormous the reach of these films have. Just looking at this week’s movie, Osuofia in London, on YouTube it has over half a million views. According to Claudia Hoffman’s article, Nigeria is one of the leading producers of digital media today, and Nollywood is their largest export aside from oil. According to her, this market is possible due to cheap equipment for independent filmmakers. These filmmakers have a “third way” of making movies that do not need to rely on having Western or government funding thus these films often have low productions value. The tradeoff, however, is filmmakers can produce and distribute their movies in bulk with little restriction to their “voice”. Typically these movies address or tailor toward popular issues from the country.

Watching, Osuofia, it definitely had the lowest budget of all the movies we have seen in class. The budget, however, is not necessarily a bad thing because it likely allowed Kingsley Ogoro to make the film the way he wanted without interference from producers. As for the narrative itself, it is a migration story about a Nigerian man who travels to London to claim his brother’s inheritance. Through comedic on the surface, Ogoro skillfully ties in postcolonial themes with Osuofia’s character. With Osuofia, he is often offended by the Londoner’s actions and customs. In one hilarious scene, for instance, he calls out a McDonald’s employee at the cash register for not serving any good food. He insists on taking their bread whether the employee accepts his Nigerian money or not. By physically impounding his improvements on the Londoner’s he, in many respects, becomes a reverse colonizer. Hoffman points out that the film undermines the Western sentiment to enrich African conditions. Osuofia sees nothing wrong with his lifestyle but instead speaks out about all the problems he sees with the West such as the stupidity of using a toilet rather than a hole.

 

  1. What do you think the presence of the occult represents in the film? More specifically, the scene in the police station where Osuofia zaps the officer with the amulet his father gave him.
  2. What comparison can you make between Osuofia and the financial consultant trying to scam him?
  3. In what ways is London shown both positively and negatively?
  4. Does the lack of production values bother you? Do you think they would have changed the movie for the better or worse and why?

Osuofia in London: cultural Shock

osuofia-in-london

Osuofia in London: cultural Shock

     I watched both parts and was very surprised by the plot development as well as the ending. The opening scene of part one presents a father who failed to provide financial security for his family. He claims to be a hunter, but fails to catch anything. In fact, the only animal he catches is a pigeon in London. His failure as a provider is highlighted by the fact that he lives in a house that is dominated by females and since neither his wife nor any of her children work, he is responsible for supporting the whole family. In addition to that, he is in debt and is unable generate money to pay his debtors.

     Osuofia in London is similar to Pride and Prejudice because both families not wealthy and their daughters present a financial and a social burden. In Pride and Prejudice, the daughter. Lakhi, elopes, escapes, or just goes wondering around with an untrustworthy man, Wickham, who might get her pregnant. In Osuofia in London the father is worried about his daughters for the same reason. In fact, the opening scene clearly demonstrates how they might get attacked or raped any minute. Both families hope to lighten this social and financial burden by marrying their daughters off. While pride and Prejudice succeeds in marrying of some of their daughters, Osuofia in London resolves this problem by receiving a large inheritance and thus increasing the daughters’ chances of finding a husband.

     Osuofia come from a small village and after learning of his upcoming trip to London, expectations are high. The people of this small village expect him to come back with the knowledge and import the economic developments to this poor community. It is interesting to see that the mere idea of someone going to Western country strikes awe and admiration in the villagers’ eyes. The whole community is proud of this unprecedented accomplishment, and this is also reflected on Osuofia’s family. It is clearly demonstrated at school where his daughters is introduced as a different or new personality with a new status and now every student there wants to be her friend.

     Osuofia’s trip or as he calls in “journey” puts his knowledge of London, Trafalgar square and Piccadilly street to the test. He is shocked by the food, the outfits and the manners in general. It looks like the director deliberately intended for Osuofia blend in to a live crowd because that would further show how much an outsider he really is. I can see that in his conversations with the British, especially with comments about London bridge.

     As for the editing, there were many abrupt cuts and sudden changes of scenes. I thought that the music that accompanied the determining scenes was too dramatic. Obviously the film was made on a low budget and it seems that the scene in part two that takes place at night and welcomes Samantha to the village is the same scene used to give a very well to her.

1- the idea of Africans “double crossing” people from their own country is a recurring them both in Xala, El Hadji Aboucader Beye, and  Osuofia in London, Ben’s characterWhat does that say about the post-colonial Africa? 

 

Pride and Prejudice as a “Negotiation between East and West”

Pride and Prejudice as a “Negotiation between East and West”

Fbride

The film’s take on jane Austin’s novel has its virtues. As with Sita in the film Fire, Lalita stays true to herself and her beliefs (well most of them) as she comes across the challenges of the Western culture. Unlike Fire’s Jatin and Lakhi who through themselves at and embrace the western culture, Sita and Lalita are selective, they are welling to adjust their perspectives and revise their understanding of life to a certain extent.

Sita rejects her traditional and arranged marriage in favor of a new still unfamiliar and “unnamed” relationship with her sister in law Radha. Lalita is able to revise her first impression of Darcy and overcome her prejudice. Moreover, the film begins with her defending traditional marriage, yet ironically she ends up falling in love not once but twice before getting married. In a strange way both Sita and Lalita suggest a truce between the Eastern and the Western cultures. Rather than rejecting or completely surrendering to the Western cultural invasion. They welcome a certain dose while staying true to their values, which are clear in the way they think and dress.

However, Jatin and Lakhi both gave in to the superiority of the Western culture. This is clearly demonstrated in the way they dress. Jatin is completely consumed by the “other” in the way he dresses, the affair he has, and his mentality in general. Lakhi’s crop top outfits are used to demonstrate the negative impact of the Western culture. Although Lalita does wear jeans and shirts, she keeps away from the trashy outfits. In a way the film’s costumes show how to be selective when it comes to imitating the West.

 

  • “Bollywood can be read both as defending itself and Indian values against the West, and as a dangerous courier of Western values to the Indian audience, and it read in both these ways by the Indian popular film press.” How does this concept manifest itself in Pride and Prejudice? Can we make the same claim about Fire?

 

  • In what way is the film an examples of escapism?

Bride & Prejudice: Hollywood and Bollywood Divide

Image Credit: http://exclaim.ca/

There were a couple of things that I was watching for during this movie, but the biggest one was tracking the way the film used the Pride and Prejudice in this new and updated context. While the plot was very similar, I was interested in how the same issue of class difference being the main conflict in Pride and Prejudice was still present, but pushed farther with racial, ethnic, and national pressures as well.

But what made tracking those themes throughout the film was when, in reading the article, the conclusion made two points. One about the cultural victory of the East over the West, since Hollywood had to invest in Indian companies to make a profit from them. And the other was about how these kinds of films are not just about taking a stand against the West through film but understanding the problematic aspect of these films.

First, I think it is interesting that this film itself sort of displays a triumph of East over West. The final wedding scene in the movie is the happy couple riding an elephant through the streets of an Indian city. The whole character plot of Darcy being disgusted by the city to him getting married in the middle of it was a nice touch. The other scene that made him sympathetic that I found interesting was in seeing his mother’s racism (why go to India if we have Deepak Chopra and yoga here). It was just a funny and interesting reversal to see Western characters look, sort of, like a fool and committing to a different life than they had intended.

What was problematic in the film, to me, what the Bride’s sympathy for working and not having a lot of money, when her family clearly did. In the article we read for class, the conclusion discussed why it isn’t as simple to root for the East or West, because the same interest groups in Hollywood and Bollywood have similar intentions; to make a lot of money. So with this in mind, the idea that the bride represents a sort of, working class/salt of the earth archetype was a little bothersome. (Though the same could be said about the original novel itself.)

Discussion Questions:

  1. Are the main goals of Hollywood and Bollywood, such as just making a lot of money, really that similar? And how does the article articulate this idea within the context of 3rd Cinema?
  2. What other differences or similarities are there to the novel and what can they do to highlight the issues of each text?

First World and Second world Mrriage

Bride IMDB

When I was a teenager, once I was sitting outside of the house with my cousin and he looked at the sky and said Saud if there are out space Aliens, then why don’t they come to visit us and then we can have interracial marriages with them, they give us their daughters for marriage and we do the same for them. In politics, |Arab monarchy countries tend to have marriages with each other. I mean between kings to create affinity. It was like this in Bride and Prejudice. I discussed the film and the novel with an American friend and she told me something that caught my attention. I don’t know if it was a line from the film. She said that Darcy was to Elizabeth like I liked you although you are way below my class and in the film he was like I liked you although you are Indian.  However, the characters were brought together by love and marriage at the end which changed the relationship between the two people, two nations and two countries maybe through the investment by Will Darcy in India.

I do not know why exactly Gurinder Chadha chose a male to represent a first world country and a female to represent a second or third world country, and I do not think the reason is that she wanted to be faithful to the original plot of the novel. I read somewhere that the term of first and second world is out dated, but still it is used by many scholars I think. However, I think Lalita was very articulate in defending her culture and country not because she was supposed to do so out of patriotism but because her country deserved the recognition. I think by choosing a female character to change the view of Darcy about India is an aim. An American friend from another university skyped me and asked me to give him the names of surahs that discuss King (prophet) Solomon because he needed to compare between the Bible and the Koran. While reading in Arabic I came across interesting ideas about Queen Sheba (saba) of Yemen. She was a very wise woman. The same applies to some female presidents and queens of the world. Lalita was proud of her culture because she was aware of the situation that her country went through. What I like about her character and the character of the daughter in Xala is that both of the women are unique. They weren’t followers of the colonizer nor very stubborn and traditional to the point of refusing to deal with the country that once colonized them. Lalita loved Darcy and I am aware that he was AMERICAN and not British but yet a first world and second world marriage is good to create a better world.

  • Does the singing play a motif in the film for some idea?
  • Why did not the director change much in the plot of the film?

Bo[Ho]llywood Musicals and Bride and Prejudice

What informed me the most in Heather Tyrrell’s article, “Bollywood versus Hollywood: Battle of the Dream Factories” was its apt recognition of  the “negotiating” cultural forms of representation in  First and Third World films. I’m specifically impressed with her identification, that “[g]lobalization has largely [and erroneously] been structured in terms of a basic opposition between Western commercial and culturally imperialist cinema, and Third World non-commercial, indigenous, politicized cinema” (312). It appears that Bollywood has done really well without having to play on the “erroneous” opposition between commercial and third-worldist cinema to prove to be commercially successful and culturally relevant. Gurinder Chadha’s Bride and Prejudice (2004) is a great case in point: it’s a Bollywood’s adaptation of Hollywood’s Pride and Prejudice, however, the former is not strictly an imitation of the latter. In addition to some plot and cosmetic differences between the two films (and from the original inspiration in Jane Austin’s novel), I’m sure the audience can recognize that Bride and Prejudice is not merely a conversion of one cultural specific material into another but a more specific and complete cultural translation of the two (somewhat) incommensurate cultural artifacts. Despite the apparent incommensurable cultural tensions in the film, Bride and Prejudice proves itself to be a commercial success globally, which sets it apart from Hollywood’s earlier attempts (like Cliffhanger, First Blood etc., that Tyrrell refers to in her article) to inject itself into Indian cinema. Earlier Hollywoodian “commercially imperial” attempts proved futile in India because a literal (Hindi Dubbed) translation of Hollywood films could not necessarily win over an audience who were culturally more alien to its content than its language (as Tyrrell points out).

Conversely, if we look at Bride and Prejudice’s more surgical adaptation we can find out that it is playing with a “form and content” that is more or less equally familiar with both Western and non-Western (Indian) audiences. The film oscillates, effortlessly, between the patterns of Hollywood and Bollywood musicals. The songs sequences are shorter, more frequent and unannounced (as in Hollywood musicals) but that does not alienate the Bollywood fan. More importantly, though, English lyrics in the songs sequences are not merely made culturally specific (as any audience would expect), they are actually, deliberately, based on the compositions of songs from the 90’s and the timeless old folk songs that the audiences of any age group could sing along  with without even having to understand their modified lyrics. The lyrics are English but the music (content/composition) is Indian and relatable. Nevertheless, there is a little bit to pleasantly shock all audiences but I don’t necessarily think it alienates any of them. This (negotiated form and style) , I think, could count is a bigger commercial success than to merely “reverse” the content, style or forms of production.

Work Cited

Tyrrell, Heather. “Bollywood versus Hollywood: Battle of the Dream Factories”. The    Globalization Reader, Blackwell: Oxford, 2004, eds. Frank J. Lechner and John Boli, 312-319. Print.

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