The message is clear: the documentary or the film has the power to override our moral emotions, and it is important to be aware of the process. Joshua Oppenheimer.
Nigeria is unaware and therefore “needs to be informed”. It must be said to its president that bandits planned to besiege it, he was not aware! The Trust Television Network, Trust TV, must owe him a real life contract and tell him [and the rest of fellow Nigerians] how others were killed before him; he didn’t know!
Conversely, the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) must also be made aware that the Trust’s documentary is unreliable and broke the Broadcasting Code, it was unaware! Indeed, just as the person who says the President is in danger seems to ignore his safety, the person who tells NBC to damn Trust TV and impose a toll on them also seems to ignore his albatross. In the end, all this brings back confused debris exploiting, in the name of patriotism, the sword of Damocles of the country.
Kadaria Ahmed in his penultimate Wednesday 27th ‘New Soldier’, preferred ‘professional dogma’ to life, and confused the former with an ‘act’ rather than a ’cause’ of killings. While “the act” suggests a depiction of the brutal workings of crime and the hellish character of the perpetrators, the “cause” shifts the focus to victims and victimology. The “act” and “cause” can be understood from the point of view of intention and purpose and could be professionally applied to uncover the darkest truth heretofore unknown, all the more so when it is done in the interest of the general public.
For Kadaria, this is far from correct because Toronto Mahmoud Eid’s argument to which she appealed, on the “relationship” between media professionals and terrorists, seems specific to her views, therefore uncontested. The problem with the professional dogma employed by the likes of Kadaria is that it tends to portray reality as far more evil than even the greatest villains who commit crimes and genocide. There is no ‘relationship’ for example, between Trust TV and the bandits as such, and if there is, Kadaria too, must have had a relationship with Nnamdi Kanu, the leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) whom she interviewed in July 2017, in which acts of terrorism and the media profession joined hands in declaring ‘Biafra ‘life or death’! Yet Kadaria is brave for boldly emphasizing in her article, “there must be no interviews with perpetrators during acts of violence”!
In 2017, similar professional dogma was used to challenge the intent and purpose of two popular documentaries by American-born photographer and documentarian Joshua Lincoln Openheimer: The Act of Killing and The Look of Silence. He is quoted in an article written by Sam Spencer, January 2017, for instead arguing that “the documentary is as much about ‘the deed’ as it is ‘murder’ and through this a dark truth is uncovered”. The implication of his two documentaries in presenting a figure of about 1,000,000 victims of the Indonesian genocide is actually incomprehensible, “not only for us as viewers of this film”, he said. , “but also for those involved, and it is this incomprehensibility that allows those involved to continue with their lives after committing unspeakable crimes.
It is on this same road that Kadaria wants us to map our debate. His argument reads: “Failing to meet the same standards they would hold in the UK, in their work in Nigeria, BBC Africa Eye producers in their latest documentary titled ‘The Bandits Warloads of Zamfara’ have provided a global platform to terrorists and can be accused of becoming an accomplice to terrorism in the name of exposing it”.
She disapproved of its significance and denigrated that the documentary was for naught as the “inept” government of President Muhammadu Buhari is not ready to follow suit. She ridiculed interviewing terrorists as the only way to make the public understand the state of insecurity, and instead warns of the grave danger of making confessed murderers even more attractive for their criminal act.
While she seemed to have provoked the BBC, Kadaria’s views are singing to NBC’s ears, now fining Trust TV N5 million for her recent documentary, ‘Nigeria’s Banditry: The Inside Story’ aired on March 5, 2022 And because, they are not told, they must have thought the Trust TV documentary is a complete painting of Kadaria imagery! Kadaria must have attested to the fact that the Trust documentary did not significantly object to its condemnation of a German code saying “In reporting actual and threatened acts of violence, the press should carefully weigh the public interest in information against the interests of the victims and others involved. He should report such incidents independently and authentically, but not allow himself to be the tool of the criminals…”
Indeed, it is not cited in the Nigerian code despite the possibility of its universal scope, and it must be unfair that NBC only fined Trust TV in accordance with the cited German code.
Moreover, it is not always bad to interrogate terrorists if the intention is clear and determined. Terrorists and terrorist organizations around the world have been interviewed by journalists and their voices have been heard often and documentaries of their heinous acts even more often than not. It also does not mean that it reinforces their invincibility, but simply as one of the widely suggested approaches to conflict resolution. This position is widely recognized and no one would want to mismanage their time to prove it.
In Nigeria (and particularly in the North West), where crimes in the face of banditry and kidnapping are widely seen to stem from years of old Fulani grievances, namely land alienation, dispossession of grazing areas, the acute shortage of veterinary supplies and all kinds; bandits’ opinions very likely prove the right message to the national and international communities that while the problems of grazing and constant displacement have been the root causes of criminal violence, the politics of interest are getting dirtier and dirtier and deadliest, amid the grand corruption that has characterized Nigeria’s leadership failure that has arisen above any other reason.
The seemingly inevitable perception widely shared by international communities that this act of violence is necessarily an ethnic affair between “Hausa farmers” and “Fulani herders” would therefore take on a completely different aspect and be squarely quantified and measured for a more balanced understanding. .
Debates about the ethical standard of documentaries, especially about genocidal killings and massacres, have not begun today, and in most cases state actors tend to oppose rather than justify their cause. . The case of the Kagame/BBC imbroglio accentuated by the latter’s documentary on the Rwandan genocide provides an interesting example here. For all the reasons though, documentaries are accustomed to iconoclasticism and they tell true and reliable events, there is no doubt about that.
Genocide documentary filming has not been limited to countries like Rwanda, Congo, Liberia, Darfur and now Nigeria. It began with the dawn of cinema in the early 20th century when the first atrocity film was released to transatlantic audiences in 1918 following the imperial Ottoman government’s massacre of 1.5 million Armenian civilians during the First World War (1914-1918). This attempt was followed by a host of other documentaries on genocides and massacres.
The history and reception of these films suggests that filming a documentary has always had a political connotation. Films rely on the audience to give meaning to the representation and in the case of the representation of the story; such responses have utility in shaping understanding of the past. Politicians, humanitarian organizations, victims and international institutions all have a stake in how a particular event is portrayed in mass culture.
At a time when the line between fact and fiction seems increasingly blurred in public discourse, including media platforms, the question of how to portray the horrors of genocide and crimes against humanity to the public in a meaningful and candid takes on a new urgency.
Ismail Misbahu writes via [email protected]