A basic android phone with a smashed screen, a broken microphone stand, a battered hand dryer, and a few yards of green fabric. What do those have in common? Well, maybe a couple of things.
But who would ever guess they constitute all the props and set of an exciting sci-fi film shot by a team of four boys averaging 15 years of age and another eight-year-old girl who just finished Primary School — kids who are now getting deserved attention from moviemakers and government officials in Nigeria.
Yes, a group of teenagers who live in the not-so-nice parts of Kaduna, northern Nigeria, have basically gotten the hang of teleporting themselves from their shabby backyard to just about anywhere in the world.
It begins with covering a wall with the green piece of cloth, clamping the battered phone onto the broken microphone stand and positioning the set up just in front of the covered wall, turning on the hand dryer to create an impression of strong winds, someone yells “lights! action!” for good measure and the result is a short sci-fi film that could pass for something from Hollywood, complete with all the visuals and special effects. Such ingenuity!
“The main aim was not for our stuff to go viral, we just wanted people to see that there are kids in Kaduna who are doing something different. That was the main aim. So, this happening all of a sudden, just blew our minds,” Godwin Josiah, a Secondary School student and one of the young filmmakers, told Reuters.
— Reuters Top News (@Reuters) August 14, 2019
The group calls themselves The Critics Company and they aspire to be filmmakers with a difference. They use a laptop that has seen better days to work on their production; coupled with the epileptic power supply and poor internet in the area, it’s a struggle.
“The system is really slow. Our short five-minute film took us two days to render. And it’s not only that the system is slow — the electricity here is also poor,” says Raymond Yusuf, another member of the filming crew.
But this is exactly what makes their work all the more impressive. For all the improvisation they have had to do and all the drawbacks they have had to contend with, their output is surprisingly sleek.
And even though they have had to make do with Youtube videos to learn all the special effects they infuse into their productions, their short films turn out a lot better than would be expected from a band of kids with no training and no tools. Many are already tipping them for a career in Nollywood; the Nigerian film industry which is actually the second-biggest in the world by number of films.
And as all great things do not stay hidden for long, the effort of the kids is beginning to catch the eye. It was only a matter of time before a well-known movie producer came by their work and was particularly impressed. Their videos won so many hearts. The same producer championed a fundraising campaign for the kids and the effort yielded over NGN 2 Mn (USD 6 K), enough for the kids to buy new equipment for higher quality features.
Proud of these guys 💕 https://t.co/sK6CsddgwX
— Kemi Adetiba (@kemiadetiba) August 14, 2019
The Critics Company has found a niche in sci-fi — an area that is pretty much still uncharted territory in the Nigerian burgeoning movie scene — and they hope to become the biggest sci-fi film producers in Nigeria. But at the moment, they can’t make films longer than ten minutes because the poor internet in their community stalls uploads to their growing Youtube channel, which actually served as their only platform initially.
But all that seems destined to change soon. Back-to-back features in both local and international media in a matter of days have dragged them into the limelight and just yesterday, they were seated at a table with the Governor of Kaduna, Mallam Nasir El-Rufai, who is also impressed by their work and is now offering the government’s support.
— Governor Kaduna (@GovKaduna) August 15, 2019
The Governor praised their creativity and also put together a team of senior officials to work on the details with their respective families.
As things stand, it sure looks like those kids are well on their way to the big time. And if they do become big hits, they would have earned every bit of it.