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[Nigeria]Nigerian glossary


The Last King of Scotland

Filed under: films,VSO — kevin @ 09:38

I was in Abuja at the weekend and had to stay for a meeting on Monday. As it turned out Monday was a public holiday (announced on Friday), so the meeting was moved to Tuesday. A whole day to hang around in Abuja, marvellous!

Karen and I occupied some time by going to the cinema, to see The Last King of Scotland. This was at Abuja’s (fairly) new cinema inside Ceddi Plaza, operated by a subsidiary of South African company Nu Metro. It’s just like a real cinema although we were reminded we were in Nigeria when the power went off twice and we had to wait for somebody to go and start the generator.

The film itself was very good. From a VSO perspective it’s interesting to see the changes in Nicholas Garrigan’s outlook, as shown through the use of colour and music in the film. He starts off thinking everything is lovely, colourful and full of life and has little tolerance of the more cynical outlook of Sarah Merrit.

Forest Whitaker as Amin is incredible, convincingly showing both the charm and menace of the man. Too many films turn those kind of characters into comic-book bad guys, without showing how it is that they manage to attract their followers.

(Stop here if you’ve not seen the film and don’t want to spoil the ending) (more…)


The Imam and the Pastor

Filed under: films,friends,VSO — kevin @ 11:36

Nentawe (a young guy working with local youth groups) invited us to the Kaduna premiere of a new film, The Imam and the Pastor. It’s a film about two religious leaders who, in their youth, belonged to religious militias in Kaduna but have since reconciled and joined to promote peace. Their organisation has its own web site: The Inter-Faith Mediation Centre.

It’s very well presented and interesting, a mixture of footage of the two going about their work and interviews about their past and present. There’s also some archive footage from the various clashes that they are working to present a recurrence of. The segment showing the mass graves at Yelwan Shendam is particularly powerful.

Afterwards there were to be questions and answers. This being Nigeria, instead we got speeches from the representatives of the various bigwigs who’d been invited but couldn’t be bothered to turn up. Finally, two questions were allowed. Both people asked if there were going to be more showings of the film, especially in schools.

It seems that the filmmakers are hoping for funding and support to translate the film into local languages and they also plan to show it internationally in other conflict areas.


Star Wars: Episode 3 (and dodgy Video CDs)

Filed under: films,tech,VSO — kevin @ 10:02

We sat down to watch Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith last night.

I bought a video CD of it at the market on Saturday, getting the guy on the stall to check that both discs played, but failed to notice that the discs were badly scratched and it was too jerky to watch. Marebec managed to get hold of another copy, so we settled down in the dark and hoped the laptop battery would last long enough.

The first annoying thing was the presence of timecode numbers at the top of the screen, but that’s quite common on these pirated CDs. The second was irritation that the video had been very badly encoded, making the whole thing look a bit cartoonish and blocky. The final straw was that the disc kept stopping every once in a while with a “media read error”.

I can put up with the occasional skip but it really started to get annoying having to bring up the media player control panel, start playing the disc again and then find the first point after it had stopped where it would be prepared to continue. This is probably a combination of problems with the disc and bad user interface design in WinDVD.

So, I’m not sure what I think of the film. There didn’t seem to be much character development and the big special effects scenes looked awful with the bad encoding. I’ll have to try watch a better copy of it at some point.

I’m sure various people would say that the problems with the discs are all my own fault for buying pirated Video CDs. This may be true but:

  1. On a VSO allowance you can’t afford to buy imported DVDs
  2. I don’t even know where I could buy legal DVDs here

There is no cinema in Abuja, in fact I’ve yet to see one in Nigeria (not counting the burned-out shell of the Northern Cinema in Sokoto). Going to the cinema is one of the things I miss from my former life in Cambridge.


Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle

Filed under: films — kevin @ 19:36

(IMDb link)

One word: Fun.

It’s very silly, but it’s supposed to be. The special effects are used well and there’s enough plot to keep you watching. Most of it’s funny and there are some good cameos (Carrie Fisher pops up everywhere these days).

Go and watch it, lots of martial arts stuff without all the pretentious pseudo-philosophy of The Matrix.


No Man’s Land

Filed under: films — kevin @ 22:23

No Man’s Land was the other film I rented from Heffers yesterday.

It’s set during the war in Bosnia, starting with a group of Bosnian soldiers trying to find their way to their lines at night in thick fog. When morning comes they find themselves between the lines and are quickly massacred, apart from one soldier who is blown into an abandoned trench in the middle of no man’s land.

Two Serb soldiers are sent to investigate the trench, one is killed shortly after placing a mine under the body of another of the Bosnians and the other is held captive. During the course of the film the two enemies keep trying to get posession of the weapons but they know they have to wait until nightfall to escape.

Things get worse when the Bosnian lying on the mine turns out to be alive after all. The two others have succeeded in attracting the attention of their forces, who call in the UN. The vaguely farcical actions of the UN lead to a French sergeant ignoring orders and trying to help.

The film shows well the bitter enmity between the two sides, the hopeless position of the UN troops and the shallowness of the media, although the English reporter played by Katrin Cartlidge is a very sympathetic character.

Lost in La Mancha

Filed under: films — kevin @ 22:11

I missed Lost in La Mancha when it was on at the cinema but when I saw the DVD sat on the shelf at Heffers I just had to rent it.

In case you’ve not heard about it: it’s a documentary about failing to make a film. It was originally meant to be the ‘making of’ documentary for Terry Gilliam’s “The Man Who Killed Don Quixote” but the production of the film fell apart and the documentary was released as a feature film instead.

It’s fascinating to watch as preproduction starts off shakily and then filming is begun with high hopes. However the proximity of a NATO bombing range and a stunning storm combined with the failing health of the star, Jean Rochefort, combine to cause filming to be abandoned.

The extras on the DVD were pretty worthwhile too, especially the interview with Terry Gilliam. The interview with Johnny Depp was pretty painful though, he doesn’t seem to be the worlds best interview subject.



Filed under: films — kevin @ 22:28

As a result of a listings mixup I ended up going to see Dreamcatcher today. The quick verdict is: scary but a bit of a mess.

It certainly is a very scary film. It’s got quite a few of the blatant things jumping out and biting people scenes but it also manages to build up tension slowly and sustain it until you’re ready to drop dead from fright.

The CGI monsters are OK but nothing special and the plot seemed fairly disjointed. It’s apparently based on a Steven King story, but it gave the impression of being several different films hastily joined together.

There were the Stand By Me bits, Morgan Freeman must have found all the flying around in helicopters strangely reminiscent of Outbreak and the backstory about secret alien invasion attempts was straight out of The X Files.

So I’d say it’s worth going to see if you want a bit of a scare but don’t expect too much in the way of plot or characterisation.


AngelaÂŽs Ashes

Filed under: films — kevin @ 16:51

Another rental from Heffer’s, this time the DVD of Angela’s Ashes. I missed the whole fuss when the book came out due to being at the other end of the world but I read it not long after I got back and loved the way it showed the joy in life despite misery all around.

There’s a link with last week’s film, Emily Watson. In fact I thought she was better in Angela’s Ashes than Breaking the Waves. She does an excellent job of looking crushed and miserable but then occasionally there’s a tiny smile like sunshine after rain. She’s a fantastic actress and beautiful too.

I was also amused to see Pauline McLynn as Aunt Aggie, whenever I see her I still think of Mrs Doyle.


Breaking the Waves

Filed under: films — kevin @ 19:18

I’ve been renting quite a few videos from Heffers recently, this weekend’s was Breaking the Waves. I had heard lots of good things about it but missed it when it first came out and had never got round to seeing it. Maybe I was expecting too much.

I’ve liked the other Lars von Trier films I’ve seen but Breaking the Waves was just dull. I didn’t feel any involvement with the characters, most of whom were utterly two-dimensional. After watching quite a lot of european co-productions I can handle the random foreign actors, but none of the cast seemed to be trying very hard.

The photography was also very intrusive, the hand-held shakycam work grated after a while and the poor lighting made some scenes look like somebody’s home video. This may have been deliberately using natural light but there’s nothing natural about films, the film medium doesn’t have the same range as the human eye, you need extra light.

I actually got up halfway through the film to hang up my washing, that’s how much the film grabbed me. I amused myself by trying to guess when the film was supposed to be set but never did work it out (70’s cars but 80’s ticket machine on the bus, how geeky is that?).


Jackass: The Movie review

Filed under: films — kevin @ 19:53

OK, this is almost certainly the most stupid film around at the moment. It’s also the funniest thing I’ve seen in a long time. It’s not often you sit in a cinema with everyone laughing throughout the film.

Yes, it’s juvenile humour, but you don’t go to see it expecting high art. You expect to see a group of young men doing stupid things to themselves and that’s exactly what you get.

Classic moments include the destruction of a hire car and attempt to return it and Bam Margera’s way of getting his Mum to say fuck on film.

Weirdly the bit that had everyone cringing most was the paper cut scene, with the Jackass team giving each other paper cuts between the toes and fingers. There were more people in the cinema curling up in horror at this than at Bungee Wedgie or the disgusting wasabi snorting.

The IMDb link is here, if you liked the TV series you have to see the big screen version. If you didn’t like the series or don’t like the idea then go and watch something else.

I especially liked the scene where they were hiding on a golf course putting off golfers by sounding airhorns, but that’s just me.

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