A film company in Lagos controls 200 subsidiaries that make popular films which never make it to the movie theaters but are instead distributed across Africa on DVD. 600 new productions every week. Is this a new flowering of cinema? The subject matter is certainly tough enough.
-What sort of things do they tackle?
-One film, for example, is about three women who go to Europe as sex workers. Before setting off, they go to their tribal medicine man to acquire some “good luck.” But they don’t have any good luck in Europe. The medicine man who sold them the charms has moved to New York. It turns out that a new baby needs to be sacrificed for the promised miraculous luck to become a reality.
-The women travel to New York.
-Yes, that’s exactly what happens in the movie. They force the magician to marry one of them and to sacrifice the child who is born soon afterward. And from then on they expect their second expedition into the heart of Europe to bring them the required good luck.
-Is there any censorship?
-The DVDs are beyond the reach of censorship.
-Do the critics help to disseminate the products?
-There are no critics.
-Is there any feedback to suggest how the products are received by the customers?
-The feedback of cash.
-Which suggests that this type of product is satisfying a real demand.
In a memorable passage in Still Alive: A Holocaust Girlhood Remembered (2001), Ruth Kluger describes a conversation with ‘some advanced PhD candidates’ in Germany:
One reports how in Jerusalem he made the acquaintance of an old Hungarian Jew who was a survivor of Auschwitz, and yet this man cursed the Arabs and held them all in contempt. How can someone who comes from Auschwitz talk like that? the German asks. I get into the act and argue, perhaps more hotly than need be. What did he expect? Auschwitz was no instructional institution…You learned nothing there, and least of all humanity and tolerance. Absolutely nothing good came out of the concentration camps, I hear myself saying, with my voice rising, and he expects catharsis, purgation, the sort of thing you go to the theatre for? They were the most useless, pointless establishments imaginable.
We have to abandon the idea that there is something emancipatory in extreme experiences, that they enable us to open our eyes to the ultimate truth of a situation. This, perhaps, is the most depressive lesson of terror.
An elderly man wearing a floral-print golf shirt and holding onto a walker stands in front of Angkor Wat, surrounded by a bevy of radiant-looking local women, two of whom have their arms around the elderly man’s shoulders: “Our grandparents were married for over seventy years. During that entire time our grandfather watched what he ate, worked as a podiatrist (he didn’t retire until his late 80s), abstained from alcohol and tobacco, and exercised regularly. Our grandmother was the opposite. She ate junk food, spent her days (post-children) planted in front of the television, popped pain pills the moment she felt one of her phantom aches, gobbled sleeping pills every night, and couldn’t walk more than a block without getting winded. What amazed us most wasn’t that our grandmother lived to ninety years old (which only confirmed for us the idea that longevity was another of life’s crapshoots), but that our grandfather never once complained to our grandmother about her lifestyle, never implored her to change, and never gave her any type of ultimatum. In a rare moment of candor right before he died at the age of 102 (having outlived our grandmother by over a decade) our grandfather told us that the reason he never worried about our grandmother’s health was because he had always secretly hoped her ill-living would kill her. He told us that he wanted her to go first so that he could spend the rest of his days doing what he wanted and enjoying the peace and quiet, which is exactly what he did, taking trips to exotic locations all by himself and, when at home, catching up on a lifetime’s worth of reading, specifically the gargantuan tomes of James A. Michener (his favorites were Alaska, Hawaii, and Texas, although he did have a soft for Space and Poland), who our grandfather claimed was the Great American Novelist (our grandfather also told us that the reason the title of Great American Novelist had been withheld from Michener [from the literary establishment, at least] was because of Michener’s aversion to, according to our grandfather, ‘Going on a journey up his own ass’). When we asked our grandfather why he didn’t just divorce our grandmother he waved us off and told us that divorce was for sissies. Then he told us that the main difference between his generation and ours was that his generation had vast reserves of patience.”