A few weeks after the release of what has turned out to be a controversial movie, ‘Gang of Lagos’, there have been continued reactions across the country.
While many people have hailed the work done by the producers on the storyline in the movie, some stakeholders in the state, especially people of Lagos origin, took exception to the way the Eyo masquerade was portrayed in the movie. They also condemned the picture portrayed in the movie, saying it is against the culture and tradition of the state.
The movie, which dropped two weeks ago, clearly portrays the thuggery and violent lifestyle of some parts of Lagos, hitting close with Lagos politics and revealing the greater weight behind street power.
Expressing displeasure over the movie, Lagos State Government, through the Commissioner for Tourism, Arts and Culture, Uzamat Akinbile-Yussuf, described the movie as cultural misrepresentation. He stated that the ministry, being the regulatory body and custodian of the culture of Lagos State, viewed the film as a mockery of the Heritage of Lagos.
Similarly, Lagos Prince, Uthman Shodipe-Dosunmu, the Apesinọla Ẹyọ Ọba Alakẹtẹ Pupa Ọkalaba Ẹkun, a cultural group, ordered promoters to withdraw the movie immediately, describing it as “ethnic profiling, sacrilegious and outrageous trash.”
Also, the National Association of Emerging Artists, NAEA, in a statement signed by its spokesperson, Unadey Jones, expressed its disappointment with the portrayal of artists as “criminals” by the director and producer Kemi Akindoju and Jade Osiberu.
Calling for calm over the uproar generated by the production of the Gang of Lagos film, the Director-General, National Council for Arts and Culture, NCAC, Olusegun Runsewe, in a statement on Friday, noted the need for strategic rethinking on related cultural narratives by filmmakers in Nigeria to avoid public resentments and reactions
Also, the Isale Eko Descendant’s Union, IDU, has sought for the withdrawal of the movie from public view.
The union issued a press release on the defamation of the Eyo masquerade in various scenes in the movie.
Speaking in an interview on Thursday, a Public Relations expert and media strategist, Femi Salawu, while commending the efforts of the movie producers, noted that stakeholders must be ready to fund the production of movies so as to determine the narratives they would like to be displayed to the public.
According to him, the producers didn’t set out to misrepresent the culture but to point out areas that need urgent attention towards addressing a series of challenges in society.
He said, “But the truth of the matter is that why are the proud sons of Isale Eko, the Lagos government, not taking it upon themselves to fund the movie? Why have some people not taken it upon themselves to commission movies that will help to project culture positively if that’s what they want to achieve.
“Because Gang of Lagos was funded by Amazon Prime, and that’s what happens when we don’t support our people. We leave it in the hands of foreigners who will come and fund it and dictate how the story will look like. They will dictate the narrative for us.”
“From my own perspective, ‘Gang of Lagos’ is a wake-up call for Nigerians and all stakeholders in the movie industry to begin to see how we can use our movie to tell our story the way we want it to be.
“And whether we like it or not, every society has its own negative side, and so is Nigeria. I’m sure the intention of the producer is not to misrepresent culture. Their intention is to mirror society and call for solutions to open the eyes of the people and then help us begin to see how we can solve some of these problems.
“We just came out of the election, and we saw some violence cases in some places. Those are our realities. The movie is not saying something that happened in another country. We need to face reality and begin to look for solutions to see how we can elevate justice in our society, and when crime happens, people should pay and get punished for it”, Femi Salawu stated.
Also, a popular Nigerian filmmaker, Emil Garuba said, ”The movie is a well-put-together story. While watching the movie, you will know this is a Nigerian film.
”I find it very interesting that in the film called ‘Gang of Lagos’ where gangs were doing gang’s stuff, killing people, there’s violence, there’s blood and murder, political corruption, and everything is being mentioned there, but this masquerade issue is the one that they are saying is bad in Isale Eko.
”But then again, everybody is going to find what is important to them and take that out. I call it selective outrage, actually.”
Relating the movie to the just concluded general election, Garuba revealed that ‘Gang of Lagos’ is very timely because of how some persons are used to influence elections.
“I think it’s absolutely very true to the height of grassroots politics. We just see what happened, and I think every Nigerian realises that,” he said.