Germany Expresses Interest in Digitisation of Nigerian Film


Ndubuisi Francis in Abuja

The German Embassy has expressed special interest in a Nigerian film, Shehu Umar, domiciled in the National Film Video and Sound Archive of the Nigerian Film Corporation (NFC).

Shehu Umar was the protagonist in a book written in 1966 about slavery by Nigeria’s Prime Minister in the First Republic, the late Sir Tafawa Balewa, but was published in 1971.
The book was adapted for a film by Adamu Halilu, a former general manager of the Nigerian Film Corporation.

The embassy has, therefore, sought to restore and digitalise the film in line with modern technological advancement, using the expertise of the Arsenal Institute of Film and Video Archives Berlin, Germany, and subsequently screen it at the 2018 Berlin Film Festival, and thereafter across Nigeria.

The German Embassy’s interest in the film stemmed from its storyline, the rich Nigerian culture it portrays in addition to the dexterity and creativity of its production.
Since the film is damaged and in celluloid form, in line with the existing bilateral relationship between Nigeria and Germany, the German Embassy formally expressed interest in it to the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed.

According to a statement issued by the Public Relations Officer, NFC, Abuja Zonal Office, Mrs. Juliet Archibong, the minister, while demonstrating his keen interest in the creative industry as a potential revenue-generating and job-creating hub promptly approved the release of the film and the attendant terms and conditions attached to its release as recommended by the NFC.

“These terms and conditions include the ultimate protection of the rights of Nigeria to the film, the repatriation of any financial benefit accruing from the screening of the film and the transfer of the restoration and digitisation technology to Nigeria through the training of staff of the archive who would be invited to Germany to witness the rounding off of the restoration and digitisation process and the eventual screening of Shehu Umar.

“During a visit recently by the Arsenal Institute, a representative of the institute, Mrs. Stephanie Schulte Strathaus, informed the meeting that work had started in earnest on the restoration and digitisation of Shehu Umar and announced a donation of a film scanner to the National Film Video and Sound Archive.

“The cost of the scanner which was funded by the German Embassy is put at about 60,000 euros. The cost of shipping the scanner, installation and computer software would be borne by the German Embassy,” the statement added.

It stressed that Markus Ruff, also of the Arsenal Institute, hinted that on their visit to the National Film Video and Sound Archive, they had discovered other films like Kanta of Kebbi, Sand of Pride, Oba of Benin and Kubla No Barna, adding that the institute was interested in getting to know more about these films for possible restoration and digitisation.

Commenting, the NFC Managing Director and custodian of the film, Shehu Umar, Dr. Chidia Maduekwe, thanked the delegates for their visit and interest in the film and the Nigerian culture, adding that he strongly believed that there would be many more areas of collaboration between Nigeria and Germany.

He noted that the NFC would transfer all its celluloid films from the Lagos zonal office to the National Film Video and Sound Archive in Jos for proper preservation and future digitisation.