When my friend, Onuora, decided to let the devil use him into creating a film poster that had Genevieve Nnaji, Robert Downey Jr., Chiwetel Ejiofor and Jason Statham jostling for space on the cover, an accomplishment which he unveiled in a Facebook group we both belong to, I had a very good laugh at his mischief.
And then, because I have a bit of the devil’s calling, I decided to take the picture away from the privacy of the group and splash it outside on both my Facebook and Instagram timelines. Honestly, I thought my followers would get it instantly. I thought people would get the joke. After all, how is it possible that four of the biggest stars in this planet came together to do a movie and no one heard a peep until the month the alleged movie is getting premiered?
However, to my shocked amusement and delighted astonishment, a huge percentage of commenters on the posts actually believed the story the poster was telling. There were breathless OMG exclamations of the movie premiere and rapturous cheers of congratulations to Genevieve Nnaji. The Nigerians on my timelines had happened on yet another accomplishment on Ms. Nnaji’s resume, and they were all determined to glory in her success.
What I’d intended to be a tongue-in-cheek update quickly spiraled into one of the most hilarious days I’d ever had in 2017. I simply sat where I was with my phone, flicking back and forth from Facebook to instagram, having a good laugh over the charming gullibility of some of my followers. (My apologies, guys, but y’all were hilarious AF!)
In time though, many people began to catch on, and amid the faux angry protestations, I made my second mistake of thinking this was it. The game was up. Everyone had wised up. Life could now go on.
Again I was wrong.
It wasn’t long before I started getting random mentions and tags on updates of other Facebookers, some of them who aren’t even in my friend list. Apparently, the Nwanyi Oma post had been shared across the social media globe, and apparently, not everyone had wised up. The narrative had even taken on a life of its own, with speculations abounding beyond the social media, apparently beyond Nigeria too, and news sites (Nairaland, I’m looking at you) discussing it, with most of these strangers bandying information on the ‘movie’ with such confidence that I almost began to doubt my prank. For a split second, as I read an exchange where a poster and a commenter were talking about how one of them had seen the teaser trailer and how they couldn’t wait to see the film, I wondered if perhaps I was the one who the joke was on.
Then that split second passed and I was back to chuckling at our amazing unawareness in this country.
But then, I got to thinking: in a way, for a society filled with a people too lazy to do the work on the acquisition of information (Heck, our media is well known for their copy-and-paste journalism), it is not very surprising that this Nwanyi Oma prank gained such traction the way it did.
In my opinion, there are three main factors that contributed to its believability:
1. THE STAR OF GENEVIEVE NNAJI
Say what you will about Genevieve Nnaji, but she is a bona fide superstar – a brand to be reckoned with. This is a woman who has managed to stay relevant without doing much, in spite of featuring in a movie last in 2015 (Road to Yesterday) and two years before that (Half of a Yellow Sun). She’s been called the Julia Roberts of Africa, and this is apt, partly because she wields the kind of star power where she can afford to stay away from the movie screen for as long as she wants and still keep the world anticipating her next move instead of dismissing her into forgetfulness.
Most of the Nigerians who were enthralled by the Nwanyi Oma poster weren’t even focused on the Hollywood stars on it. Not really. Attention on Ejiofor, Downey Jr. and Statham came secondary to the mesmerizing participation of Ms. Nnaji in the ‘movie’.
Just imagine if some other actress (or actor in fact) like Uche Jombo-Rodriguez, Ramsey Nouah or even perhaps Omotola had been on that poster instead of Genevieve… If we are being honest, you’d admit that that poster wouldn’t be the big trend it is now. Heck, it’s just a poster and it’s generating more buzz than Omoni Oboli’s Okafor’s Law, which is an actual movie in the cinemas.
2. THE IMAGE POSTER ITSELF
We live in a world where packaging is everything. You may be peddling a mediocre service, but if you’ve done a good job of giving the service an excellent front, you’d probably have more business than he who has a shabby packaging but quality service.
In this country, we have become jaded by the gaudy, loud and garish film posters that Nollywood often churns out as part of its film productions. Oftentimes, these posters elicit an eye-roll from the observer; other times, a dismissive stare.
And then comes along a poster with sleek, blue-and-black highlights and simple but elegant Hollywood-esque mystique – and voila! You have people stumbling over themselves to spread the good news of the movie. Never mind that it’s titled ‘Nwanyi Oma’. Of course, Jason Statham would agree to do a Nigerian movie bearing such an indigenous name.
3. THE DREAM OF NOLLYWOOD AND HOLLYWOOD
It is every Nigerian moviegoer’s deep, down desire to see our entertainment industry shine. And one of the ways to achieve that ultimate pride and joy is when we collaborate with them. That is why we cheered when Wizkid began making music with Drake, and gasped with pleasure when Half of a Yellow Sun brought Thandie Newton to Nigeria. We want to see our leading ladies swoon in the arms of their leading men. We want to watch our ‘actor’ swing a right hook at their ‘boss’.
So when a movie poster comes along with all the accoutrements of a collaboration between two of the world’s biggest film industries, of course you’re going to clap a hand over your mouth, widen your eyes in disbelief, gasp ‘Oh my God’, and quickly click to share, while mentally checking your wallet for the N1500 you’ll spend to see the movie at Silverbird cinema.
Personally, while I’m busy chuckling at all this misplaced brouhaha over Nwanyi Oma, I’d give anything to hear what Genevieve had to say about this.