Suffering And Smiling

Suffering And Smiling


Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson

While we are used to hearing tales of poverty from Africa, the story of the suffering in Nigeria is all the more horrendous when you consider that it is the richest in the world, in terms of natural resources.

But while the world plunders the country for its oil, the local populace fail to feel the benefit, thanks in large part to a corrupt government only interested in lining the pockets of those within it, not the common man.

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Dan Ollman's documentary focuses on Femi Kuti a political activist who is trying to change lives through his music. He is, in fact, part of an activist dynasty - the son of highly politicised singer Fela Anikulapo Kuti.

Like his father before him, Femi travels the length and breadth of the country - and further afield - trying to instill a sense of national pride in the people of Nigeria which, in turn, he hopes will topple the Obasanjo-led government.

Ollman's direction is slick and thrusts us into the thick of things. Flicking between high octane performances of Femi, his father and a potted history of a land which saw its leader not so much appointed as inflicted upon it by the West. The contention is that, upon departure, the colonial powers gave power to the bad guys, or at the very least, those who were most backward looking.

By contrasting the upbeat tempo and message with images of the squalor many Nigerians face, despite living in oil-rich towns, Ollman paints a bleak picture of corruption breeding corruption.

Equally, he clearly illustrates how the West, through its refusal to let Africa trade fairly is 'stealing' from the country in more ways and one.

The downside of trying to cover so much ground - corruption, attitudes of the west, reaction of the local populace to Femi's message, treatment of residents by oil companies - is that things occasionally become confusing, particularly in terms of historical context. You can't help feeling that if Ollman had tried to say slightly less, he would have, in fact, communicated more. That said, this is Femi's show. His passion for his fellow countrymen and desire to make good on his father's legacy are compelling.

Reviewed on: 26 Mar 2007
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Documentary about musician and political activist Femi Kuti and the legacy of his father's push for a better life for the people of Nigeria.

Director: Dan Ollman

Starring: Femi Kuti

Year: 2006

Runtime: 65 minutes

Country: Nigeria, US


Human Rights 2007

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