July 6, 2020

Film Rats Club

Let's Talk Movies

Sugar Rush, Conspiracy Theories and the EFCC by Hope Eniayekan

Call me late to the Sugar party but Lagos is a busy city and, sadly, so am I. However, the moment the movie was taken out of the cinemas, prematurely, and with the tufts of conspiracy theories flying around, further fueled by the mangled mess of an explanation NFVCB proffered on Twitter, I had to go see for myself what the fuss is all about.

According to some ‘sources’ EFCC did not take too kindly to how they are portrayed in the movie, while according to others, rival producers, apparently jealous and fearful of the unprecedented success the film was destined for, worked out a sinister plan to have it taken down to arrest the redirection of attention blighting their products. In all, the ban might have actually been a blessing in disguise because if nothing else, it only got more people talking about it and will only translate into a lot more people going to the cinemas to feed their curiosity.

The film was written and produced by Jade Osiberu and directed by the emerging Kayode Kasum, also the director of Love is Yellow. This action comedy follows the Sugar sisters who, after discovering $800,000 that changes their lives for a few days, are hunted by the EFCC and a host of others trying to lay claim to the money. It stars leading Box Office lady Adesua Etomi, Bisola Aiyeola, Bimbo Ademoye amongst others.

I eventually got to see the film days after the ban was lifted and if the rumours driving the ban are true then it’s safe to say that we live in dark times. Although the portrayal of the EFCC was not necessarily positive, with shots fired at the rank corruption within the agency, the empty headed officers (hilariously spearheaded by Williams Uchemba), whistleblowing and some two-timing employees, it still doesn’t appear, to me, to be worthy of a ban.

My immediate reaction to this was to transplant this debacle and find a place for it in the much more advanced Hollywood landscape but it didn’t fit. I have never seen or read any instance where the FBI or IRS pulled any mainstream American film off the cinema lineup for depicting the agency wrongly. In fact, there appears to be a strangely amicable relationship between the film industry and the security agencies. This had me thinking and forced me to do a little digging. According to released FBI documents and buzzfeed news, the FBI takes the controlling and polishing of its image through consulting work on films very seriously and as such, does advisory work on films where they offer assistance and clarifications, conduct workshops on the workings of the bureau and even allow shoot on FBI grounds. This, sadly, is what you get when systems are working my esteemed officers of the law. Over here, where such provisions are not in place, what they see is what they deserve. You cannot want positive, praise-laden representation if your organization does not seek to actively improve and work for it.

I think they should be more worried about brushing up their public image rather than chase after a harmless movie making a few stereotypical jokes already rife amongst the Nigerian populace. Besides, it’s highly doubtful their supposedly negative portrayal is what movie-goers would  have in their minds in the 90-plus minutes spent in the hall. It was laughter and falling off the chairs from beginning to the end. Who cares about positive or negative portrayals?

I would suggest rather than getting butt hurt over a few jokes the EFCC uses this to start a dialogue with filmmakers, offer assistance on such matters and give pointers on the generic workings of the commission, maybe through a guidebook, reach a sort of middle ground that does not gag free speech and creativity. Filmmakers don’t intentionally set out to make movies that get pulled off; neither do they have the time or money to fight through all the bureaucracy it might currently involve to get films ‘approved’. If these agencies appear unwilling to meet filmmakers halfway, perhaps it’s better for filmmakers to derive creative alternatives like using fictional security agencies that can be shaped in every way to fit the filmmaker’s taste. Not every film is going to garner the support Sugar Rush did. You don’t have to use EFCC; just go for NFCC or IJGB or whatever.