by Yikaileau Azariah
“The Critic” screens on Sunday, June 18, between noon and 4:45 p.m., at the African American Art and Culture Complex, 762 Fulton St., in San Francisco. You can purchase tickets online at www.sfbff.org.
When you think of the word “poverty,” what do you think of? What words come to mind? You would probably think of words like: dirty, poor, starvation, homeless – helplessness. You most likely would not think of words like: creativity, visionary, inspiration, motivation or innovation, words that are the complete opposite of the word “poverty.”
And yet people do this all the time – forgetting that beautiful people with creative minds that have brilliant ideas, visions and concepts do not always come from those who are considered the “highest” in society but from those who are considered the least. As I think about and ponder such a revelation, I reflect on a powerful documentary that I recently watched which was the beginning of this revelation.
A documentary which tells a story about a group of young visionary Nigerian teenagers who have aspired to create fun and entertaining films with the dream of eventually becoming full-fledged professional filmmakers.
And as such a story was unfolding before me, as I began personally sharing in the enjoyment they had as I saw their journey unravel, it was hard to ignore the biggest setback they had to endure which made achieving their dream more difficult, which was: their poverty.
Living in Nigeria, this creative group of filmmakers who call themselves, “The Critics Company,” aren’t as privileged as other young aspiring visionaries who also seek to
become professional filmmakers. Even for a creative like me who may not be passionate about film but loves to write, I was humbled knowing that I have all kinds of various opportunities and avenues that can help me reach my goals and dreams. These guys didn’t have that.
From seeing how their electricity would be shut off for hours at a time to only having access to a 2G network for internet connection, these were only a couple of the hardships that Raymond, Godwin and Victor, members of the crew, expressed that they went through when trying to create their films. And these were the three teenagers around whom the story revolved. All of them gave their own individual story about working against the odds to achieve their dream.
The example of pushing forward regardless of circumstance, I feel, was best shown in Raymond,
maybe because I empathize with him the most. You see, aside from already being limited
financially due to poverty, he also had to deal with his parents not exactly believing in anything
other than him becoming a doctor or lawyer. Raymond’s father even expressed that a child, at least in the African setting, that does not go to school will not make it in life.
As a writer and someone who strives to follow my dream, it’s an all too relatable feeling of not being taken seriously when you yourself are serious about following your own path to achieve those dreams. And with those who were initially willing to not accept my passion, I almost gave up. But the difference between Raymond and me is that I live in America, a land flourishing with technological resources and an overwhelming amount of tools to move me forward with my dream.
Raymond had none of what I have and yet didn’t falter in his thinking one bit. And this is where the genesis of my revelation began and I asked myself, “Why is it that those who have more are seemingly doing less and those who have less can seemingly do more?” And as I saw Raymond, and everyone else who make up “The Critics Company,” this group of creatives who come from nothing, with their power shutting off, who use outdated technology, who use 2G internet, waiting hours or even days at a time just to use video editing software, as I saw all these things, they showed me one thing: They toleratged no excuse as to why they couldn’t keep moving forward.
Too poor to produce high quality films? No excuse. Family doesn’t support your passion? No excuse. Do not falter and keep moving forward. That is the message of the story regarding “The Critics Company.” Sometimes life can use the things we find foolish to confound the wise. What many people would have deemed a setback, these creative visionaries used that as an asset and took advantage of it.
As a creative, I had to reexamine what it even means to be “creative.” Here in a more developed country, because we have access to everything and because we can achieve things more easily here, it takes away that factor of having to find more unconventional ways to innovate something compared to people who don’t have much.
In the case of “The Critics Company,” because they were poverty stricken, they had the freedom to come up with more interesting ways to create scenes in films that others wouldn’t have even thought of. Indeed, the genesis of “the Critics Company” started off with cousins who would sit around a television critiquing other films before they made their own. So it does make sense they could recreate the same things they saw and put their own fun and enjoyable twists on what was seen in the movies. Seeing this, I had no choice but to come to the conclusion that those who have more can seriously learn from those who have less. And these are our people, the Black community.
Though Raymond, Godwin and Victor and the rest of “The Critics Company” live on the other side of the world, this powerful documentary has taught me and should teach all of us that to be in “poverty” doesn’t mean you cannot achieve the dreams and goals you wish to see happen. It doesn’t mean you aren’t innovative, or creative, or talented, or that you aren’t a visionary.
You already are those things, and no amount of money and unacceptance can strip that from you. It is your birthright. This revelation couldn’t have come the way it did any other way than by learning from those who have less. Because of these young creative teens who were revolutionary in their thinking, they did not only bring about change in their own individual lives, but they brought about change to the lives all around them and the rest of the world over. I strongly recommend everyone to watch this documentary.