Nigeria: Stepping Stones uses Nollywood’s Teco Benson to direct The Fake Prophet to combat witchcraft

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The belief in child witches is widespread throughout Nigeria and many other regions of the World. These beliefs have had a significantly negative impact on children who become victims of torture, violence and abuse. Many Nollywood films have capitalised on the belief in child witchcraft, with some depicting children eating human flesh and using their power to wreak havoc over communities. These films have been widely distributed and Stepping Stones Nigeria (Steppingstonesnigeria.org) believes it has helped to spread the belief in child witches. Sylvain Béletre of Balancing Act (BA) interviewed Gary Foxcroft (GF) from SSN on the making of The Fake Prophet, a new film which aims to counterbalance these films and expose the truth behind the so-called men and women of God who have made their wealth from branding children as witches and highlight the legal consequences of child witch stigmatisation and abuse. SSN believes that the medium of film will provide a different way of empowering and educating parents, families, and communities to think about the rights of their children and the important part they play in Nigeria’s and Africa’s future. Furthermore, literacy is a basic human right in modern society, yet over 57 million adults in Nigeria only cannot read or write. One alternative to this is using audiovisual media as an alternative to improve education and awareness. This film is aimed at all Nigerians but particularly those non-literate community members who may be unable to access mainstream media channels. Nollywood films are watched and talked about by millions of people from every ethnic group and social stratum in Nigeria. They are widely accessible and exert influence over Nigerian culture, and have the potential to pioneer change. Utilising film in this way will therefore create a powerful avenue to change attitudes, values and beliefs, and ultimately prevent the abuse of children. Given the projected reach of ‘The Fake Prophet’ and the power of the Nollywood industry, producers believe that this film will stimulate a great deal of debate, and has the capacity to save and change many children’s lives. The Director – SSN has collaborated with the leading Nollywood film producer -Teco Benson- on this ground-breaking project. Teco has made many films including the well known ‘End of the Wicked’. BA: How much did the film cost and who paid for it? GF: Around GBP30,000 – financed by Stepping Stones Nigeria. BA: How will you distribute the film? GF: We will start by holding three premieres, one in London (July), one in Lagos (August) and one in New York (September). Following this we will release the film on DVD and later on television throughout Nigeria using our Nigerian distributer TFP Global Network, it will then be broadcast on various TV stations throughout the wider Africa Diaspora, the UK and the USA using our network of supporters. BA: Have you done a French and Portuguese version for francophone and lusophone Africa? GF: Yes, we would love to have it translated into French and Portuguese; However at the moment we do not have the funds to do this and are looking for sponsors. As you may know the problem of child witches is also in Angola, DRC, Central African Republic, etc. As such this film could potentially have a massive impact there as well as in Nigeria. If your readers know of a sponsor or a translator who could help us translate the film into French and Portuguese, they should contact us ASAP. BA: How can broadcaster show your film? GF: They can contact us and discuss terms. We will be very happy to hear from them. BA: Are you interested in online VoD platforms to spread out the film globally? GF: Yes, indeed, using online VoD will provide a powerful launch for the film, making it easily accessible worldwide. BA: How much would you licence the film for? GF: This is negotiable depending upon the specific country terms. However, as the film is primarily an advocacy tool we are able to offer very competitive rates. BA: Will you give DVD copies to African schools? GF: Yes, we hope to work with UNICEF and other agencies to do this. BA: Have you put any anti-piracy measures in place in case the DVD gets copied? GF: Unfortunately we could not afford this. As long as we break even on the film we will be happy. For us the most important thing is to get the film out there into the public domain, so once it has been distributed and we have got our investment back, the pirating of the film may ultimately help us get our message across to more people. BA: Do you plan on producing other films/documentaries? GF: Yes, we hope to produce other similar Nollywood movies to explore child rights issues in Africa such as child trafficking, Female Genital Mutilation, Forced labour, etc. This first film will hopefully be the start of something much bigger. Contact: j.atkinson @ steppingstonesnigeria.org