The Master is a film that deals with many issues that surround the working world in Nigeria, many of them relevant to the prominence of criminal activity in an environment adjacent to that of the honest working world. Dennis, the main character and gradually more professionally apt scammer in the film, makes a crucial point about the issue of 419 as a whole at the end of the movie when he is arrested and brought to trial. Outside of the courtroom, surrounded by reporters, he states all too convincingly to the people in the crowd, and in great earnestness, that the roots of 419 can be found in the West, who has continuously used commercialism to rob the country of resources, economic viability, and opportunities for economic growth. What he speaks of is the ways in which the western world has used oil and international enterprise following the end of colonial rule in the mid-20th century to profit, all while keeping the country from advancing despite its great potential to do so.

The melodrama in Nollywood films seen in the acting, roles, and plot changes that can be so easily criticized for obscuring certain themes that are easy to miss in films like The Master, for instance “the failure of the state to provide employment” or “the forced reliance on kin” (p. 214) like Dennis’s older brother in his brief role in the first part of the movie. However, it is this melodramatic fashion that helps bring about Dennis’ claim at the end about the scam-like history of enterprise by the West. The melodramatic nature of the film and many others serves to reveal larger truths about Nigeria’s society and more specifically its “stuttering evolution of cinema” (p. 172). While Nigeria’s film industry may as of now be an underdeveloped response to the Western presence from the first half the 20th, it certainly served the Nigerian purpose of addressing the national and historical concerns of the people.

What is so compelling about what Dennis says in the end of the movie is its relevance to the evolution of Nollywood during its short lifespan. Nollywood, which produces thousands of films on miniscule budgets for a highly captivated audience, has grown from the shambles left by the West in the country during the later decades of the country’s postcolonial period. Larkin describes this characteristic in his article “Extravagant Aesthetics”, stating how “Nigerian films draw on the sides of African life that were downplayed in the colonial period…in the discursive concept of African cinema” (p. 171). In both a literal and contemplative sense, the latter concerning the economic effects of colonialism on this African country, Nigeria has in a wide range of industries evolved in a way that responds to the mark left by the West. Nollywood is a prime example of this; because the making of the films is never outsourced from Africa, they have very low budgets and production quality, yet maintain largely captivated audiences and high popularity within Africa.


About ethanmcleod

I'm a sophomore Public Communications major at AU and I like reading books.

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