Image of the year: That Obama Selfie


In November, 2013 the Oxford Dictionary announced the word ‘selfie’ as the word of the year and included it in the dictionary. This December, President Obama, Prime Minister Cameron and Ms Helle Thorning-Schmidt, Prime Minister of Denmark, have conspired to make their selfie, taken at the Memorial for Nelson Mandela, image of the year.

Acting like excited teenagers on a day out these world leaders got caught up in the moment and couldn’t resist taking a self-portrait of themselves. Journalists have reported that everybody else was taking pictures too, especially of the dignitaries sitting in the VIP section. Everybody, that is, except Michelle Obama whose stern look betrayed her disapproval.

In diplomatic circles, planning is essential. Itineraries are scrutinized and synchronized and the uncommon and potentially ambiguous eliminated. But sometimes ‘unplanned’ moments like President Obama shaking the hands of Raul Castro, the leader of Cuba, occur, amidst discomfort and gritted teeth. While the White House has dismissed any thawing of relations because of the handshake, Havana is gleefully playing it up as a sign of positive development. So the question for the diplomats would be was the presidential selfie with the European Prime-Ministers on the schedule?

When the initial images of the selfie surfaced, commentators described the Lady Prime Minister as unidentified until she was properly recognized as the Danish Statsminister. Helle Thorning-Schmidt of the Social Democratic party is the first female Prime Minister of Denmark and has been Prime Minister since 2005, and while she is a good looking woman she is also a handful and politically savvy, as in a single stroke of diplomatic finesse she enraptured the two leaders of the ‘free world,’ the leadership of the Anglo-American axis that arguably rule the world. Not even Thor with his divine hammer can knock up such a favorable coalition for the Danes.

But Madam Prime Minister couldn’t charm Michele who with a cold look, reminiscent of Loki, froze the ‘summit’ and broke up the coalition. The consequences of her actions could be dire. I fear that the price of Danish Cookies may soon hit the roof.





“Is the movie good? Is it bad? Does it matter? It is what it is and occupies a world where the stars don’t shine.” – Roger Ebert

The demise of the world acclaimed film critic, Roger Ebert, who passed on at 70 after a long haul battle with cancer brings to light the power and influence of the critic on our tastes. For near fifty years, movie goers, auteurs, producers and newspaper editors cared about the opinion of one rather genial and opinionated Chicagoan concerning a particular film. His influence was so pervading that his trademark thumps up was keenly awaited and his stars brightened or dimmed the fortunes of many a film. A fellow Chicagoan, Barack Obama eulogised, “Roger was the movies.”

For a bustling film industry (the third largest in the world), Nollywood lacks critics with the knowledge, the panache, the boldness and professionalism of proper film critics. How then does one sieve through the myriad of video releases that assail our eyes every day? How then does one delineate the artistic from the derivative? The critic is like a guide, pointing the direction to the stars…… and the black holes too.

In the early days of Nollywood, when the movies were still a novelty and the term Nollywood had not gained traction, several papers ran film reviews and there were even TV and radio shows critiquing the week’s offerings. The TV shows naturally mimicked Siskel and Ebert’s but a lack of passion, or drive or sponsorship or the general amateurishness of the industry ensured still birth.

In 1967, Roger Ebert was appointed the film critic of the Chicago Sun-Times. He took the beat and not only did he excel, he became the heart beat of the industry earning a Pulitzer and a Star on the Walk of Fame. Film awards have recently become popular in Nigeria. One wonders the rubric for awarding the prizes, one wonders if the films tick the boxes for critical acclaim. For many years now media students have wondered why our Nollywood ‘blockbusters’ never make it at film festivals, even the nearby FESPACO. Well I think we need specialists who will start rating our productions, assigning stars and giving thumbs up. And when necessary throwing in a bit of ‘bad mouth.’ That will certainly weed the field and mitigate the influence of upper iweka.

There is a niche for somebody as a Nollywood film critic. Roger that!