Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Ben Stiller and 'Help Me Spread Goodness'

Ben Stiller will direct Help Me Spread Goodness, a film about a Chicago banker who falls for a Nigerian internet scam (people still fall for these things?). The film will be developed by Participant Media, a film company that "has a mandate that says their films must compel social change" (FirstShowing). The film seems to be more of a dramedy than a straight up drama, and will help raise awareness about the current state of Nigeria and other countries in Africa.

Quite a few bloggers have doubts because they aren't sure if Ben Stiller can direct more dramatic projects. That honestly isn't my concern. I've expressed my apprehension before about Hollywood taking on films set in Africa, and being half Nigerian, I have twice as much apprehension about Help Me Spread Goodness. My problem isn't the capability of the director. Lots of capable directors have directed films set in Africa, and in my mind, made a colossal mess.

Sure, these Anglo/American-lost-in-the-dark-continent films are pretty well made. But when it comes to realism, accuracy, and just plain good old fashioned telling a story about the actual inhabitants of the continent, Hollywood has failed miserably. Everything from The Constant Gardener, to Tears of the Sun have been nothing more than attempts at making Western audiences comfortable by putting a European or American in some far flung corner of the continent and saving the poor, starving, simple (or corrupt, depending on the intent), warring Africans. Don't worry Africans, we'll save you! Needless to say, I have some serious doubts.

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