Sci-fi movie, Sony ad prompt Nigerian image angst

Wed Sep 23, 2009 12:17pm EDT
 
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By Camillus Eboh

ABUJA (Reuters) - A blockbuster sci-fi movie which caricatures Nigerians as gangsters and cannibals and a Sony PlayStation advert which implies they are fraudsters have infuriated a government battling to improve the country's image.

South African film "District 9," which has topped the UK box office for two straight weeks and ranked in the top 10 in North America, is an allegory on segregation and xenophobia, with alien life forms cooped up in a township set in Johannesburg.

None of the groups shown comes out particularly well, but the Nigerians are portrayed as gangsters, cannibals, pimps and prostitutes, while their leader's name is pronounced Obasanjo -- the same as that of Nigeria's former president.

Nigeria has banned cinemas from showing it.

"It is a Hollywood film, shot in South Africa and acted mainly by South Africans. We protested because it showed Nigeria in a very bad light," Information Minister Dora Akunyili, who is spearheading a "rebranding Nigeria" campaign, told Reuters.

"There is no country that does not have prostitutes and criminals but definitely most countries don't have cannibals, and we don't have cannibals in this country. We don't eat human flesh, it is definitely unacceptable," she said.

Akunyili said the government had told the Nigerian Film and Video Censor Board to ensure "District 9" was no longer shown in movie theatres and to confiscate copies. It had also written to the producers telling them to edit out references to Nigeria.

"GOOD PEOPLE, GREAT NATION"   Continued...

 
<p>An advertisement for the film "District 9" is pictured painted onto the wall of a building in New York August 18, 2009. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson</p>