Genevieve Nnaji: They Said She Said

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I was watching a TV show today (July 3, 2015) when one of the co-hosts, Kelly, told a story of how while on Vacation in Utah with her husband, Mark, people she ran into kept asking her if she was there in Utah with Mark to which she replied, yes. Unknown to Kelly, Mark Wahlberg, a popular US actor was also in Utah to shoot a film. It wasn’t until she was asked ‘so you are going to be in the movie?’ to which she replied, ‘what movie?’ did she realize there had been a miscommunication – people had been asking about Mark the actor and she had been answering with her husband in mind. When she finished narrating the story, she and her fellow co-host Michael Strahan said: ‘And that’s how rumors get started’.

Later in the day, I was on the internet when I saw that Genevieve Nnaji had reportedly, in a Punch Interview, made not so flattering comments about Nollywood – the industry that made her. She had said among other things that Nollywood was ‘bland and mediocre’ and that was the reason she accepted fewer roles as there weren’t many scripts that had the depth and creativity she loves to see in a script.

Following a backlash from Nollywood on her choice of words, Genevieve took to Twitter and said ‘I never called my industry bland and mediocre. Truth or not, they were NOT MY WORDS. As a person/writer, you can “assume” what you like about my thought process but DO not project those thoughts as “quotes” by me. It’s distasteful, insensitive and quite unprofessional. It’s insulting to those limited few working hard to make a difference in the industry. I am a product of Nollywood and my loyalty remains unshaken’

I have read her interview with The Punch in its entirety and I see no intention by The Punch, which by the way is a reputable newspaper in Nigeria, to harm Genevieve’s reputation. Taking things out of context sometimes distort the meaning at the heart of an interview like the one in question. However, I noticed that the part of the interview that contained the bland and mediocre remark was in quotation marks so anybody reading the interview can reasonably infer that those were the exact words used by Genevieve. If Genevieve didn’t use the exact words, then it was irresponsible of The Punch to pass them on as hers.

That said, Genevieve’s observations about Nollywood were dead-on and the media circus that has been created by her comments are unwarranted. I am selective of Nigerian movies I watch. If it doesn’t have Genevieve, RMD (does he still act?), Omotala Jalade, and recently Nse Ikpe Etim, it hardly piques my interest. I also watch movies directed by Tchidi Chikere or Amaka Igwe ( a pity we lost such a talent that directed classics like Violated and Rattle snake. I noticed she doesn’t have a Wikipedia page yet. Please create one for her if you have a Wikipedia account. She is notable enough). Movies produced by Ego Boyo or Emem Isong are also a delight to watch. I appreciate the fact that there are some very talented actors like Mercy Johnson who can excel if given opportunity to work with brilliant directors. There are some other decent actors, directors and producers I may have failed to mention, I will appreciate your recommending them in the comments section. I highlighted the ones above to show that there are people we associate with high standards in Nollywood – people who make effort to produce quality movies in an industry that prefers quantity ( We are still waiting for Half of a Yellow Sun. The Nigerian Film and Video Censors Board has continued to delay its release). I don’t mean to dis smaller producers who work on very small budgets and only produce movies to make a living. But there’s also nothing wrong in acknowledging people whose efforts and works have stood out.

On the Genevieve saga, honestly, I don’t see a demon between any of the two sides. Even if the words were Genevieve’s, she said a glaring truth and so shouldn’t be hounded by the press for it. If the words weren’t hers (and she has said they are not), I still won’t fault Punch so much. It could just be a case of a sophisticated writer trying to present more elegantly the thoughts of her interviewee. I have pointed out earlier that that wasn’t a very professional and responsible thing to do. It is unfortunate that a quote taken out of context has clouded and taken away from the purpose of the interview which was to highlight Genevieve’s charity , St Genevieve Foundation, and her recent endorsement with Etisalat.

There are things we can learn from this – the need to be more careful when we say what we think we heard; When we are the object of a rumor, to give benefit of the doubt to the monger as they may not be ill-intentioned. We can also learn to communicate better with people around us. I have lost count of how many times I had been upset with someone only to realize subsequently that it was a pure case of misunderstanding and poor communication. I guess you have had the same experience.

It’s serendipitous that before I came across the headline on Genevieve, I had written but not published a blog on how to manage rumors. Do find time to read it here. It’s short but edifying.

Are there outstanding Nollywood players you love who I didn’t mention? Please let us know in the comments section. Who knows who will be watching them next?

UPDATE: Just got the news today July 5, 2014 that the Nigerian Film and Video Censors Board has finally approved the release of Half of a Yellow Sun. The release date is yet to be announced. Who will be watching?

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