Cleveland International Film Festival } April 7 – April 18, 2021 } Playhouse Square

Power Struggle: Nigeria's Fight to Keep the Lights On

April 09, 2018   |   posted by Lara Klaber in Filmmakers

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A slow internet connection or a blinking microwave clock after a hard thunderstorm hardly seem relevant when considering only half of Nigeria’s population has access to electricity. After studying broadcast journalism and shifting into documentary filmmaking, director Shasha Nakhai unveils “Take Light,” a glimpse into the nation of her childhood where reliable energy is a luxury.

“I remember going into our backyard shed with a flashlight in the middle of the night to turn on our diesel generator,” Nakhai recalls. “I remember being fanned to sleep by my parents during week-long blackout periods. Power was very much a defining factor of life in Nigeria, even for a privileged oyibo [non-African] like me. The problem affected everyone, rich and poor, and it continued to affect me in ways I couldn’t even imagine, long after I moved to Canada at age 15.”

When Nakhai and her team set out to document the impacts of Nigeria’s energy crisis, they were introduced to Martins, a crew member of the country’s power distribution company.

“He had an honesty and radiance about him that made him very charming and funny,” says Nakhai. “But when it was time to work, he was very serious and dedicated while everyone else would be joking around. He just seemed like a genuinely good person, and that’s what drew us to him.”

As filming progressed, Martins felt more at ease having the film crew capture his day-to-day work mending dangerous power lines and facing frustrated residents. More challenges arose, however, with Nigeria’s bureaucracy and growing suspicions.

“Many communities in the Niger Delta have a strong distrust and curiosity in what foreigners are doing there, and justifiably so, given their history with colonialism, foreign non-governmental organizations (NGOs), and extractive industries,” Nakhai says.

“Getting over that initial distrust by taking the time to explain ourselves and diffusing hairy situations with humor was crucial to getting anything done, but it [was] also something that could be dangerous, and time-consuming.”

Despite these hurdles, the film reveals the humility, the character, and the sustained hope these residents have in their nation’s future. For many viewers, this may be a rare, yet refreshing, look at a people often misrepresented in America’s mainstream media.

“I hope this film helps to build bridges of understanding and helps CIFF audiences develop a more complex idea of Nigeria that pushes beyond tired tropes and stereotypes,” says Nakhai. “I also hope this film will spark conversations about the global transition to renewable energy.”

Amy Brown

PDF  Download Related PDF [1.0 MB]

Related Screenings:
04/08/18 @ 11:25 AM – Take Light
04/09/18 @ 7:35 PM – Take Light

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