Monday, March 2, 2009

Slum dog millionnaire .........

A friend of mine wrote an entry on her blog on Slum Dog Millionnaire, and that inspired me to pick up this topic.

I watched Slum Dog Millionnaire this weekend, and I thought it was good. I dont know a whole lot about India, but the movie portrays scenes and events that I can totally see happening in Accra. It's a movie, and the likelyhood of everything working together the way it did is somewhat slim (I think), but I also think it could have been a realistic, if not necessarily flattering portrayal of a section of Mumbai.

We sometimes get offended and upset when we see the pictures of the poverty in Africa. But the fact is that many Africans live in abject poverty. Accra has about 2m people, and while there has been great development and progress in the city, there are still many many many people in the city who live in pretty bad conditions. If someone made a movie about that part of Accra, yes, I'd be very annoyed and offended, but it wouldn't change the fact that there are slums in the city, and life isnt fully comfortable and rosy for everyone.

I get annoyed when I see the images of a hungry child with a cracker and flies all over, and when some random caucasian holds the child's hand and asks the watching TV audience to donate $5 to feed this poor child. But maybe, instead of simplt boiling in my comfy seat behind the TV, I should do something about the poverty and hardship in my backyard. I cant save the world, but maybe I can help one child get better healthcare or better education or something.

I have to say though that the title of the movie is not at all flattering.....

Have you watched Slum Dog Millionnaire, and even if you haven't what do you think about the portrayal of povery in developing countries?


  1. my exact sentiments! It does NOTHING to change the fact that many people are still living in abject poverty! the middle class Africans get angry saying oooh, thats not all of Africa but shuuu, that is the reality for millions of people across Africa. Let us change the majority of Africa if we want them to stop portrayin Africa the way it is.

  2. Homegirls i.e. Obla yoo and Omo Oba, it's not the fact that millions are poor that pisses people least not me anyways. It would be naive to ignore that fact. It's the Messiah message from Caucasians and the Western world in general that smacks of deception and rubs salt in the wound especially against the backdrop of colonialism. I don't have a problem with Caucasians 'helping'. That's their business if they want to regardless of motives. Most of them do it out of guilty consciences and of course the exoticism factor. That being said, we need all the help we can get anyways so let them feel free to hop onboard.

    Now, what really pisses me off is that the imbalance has become so great and for it to be overturned it is going to take a great deal of work of which little progress is being made. Please someone correct me if I'm wrong. To top it all off, circumstances are not moving towards developing countries' favor especially in the times we live in. I could go on for days about these but I'll just stop here =)

    p.s. I have no idea if Slumdog Millionaire has the Messiah message or not. My comments are mainly directed at the depiction of poverty theme.

  3. Nah KG, please carry on - I want to hear more about this imbalance thing which you also started talking about on Nneoma's blog. Isnt the imbalance our own doing? I mean, poverty cannot be eradicated totally, the imbalance of the world is the reality of this life - someone is always going to be richer than the other. But the imbalance in Africa is created by our selfish nimcompoop government. Like I said on Nneoma's blog, we are victims of ourselves.

  4. aaah Omo Oba, you want to open up a can of worms abi? Don't let me go into social science and economics speak and befuddle you for revenge

    Anyway, what I meant about imbalance is mainly with regards to the equal playing field that Africa as a whole will never get access to. We were left waaaay behind when other countries were 'industrializing' and Lord knows in the current global state it's going to be darn difficult to access economic capital and all the other things we need. It was already difficult under our debt loads. Can you imagine the ginormous (love that word) effort it will take now?

    Our greatest assets remain our human capital but even that is being eroded on two levels: 1. The brain drain which is self explanatory. 2. Our useless attitudes and work ethic. The corrosion is so ingrained it's ridiculous. From the boy hawking 'pure' water to the Cambridge educated female; it's just all about getting 'my own share of the government loot'. Or just the mere attitude that a government position = self enrichment. I'm not saying humans beings as a whole are not corrupt. After all, isn't it greed and lack of regulation that brought the U.S. and all the other economies intertwined with it down to their knees?

    As for our government, I don't mean to minimize what they've done but blaming them is too easy. No doubt the self entitlement to the national treasure is just downright preposterous and embarrassing but these seeds were sown from the beginning. Our leaders just filled in the void, exacerbated the problem and caused more chaos. The structures i.e. legal and economic were never put in place when our colonial fathers finished smashing and grabbing what they could from us. The effective divide and rule tactics they used on us is still what is dividing us all today.

    And imbalance is not about rich or poor. There will always be rich and poor or at the very best, people who are poorer than others in comparison. The ultimate aim is to raise the standard of living so that all people have access to the basic amenities of life then we can work from there.

  5. yeah, KG should start his/her blog soon because the response is deep. I had a discussion about this with Omo Oba this morning in your, ehem, absence....i think i have to agree with some of the Indians who protested this film that it is indeed poverty porn....and some people don't mind it and, like me, find it a bit annoying. Porn (i hope this discussion doesn't hurt the PG rating of your it has mine) consists of one sexual image after another after another and after another, non-stop to the delight of its viewer. The same thing with poverty porn - it is one image of poverty after another after another after another, to the delight of its Western audience. From what I heard about the movie (sorry I am amongst those who did not watch it, yet have the most criticism...i know...HATER), the amount of crap that happened to the main character was a bit much. Yes, all those things happen in the slums of India, but the film gave the outsider the idea that this is the typical experience of an Indian "slumdog." At the expense of borrowing someone elses comment without citing the source, it would be like I Nigerian making a film of the African American experience. And in this film, the main character, let's say her name is Taquisha, would have a father would be shot by gangbangers in the hood, an apartment ravaged by the KKK, a mother who is on welfare, Taquisha who whores herself for foodstamps and Taquisha's brother, RayRay who deals drugs after being denied a college education because he's black. On top of that, the Nigerian film maker proceeds to call the film "Ni**a Dayz." Yes, all those things happen in black America, but they hardly typify the Black experience. Nigerians flock to the movie theaters to watch this film, because it is action-packed, it shocks them, makes them cry - in essence, entertains them. Now, using that same hypothetical situation, the film does really well amongst Nigerian audiences. Soon after, other Nigerian filmmakers would follow suit in making their various versions of Taquiesha's story, harping in on the same themes. And there you have it poverty porn. okay, i'm done now. i promise the next time I will make another comment on your blog about this film is when i actually see the movie....

  6. oh and when i say typify, I mean, the aggregate of such said events hardly ever happens in one individual....i am not familiar with the statistics of those who actually engage in each one of those events....

    Like you said, poverty is rampant in various countries in Africa and in India....and I do want to agree with that. But I do sympathize with some of the Indian viewers and others of the film. You mentioned in your post, that you don't know much about India. Outside of Bollywood, I don't know much either. Fortunately, you have the experience of someone who is not from a Western country and you can have some balance in your views of other non-Western countries. But for those who are from the West, many watch these films and believe that this is what India is like. It is like a naive virgin watching porn for the first time (I really wish there were another metaphor for my explanation, I really do....) and then believing that sex is indeed how it is portrayed in the media. okay, that is enough commenting for me for now....i reneged on my promise from my previous post....sorry.

  7. Nneoma, Omo Oba this you people's blog recruiting biz is getting quite interesting. Thanks for the compliment though. Nneoma, I left a comment on the poverty depiction biz and I have to agree with you here as well.
    But can you even imagine an African or arguably worse, a Nigerian making such a movie about African Americans? Talk about throwing kerosene onto a fire. The existing tension would just become an all-out war.

    LOL @ the apologetic references to p**n as well as the hating on the movie. I really have to go and see it now just for the hell of it.

  8. I don't think the film, for me, was as upsetting as the oscars it bagged(now thats pure beef).Did anyone see Tsosti-the south African film that won an Oscar, or City of God, the Brazillian one, same old poverty depiction, high crime negative sh**. I bet there are movies from outside Hollywood that may have been better but didn't show the dark side of these continents. And to win an oscar, that the first criterion.

  9. I watched this movie with a white friend of mine and she says she felt sick during the early stages ,especially with the combination of the graphic scenes and the fast moving soundtrack.She couldn't believe it, thinking that it might be exagerrated.The thing is this is so normal to most of us that we don't see it as depicting poverty!

  10. So it seems that there are two main problems that people have with the movie- 1.that it joins a procession of movies that simply depict poverty and all things bad; 2. that it doesn't deserve to win an oscar and perhaps it is only because of the poverty that it portrays and all that, that it won the oscar.

    I dont know anything about who decides what movie gets an oscar and I wont comment about that.

    But I have to ask.....what good are the movies we make ourselves when they only show the mansions and the cars and the lives of the high rollers and the rich and famous? where's our own sense of balance and truthfulness? aren't we then as culpable as those who only depict the negatives? why then do we complain about poverty porn but not about our own insidious wealth porn?

    So it sounds like we need balance here. I'd like to see a well done Ghanaian movie that takes a realistic look at pervasive poverty and greed and filth and all in Ghana. And considering that I tend to like sappy chick flicks, this is a very serious statement coming from me. Maybe, just maybe, if we improved the quality of our movies and made movies that were more realistic and that provoked widespread thought and action, then some of this anger and angst will be done with.

  11. Haha...oh yes Obla yoo, seeing as you love sappy chick flicks that wish is def a serious one.

    I don't watch Nigerian and Ghanaian movies not because of the wealth p**n but due to the uselessness of the film making. They're just so abysmal. And the plots?? Oh please, don't even get me started. I think you'd be better off hoping for more adept film making first before hoping they transition to accurate lifestyle and cultural depictions. I honestly think that's asking for a lot.

  12. Why do people have issues with the depiction of poverty? Sometimes the fact remains that reality is worse than how its depicted in fiction (movies or writing). Quick question: Are there places not worse than that depicted in the movie? I only have issues if the portrayal is wrong. The movie is very realistic and well acted.

    The sooner we see ourselves as we are, the better we can change our reality and society. What do you think?

  13. I agree with you Bookaholc. But honesty is not easy and it's much easier to point fingers at other people and lay blame elsewhere. Personally, I think that we need to be a lot more acountable for ourselves, our livelyhoods, our stories, our histories and our futures. We spend so much time begging then leaving the rest to God and simply sitting on our hands, when we should be working with our God given talents and abilites and doing good things........

    I'm digressing a lot and this is becoming another post. But yes, we need more honesty and we need to take ownership of ourselves.