Tuesday, 10 March 2009


An exasperated and weary Al Pacino screaming, ‘I am in the blind here’! A frustrated Denzel punching the glass divider of the prison conservation booth, whilst telling his lawyer to ‘get me out of here’! A broken Marlon Brando pleading with his brother and saying the immortal words, ‘I could have been a contender’. Nothing quite conveys emotion as actors on celluloid.

The sheer artistry and talent, that goes into translating what begins as words on the pages of a script, to the dramatic vehicle that we ride for a few hours in a darkened room - never quite knowing where it will take us, but still excitedly expectant of the destination – is nothing short of genius. We cry, laugh, shout, scream and immerse ourselves completely without prejudice, falling in and out of love, with people who we have never met or ever going to meet. We empathise and sympathise with these strangers, more than some would ever care to do with our own blood and the beauty of it all, the icing on the cake for these strangers, is that we pay for the privilege.

Cinema at its best can end wars and centuries of hate. It can lift the oppressed and shine light on the stories of the forgotten. It can give strength to the weak and hope to the forlorn. Conversely, it can fuel resentment and justify incomprehensible actions. It can be used to plant in us, seeds of rage and detestation.

This dual role guarantees our continued fascination and worship of the big screen. It ensures that we are prepared to; pay exorbitant prices for in-movie refreshments, suffer the laboured breathing of the guy behind and the body odour of the filth bag sat next to us. It make us pretend, that we do not want to smack the kid that has got up and blocked our view for the umpteenth time on his way to the toilet, or better still, that we do not itch to wring the neck of the gullible adult who keeps taking them. Cinema even makes us calm in the face of the irritant that has occupied the seat behind us and decided to run their own special commentary, complete with inept description and over-emotional screams, just like the crazy woman who sat behind me at Silverbird in Lagos. Somehow, she had convinced herself that she and Liam Neeson were partners in busting the crime gang responsible for his daughter's kidnap! But, I did not complain...infact, I ended up laughing in incredulity and accepting her intrusion.

We accept it all, just for that one Meryl Streep or Morgan Freeman moment of magic. When it arrives, we applaud and suddenly the filth bag next to us or the chatterbox behind us, at least for a few seconds, become less smelly and less loud, and even for a few nanoseconds, our best friend. Saying all this though, I still defy you to go to Lagos cinemas, without having fully rehearsed your ears for the odd audience participation.

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