When I opted to sit through the screening of Naija Beta at the concluded Africa International Film Festival, it was a decision I had made out of curiosity. The Producer and Director Arthur Musah had caught my attention with the conversation we had about the film. How after, he had taken hours of footage, he had to sit back to find what he really wanted the voice of the film to say. I had read the synopsis for the movie and I had rolled my eyes a little. This was a documentary about secondary school children learning robotics, surely finding the voice of such a movie would only require a strong cup of coffee. I was wrong.
Naija Beta set out on a very simple mission. It was to follow a group of MIT students to Nigeria, where they would co-ordinate a camp to teach Robotics to selected Secondary school students from across Nigeria, but this heart warming documentary often finds itself deviating from its mission and submerging itself in the complexities of human emotions that are unfolding around it.
Fortunately, deviating from its simple set up is what makes Naija Beta, a masterpiece in it’s own right. It is a documentary that examines the fears of children of Africa and what lies ahead for them and the ones rediscovering home even while they were not looking. Arthur Musah is patient enough to catch events unfold in the most surprising yet surreal manner. He is there to catch the rage of a betrayed tutor when he finds out his students cheated, he pays attention to the ordinary men who happen to the documentary and he pays attention to a street hawker just outside the window of a classroom, devoting almost a minute at being a voyeur of her and her child, till their actions tie them into the narrative of his film. Naija Beta doesn’t boast of glitz and glamour, it won’t shock you nor make you cry, what it promises is honesty, and like most honest pieces, it will evoke a variety of reactions, from Anger to Nostalgia but it will surely entertain, earning it a Popcorn and Soda.
This review was written by Hafeez Oluwa