HERITAGE

Super 16mm Colour/90mins © 2003 Release on DVD

Featuring:

  • Femi Fatoba
  • Kunle Bamtefa
  • Anthony Ofoegbu
  • Wale Ojo.
  • Bimbo Akintola

Cinematographer: Armand Marco, AFC
Sound By: Peter Hodges, AMPS
Music: Heritage Collective
Producer: Irene Kehinde Ladebo
Writer/Director: Ladi Ladebo

SYNOPSIS

An old Archaeologist is unjustly incarcerated on account of official suspicion that he knows about the disappearance of fictional sacredOduduwa Bronze Chest which was surreptitiously retrieved by the Ifa -Cult when it was suspected that the entire epochal archaeological treasure would be smuggled out of the country and sold off. A foreign doctoral student who insists on meeting the old Archaeologist in prison; unknown to the Archaeologist, may in fact be his biological son. The fruitful meeting between the two, although traumatic, also brings some new interests in the search for Oduduwa Sacred Satchel one of the sacred items sent out for authentication, which miraculously disappeared overseas. The young doctoral student becomes the focus of attention of the smuggling syndicate, still determined to get their hands on both the fictional Sacred Satchel and the Oduduwa Bronze Chest.

This sensitization feature length film was inspired by the rampant smuggling of artefacts from Africa with evident connivance by African elite; an activity which began to rival the much more dreaded drug trade in especially West Africa.

 

HERITAGE REVIEW (THISDAYOnLine.com 2000)

 

Heritage...A Revival for the Soul of the Continent
As the curtain draws on the Third Lagos International Film Forum organized by ITPAN in collaboration with the French Embassy in Nigeria and the Nigerian Film Corporation (NFC), Ladi Ladebo gets set to make Africans think on their heritage and the need to save the soul of the continent in his new flick, Heritage, shot on 16mm. The film according to Olayiwola Adeniji, will premiere on Tuesday, July 22, 2003

 As the third edition of the Lagos International on Motion Picture, Cinema and Video organized by the Independent Film and Television Producers (ITPAN) enters its second day, the nation will soon witness the arrival of another film which intends to make a cultural statement on the film circuit but at home and abroad.

Ladi Ladebo, the renowned film-maker is putting finishing touches to what he calls the corporate screening of Heritage, his new film shot on 16mm at the same Muson Centre, Lagos. And according to him, Heritage, as the title implies, is a celebration of African culture which has suffered from the onslaught of foreign cultures under the guise of globalization. "What we are doing now is in the direction of some of our past efforts which is showcasing the beauty and intrinsic qualities of the African culture. But more than that, we are moving into another phase of the epic battle; and this is the phase of retrieval. Many of our totems and artifacts have been plundered by invading foreigners who came under different guises. But more disturbing is the fact that many of our leaders often collude in this obnoxious rape of their people. Heritage therefore is a serious film which in the words of Ayi Kwei Armah in Two Thousand Seasons, seeks to find the Way; the African Way. 

Heritage is worth celebrating because in spite of the celebrated "success" of the home video, the real art of film-making is in the celluloid and Ladi Ladebo, has over the years played the "dry stick" because of his insistence on working mainly in this medium. According to him, it is too late in the day for him to join the rot that is the Nigerian home video industry. For him, no matter the problems associated with making celluloid films in the country, he will remain faithful to the art. And it is as a result of this kind of doggedness that Nigeria maintains a respectable presence on the international circuit. For many years therefore, he has been almost like the proverbial lone voice in the wilderness. He has not only been one of a disturbingly vanishing tribe of film-makers creating in the celluloid medium, he has been the most consistent. This possibly explains why ITPAN has decided to honour him at a Gala "for his enduring film making activities" tomorrow in the past decade, Uncle Ladi has had an impressive run on the film circuit. Among his award winning films are In the Name of Tradition, which won two prizes at the 30th U.S. International Film and Video Festival and the U.S. National Black Programming Consortium; Symbolic Rites, Power, and Baba Zak among others. The last two made it to the finals of the Pan African Film and Television festival in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso. 

There is something radically different about Heritage. In the tradition of Ladi Ladebo's films, this is another highly cerebral effort. It is deep both at the level of form and content. The film makes no pretence from the very beginning; there is a fight that must be fought and that is affirming the African space in the face of globalization. The narrator condemns the destructive tendencies of Europeans who came into Africa under the guise of civilization only to "trample upon the sacred groves of the people with their leprous feet". They succeeded in tampering with the cohesion of a race by stealing their art which they claimed were primitive, crude and fetish. The central metaphor for the African worldview is the masquerade which the narrator says though dead in the flesh come at festivals to direct the lives of the living. 

Heritage, which is a Ladi Ladebo Production, with the support of the Embassy of France, is the story of an old archaeologist unjustly incarcerated on account of official suspicion that he knows about the disappearance of a fictional sacred Oduduwa Bronze Chest, which was surreptitiously retrieved by the Ifa-Cult when it was felt that the entire epochal archaeological treasure would be smuggled out of the country and sold. A foreign doctoral student who insists on meeting the old Archaeologist in prison; unknown to the Archaeologist, may in fact be his biological son. The fruitful meeting between the two, although traumatic, also brings some new interests in the search for the Oodua Sacred Satchel, one of the sacred items sent out for authentication, which miraculously disappeared overseas. The young doctoral student becomes the focus of attention of the smuggling syndicate, still determined to get their hands on both the fictional Sacred Satchel and the Bronze Chest.

David (Anthony Ofoegbu), supposedly an American, comes into the country as a scholar trying to develop new perspectives from that of Europeans in terms of their response to African culture. His thesis is anchored on the obnoxious smuggling of Yoruba artefacts which are now being showcased in Europe. He finds great assistance from Yomi (Wale Ojo) and Tutu (Bimbo Akintola), his school mate in Texas. 

There is the story of the missing Oduduwa satchel which has landed a renowned Professor of archaeology, Fatu, (Femi Fatoba) in trouble. But more than this research effort, David finds himself on the continent to fulfil his destiny which is to join in saving the race. He also discovers in the process, his roots. He is the product of a fling by Professor Fatu while he was in Europe. Unknown to him, this, even in Africa is a deadly subject because there are internal collaborators which is why the Professor got into trouble. The Oduduwa satchel was discovered by a group of archaeologists and a sample of it was sent to Europe for verification of age but then, it never came back and in the character of morally bankrupt government officials, the professor was arrested and accused of stealing the box. Others who worked on the research were killed and this includes the counsel who defended Professor Fatu. The implications of this sacrilege are grievous on the society but this makes little sense to the greedy leaders of state. There can be no peace in the land without this sacred satchel and its loss means the loss of historical information, cultural focus and community cohesiveness. The Professor suffered untold hardship for him to disclose the where about of the box. But they could not break him. He remained resolute. And this was the kind of father David has come to meet. What this means is that this kind of resolve must rub off on the kid too. 

A new government comes in place and there is great promise in the air. Fatu is not only released, the new government sets up a truth and reconciliation committee and another to restructure the local government system. But all those promises soon fizzle out as it becomes obvious that the new leaders are not different from the old ones. Fajobi, (Kunle Bamtefa), his brother, is the consultant in charge of the local government reforms but it is soon discovered that he is one of those being used to smuggle African artifacts abroad. He is the one now contracted to find out where the Oduduwa Bronze Chest was hidden. He initially comes across as a "Mr. Clean" as he drills a local government chairman (Olumide Bakare) who insists that things have to be the way they are because it is the only way the people know. 

But because the Professor is faithful to his gods, he is not caught unaware as he remembers what his father used to tell him: "Always obey your instincts because your instincts are natural reactions to constant stimulant even when you don't consciously identify them." His son, David who has been rechristened Dada, picks up the challenge in spite of the warning of professor. He is kidnapped by the same forces that jailed his father. And all they are interested in is the missing Bronze Chest since according to Fajobi, he had been taken to the Ifa priest and knowing that it is his destiny to maintain the cohesiveness of the race by following up a lead in Europe. The Ifa cult rise in defence of Dada. Fatu is made to do the dance of the masquerade for seven day so as to ensure that no harm is done to Dada. "When Orunmila's child goes out, Orunmila's child comes back." To many people like Fajobi, this is mere myth but all the same, he would not be caught in the crossfire and so decides to escape with Dada. The gods are true to their words. Dada is rescued and so, the hope of communal harmony is restored in the land.

One strong message of Heritage is not just about defense and projection of African culture, there is also a strong indictment of local collaborators who out of greed sell their conscience for a morsel of porridge. Those who come to steal what does not belong to them will find it difficult if there are no collaborators. Fajobi is a good example of this degenerate leadership on the African continent.

But woven intricately as part of the sub-plots to this great movie are such other themes as the need for a people not only to protect their cultures but also to ensure that they have a fair knowledge of the cultures of other people. And because the youths are a society's future, it is only proper to start from the cradle. This is well captured in the poem read by Fatu to the kids at Educare Trust Centre, where the owners insist on total education for the child. According to the Professor, "If I steal another man's ideals, I throw away the image of myself but if I know another man's world, I own a world to be explored." Africa cannot be isolated from the so-called global village but then, it will be dangerous to sacrifice once identity in the name of globalization, which in the real sense, is a Eurocentric concept.

More than any other effort by Ladi Ladebo, Heritage is in a distinct class. The acting is good because the director went for some of the best in the land and in the Diaspora and this allowed for a natural flow of the story. The atmosphere in the film is also well handled. The shots were good too. Unlike what one sees in the local scene, though the film remains very expressive, this is one effort where the camera is allowed to do the talking. But more than what the actors and actresses say, there are more than enough images and concepts to challenge the viewer. Heritage sets one thinking about what the injustice done to the African continent both by her own people and those from the outside. And the Achebean query of when the rain began to beat us becomes a predictable poser here.

As Corporate Nigeria gets set to premiere this flick, Ladebo said the objective of presentation is to sensitize members of the public to the need to discourage the illegal smuggling of Nigeria's priceless artefacts to foreign countries; recover the production cost of the motion picture and contribute part of the proceeds from the presentation to the Centenary Foundation of the Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

The film, THISDAY learnt, is already scheduled for two European film festivals and also for sub-titling in French language.