As part of their new initiative to make public art in a global context, Creative Time commissioned the Scandinavian artist Jakob Boeskov to make a film within the Nollywood community. The result was Dr. Cruel and the Icelandic Liberation Front, an eight-minute short that premiered in May 2010 at the New York African Film Festival of New York.
The film, which Boeskov wrote and co-directed with the Nigerian director Teco Benson, recalled traditional Nollywood productions with its grainy film quality, elementary special effects, and supernatural plot twist. The storyline revolves around a Scandinavian terrorist (played by Boeskov), who arrives in Africa to “start a revolution.” He kidnaps a white oil executive (played by Boeskov’s brother) and demands as ransom the participation of the entire Nigerian police force in anti-violence training. When negotiations are thwarted, the terrorist resorts to an absurd escape plot, effectively abandoning the spirit of his original goals. The film closes with a somber voice-over: “Our man didn’t change Africa, but Africa changed him.”
While the artistic intent and underlying political message of the film are too complicated to address summarily, it is easy to identify the overall significance of the project. Dr. Cruel is the latest in a recent wave of collaborations between the international arts community and Nollywood (which includes the 2009 Pieter Hugo photography exhibition and the 2004 AFFNY Tunde Kelani film retrospective). This film was funded by Creative Time and the Danish Arts Agency, and the screening was organized in collaboration with AFFNY and NollywoodNYC.
The global recognition of the Nigerian video film industry means that the medium is finally getting its deserved respect. Boeskov openly states his admiration for Nollywood’s DIY culture, contrasting the accessible nature of its democratic film-making with the arduous three-year-long funding process for his first project. As Boeskov commented to the audience during the premiere, “Cinema is the only universal language that we have.”