Just like the poet enjoys poetic license in his poetry writing, filmmakers also enjoy some level of artistic license that gives them the freedom to embellish their movies with images, sound, and other cinematic tropes that best bring their scripts to life. The filmmakers sometimes rely on the costume, among others, to achieve their artistic and aesthetic goals in making movies. The white prayer garment, which is very peculiar to the Cherubim and Seraphim Church, the Celestial Church of Christ and The Church of The Lord (Aladura), among others, has then become a go-to costume when fake ministers of God are to be portrayed in the Nigerian film industry, popularly called Nollywood.
Though there are few exceptions, the white prayer garment has been objectified as a tool of stereotyping members of the churches who wear it.
Members of the thriving Nigerian stand-up comedy industry have also contributed their fair share to stereotyping the members of the white garment churches by turning the prayer attire to an object of scorn. This, in no small measure, has become a source of worry for some members of the affected churches especially the elite who think something should be done. Of course, they know they cannot deny the filmmakers their creative liberty and artistic license they reasoned that the least the moviemakers could do was to moderate the ways the white garment church members, who are in their millions both at home and abroad, are portrayed in films. In view of this, Adura International Magazine spoke with some filmmakers who volunteered their opinions on the raging issue.
I hardly touch anything that has to do with religion in my work. I am a cultured person and it reflects in my works. As a filmmaker, you must understand the representation of religion in our society. In Christianity, you have the orthodox churches and other strings of churches. However, I
think some churches take the elements of our culture into their practices. But I don’t think there is anything wrong in using the white garment to portray fake pastors when we have fake doctors too. It has to be the discretion of the storyteller and the story itself.
For me, the reason they use the white garment pastors a lot in Nollywood,
either good or bad is that they are closer to the people and our culture.
They are easily accessible. I used a fake white garment pastor in my movie, ‘Oleku.’
The use of fake white garment pastors in movies has been happening for years; so, it cannot be changed overnight? Also, since people are interested in knowing about their future, they will likely approach the white garment churches more than the orthodox ones. White garment churches play more than a religious role in society, they are therapists as well. While we have famous and very successful ones, we also have fake ones that are fond of deceiving people.
Using the white garment to cast the role of fake men of God is a perception by shallow minded scriptwriters. If a scriptwriter cannot express something fake in spiritual terms without using the white garment church, it means that he or she has a lot of work to do. However, white garment churches shouldn’t be worried about how they use them in Nollywood because it doesn’t change what they do and what they are.
To be honest, there is little or nothing they can do to stop this common practice in Nollywood. But I think creating some awareness can help in the area of misconception or misinterpretation. If the churches are certain that the source of their power or inspiration is from God, they have nothing to worry about. It only becomes a problem if the source of power is not genuine.
Regrettably, I think it is a function of our society as people have come to see some of the doctrines of the white garment churches as uncommon with the Biblical doctrines. For instance, it is only in the white garment churches that members are taken to the waterside to have a spiritual cleansing. It is also only in the churches that candles are used. But for the modern churches, it will be hard to see them going to the river and using candles for prayers.
For me, I feel there are smarter ways for a filmmaker to portray a bad pastor or cleric. I see using a fake white garment pastor as a lazy man’s job. Even though we know them for certain things, we cannot conclude that white garment pastors are bad. Filmmakers just look for a lazy way to pass the message of a fake pastor by using someone wearing the white garment. Some of these churches have moved away from what we used to know them for. Growing up, we knew they didn’t wear shoes to church and the churches were in remote areas. But today, they now allow members who don’t wear white garments to worship with them. I think once they can change some of their doctrines, things will get better for them.
The truth is that anything you see in a film is a reflection of society. It is unfortunate but that is the truth. The church can start changing some of these things if they begin to change some of their doctrines and I think they are doing that already. If a filmmaker tells a story of corrupt policemen, it is because he or she sees one collecting bribes.
I just feel they have been stereotyped. People now have the mindset that anytime they want to project a fake pastor, the person must be wearing a white garment. But it shouldn’t be like that. Also, I have seen movies where regular people were used as fake pastors. I have yet to do anything on fake pastors in my movies. But if I have to do, I don’t need to use a white garment church; it can be anyone.
Comedians also make it a common thing. If you look at comedians, we have a lot of them who mimic white garment churches. They have been stereotyped and most people think that it is just natural to use fake white garment pastors in movies.
It is more common in Yoruba movies. I don’t think I have ever used a fake white garment pastor in my films; so, I may not be able to explain why people do that. To me, it gives comic relief to people. I have seen all kinds of fake pastors in movies, but I cannot particularly remember anyone where they used a white garment pastor.
The first thing I want you to realise is that acting itself is the ability to relate to reality. I am not trying to give excuses, but when we make movies, especially a story that has to do with our immediate environment, we think about our immediate environment. How do I explain to people that a person is a Muslim cleric? There are certain things he must wear to convince people. The same thing applies to a priest. A priest has to put on church wear; the least we can do is to for the pastor to wear a suit but he must hold a Bible. If I must tell a story, I must tell it well. Since I want people to understand my story, I have to give them a picture of their own environment. That is the only reason we use white garment pastors in movies, but it doesn’t mean white garment churches are bad. I don’t think we are insulting the churches. At times, when we use a shrine, the church people tell us that we are glorifying the devil. They tell us that we are encouraging people to run to the traditionalists to get salvation. But if you look at the story very well, the evil man will eventually get punished. Once it is not done like that, then the story is not good. I don’t think the use of fake white garment wearing pastors affects the image of the churches. At the end of the day, the bad pastor will still be punished.
For my forthcoming television series, It’s A Crazy World, we plan to use a fake prophet in two episodes. The person-in-charge of the costume wanted to make a white garment for the role but I declined. People attend the churches and it is unfair to use the attire to depict a fake prophet. I know a lot of white garment church members who are amazing; so, it makes no sense to paint their churches as diabolical. I told them to use yellow and red as the colours to interpret the fake prophet’s roles.
I am also aware that my movie editor attends a white garment church and he is a nice person. Whenever I am producing a movie, I like to do my research and try as much as possible not to hurt people’s feelings.
I don’t know why Nollywood directors use the white garment for fake pastors. Probably, it is high time the affected churches made their displeasure known publicly. If they continue to keep quiet, people will think it is ne. Filmmakers don’t follow rules; we just do things as we like and our censor board is not effective as it should be. I feel bad for the white garment churches.
To me, it is a fixed mindset. Perhaps, most white garments churches are peculiar for seeing visions and speaking in tongues. Some white garment pastors can sound convincing when they see visions but are telling lies. So, when a story line traverses a fake pastor, for television and other cinema licenses, using a white garment pastor easily comes to mind.
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