In a compound in Nigeria’s north-western state of Kaduna, Godwin Josiah and his cousins hang green fabric on a gate as they get ready to shoot a movie scene.
Using a smartphone and a tripod made from a broken microphone stand, they start. A blower generates air and buffets the actor who, in the film, will be flying through the air.
These days, sci-fi films are made using sophisticated software. But the films created by these boys use everyday, recycled items and their works have catapulted them into social media darlings.
“Well the main aim was not for our stuff to go viral, we just wanted people to see that okay there are kids in Kaduna doing something different, so that was just the main aim. So it all of a sudden just happening, it blew our mind and it made us happy,” says Godwin Josiah, 19.
The Critics as the crew of 8 call themselves made their first film “Redemption” in 2016. They saved for a month to buy the green fabric for the chroma key and taught themselves how to do visual effects by watching tutorials on Youtube. Battling slow internet and power cuts, they created a tale about two boys who create an organic bio-fuel.
Nigeria’s multimillion-dollar sector, Nollywood, is ranked second largest in the world after Bollywood by quantity of films produced. Popular themes are cannibalism, witchcraft and weeping girlfriends who put curses on their errant boyfriends.
But the student film makers have found a niche in sci-fi. Their 20 short movies which are up to 10 minutes in duration are mostly about super heroes, aliens and supernatural powers. No costs are involved as they do everything themselves but they have to keep their works short — or it would take too long to upload.
Their efforts impressed Nollywood movie producer Kemi Adetiba so much she tweeted enthusiastically about them in June, the students, known online as @thecritics001, have since gone viral.
A funding campaign for the boys amassed donations of about 5,800 USD — and they are on their way to upgrading their equipment. Josiah now has his sights on taking on Nollywood.
“One of the targets we aim for in the years to come is to make the biggest film in Nigeria and probably beyond,” he says. “We want to do something crazy, we want to do something great, something that has not been done before, and from what has been going on now, we believe quite well that it is going to happen soon enough.”
The boys are busy working on a new film — but they can’t disclose the plot until its finished.