The location is a compound in the North-western Nigerian state of Kaduna and the ‘Critics’, a group of teenagers hang green fabric on a gate as they get ready for the day’s shoot.
The teenage cousins are using smartphones to shoot science fiction films. Science fiction also called sci-Fi is a genre of speculative fiction that has been called the “literature of ideas”.
It typically deals with imaginative and futuristic concepts such as advanced science and technology, time travel, parallel universes, fictional worlds, space exploration, and extraterrestrial life.
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The Critics say they learned how to create sci-Fi special effects and films on YouTube. They shot their first short sci-Fi film in 2016. It was titled ‘Redemption’.
“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 every day, recycled items and their works have catapulted them into social media darlings,” was how one publication captured their ingenuity.
The Kaduna-based teens shot to national and international attention after a Nollywood filmmaker, Kemi Adetiba tweeted about them.
She also fronted a fundraising campaign for them which accumulated donations of about $5,800 to help them acquire better equipment, The Premium Times reported.
On their Instagram handle, the group of eight disclosed that they saved for a month to acquire the green fabric for the chroma key and with a cracked smartphone and tripod for their shoots.
“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.
“That was just the main aim. So it all of a sudden just happening, it blew our mind,” said Godwin Josiah a member of the group which includes an eight-year-old.
They record the film and edit the sci-fi using special effects despite facing regular power and internet outages.
Another member, Raymond Yusuf added: “The system is really slow; it takes time to render.
“Our five minutes’ short film called ‘Chase’ took us like almost two days to render and not only the fact that this system is slow, the electricity where we stay here is pretty poor.”
Nigeria’s multimillion-dollar sector, Nollywood, is ranked second largest in the world after Bollywood by the number of films produced. Popular themes are cannibalism, witchcraft and weeping girlfriends who put curses on their errant boyfriends.
But the student filmmakers have found a niche in sci-fi. Their 20 short movies which are up to 10 minutes in duration are mostly about superheroes, aliens and supernatural powers.
“One of the targets we aim for in the years to come is to make the biggest film in Nigeria and probably beyond,” Josiah said.
“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.”