A young Gambian film maker studying Arts and film-making at a prestigious London university has come up with a novelty idea –  To transform former Gambian dictator Yahya Jammeh’s home village into a ‘Film set’. On a discussion centered on all things Gambia, the young film maker lamented the lack of quality production facilities and purpose built movie shooting sets as a setback and hindrance to Gambia’s film industry. As for the situation therein, this could actually offer solutions to the future of this much talked about notorious village. It is no secret that Gambia’s arts industry lacks purpose-built facilities due to decades of neglect. From inspiring actors, comedians, writers, to the technical facilitators behind the camera, the talent is there for the taking. Gambian taxpayers money and bilateral aid cheques were siphoned in building kanilai, so why let all that to rot in waste.

As it stands, there is so much drama and uncertainty over Kanilai causing both outrage and angst among Gambian circles. The ‘Foni’ area has somehow turned violent fest with emboldened locals who perceive the much maligned mysterious village, as if, ‘the heart and soul of the Presidency’. You see this is what autocratic rule embodied in a clueless leadership can do; embezzling a nation’s wealth for a border village of no significance to the overall economy. And given the situation, the new government (and the military leadership) were inexplicably slow in bringing order to the village after Jammeh’s collapse. Lessons must be learnt …and Army-HQ was culpable in this:

Analysing the feasibility of Kanilai as a ‘film set’ or shooting location, one couldn’t ask for more – The mansions and houses are already in place. Mind you, the place was built by stolen millions from the nation’s coffers from mansions to star-struck facilities in huge acres of land perfectly ideal for Hollywood and glamorous sets. From Million dalasi houses, A hotel is in situ, the swimming pool, a nearby forest for fake explosions where needed. A quality road network complimented by uninterrupted electricity supply. And a military barracks for such movies commanding ‘uniformed’ location types. Truly, Kanilai could be moderated as a film studio which the Gambia badly needs. Hollywood is always looking for new and interesting location sets, and so is Nollywood. The industry could be expanded in future years as an ideal scene for combined Senegalese-Gambian drama showcasing stars from both countries in major prime time global drama series. The potential for job creation for the area and beyond is real and that excites. It could further attract major investments and modernise the region. Interestingly, social and Arts diplomacy could offer solutions to the long overdue Cassamance political crisis hindering progress across that region – I encourage Sene-Gambians to dissect and promote the idea, or criticise it, where fits.

Gibril Saine, LONDON.

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