Uren Makut is a Nigerian documentary filmmaker whose work tackles the social and cultural issues in her home country. Ahead of the release of her new documentary, Justice for Daffo, Right for Education Africa sat down with Uren to discuss her work and why personal stories have always been at the centre of it.
R:Ed: Can you tell us a bit about yourself?
My name is Uren Makut. I am a documentary maker and I come from Plateau State, Nigeria. Where I come from, the people are very nice, but the state is one of the coldest parts in Nigeria. It’s a very peaceful place, you know, with peaceful people, but there have been recent security challenges in the state. We’re great farmers, in fact we’re the number one Irish potato farmers in Nigeria. I want our state to prosper.
R:Ed: As a documentarian, are you in love with the medium or with the message or your work?
I’m in love with the message. I’m surrounded by a lot of events that are so disturbing and which I feel should be known about. Documentaries are a good way to just tell people the idea. It’s like a video essay.
R:Ed: Can you tell us a little bit about your new project, Justice for Daffo?
Justice for Daffo is a case study of what has been happening in Nigeria. Recently, like for the past seven years now, there have been silent killings and silent attacks on the people, the innocent people, they call it farmer herder clashes, but this is wrong. Innocent people being attacked is not a clash. So I feel people should know exactly what is happening; people outside Nigeria as well. It happens for different reasons, sometimes they say it’s land grabbing. For the film, I went into these villages and it was very risky for me and my team. In Daffo, we were constantly hearing shooting and we met people that were taken to the hospital with bullets on them. One woman was pregnant and she was shot four times. She lost the baby. You know, I wish in my heart that I can help. But I think the only way I can help is to come in and shoot, you know, a documentary like that and just let it out.
R: Ed Who do you hope will see your film? And who do you think can help?
At the moment, I know that our government has failed us. They know about these situations, and they refuse to do anything about it. They know the right thing to do. And then they are not doing it. They visit the hospitals, they see these victims and all they do is to just show off and you know, do propaganda. I feel we need help. We need help from outside Nigeria. We need NGOs that can come in and civil rights activists. I don’t know how the help is going to come but people are dying. People are crying and people are being killed every day.
R:Ed But you keep making documentaries. Does that mean you have not given up hope?
No, all hope is not lost. My people remain very strong. When you go to these villages, you find out that these farmers still go back to their farms, you know, even with the fear. So they’re not given up hope. If you go back there, you still see children playing and trying to go back to school, when the attacks happen, you know, they cry over it, their loss, and they bounce back, they go back, so we cannot give up. So at every given opportunity, I try to look at the strength in them. Because if you show the enemy you’re weak and defeated, he goes on as before. There is hope, yes.
R: Ed: Is there an ideology in our work?
I want to show the world where I come from and show the world the beauty of it. We have beautiful locations, we have beautiful tribes, cultures and so much more so, in the future. I want to put all of that in my work. I know the world has heard so much from the eastern and the western, southern parts of Nigeria. But you know, the northern part of Nigeria has been very quiet. Especially north central Nigeria. I intend to make noise for those people and the place I am from.
R:Ed: What do you think about the representation of different African cultures in popular media?
I feel it should be more specific. Instead of having it like the umbrella of Africa, I think the issues, from class to state or from Nigeria, are totally different from what you get in Ghana or Kenya. They’re all totally different. They are similar. But when you go deep down to hear the people the people might even give you a solution to the problem you will use your axiom for all you’re looking for. I think that there’s a very broad perception of cultural norms, that makes it very difficult for anyone to understand the specificities and try to tackle issues in a precise way.
R:Ed Is that why you chose documentary as a medium? Is seeing believing?
Yes. Documentary, to me, is educational. It’s not easy though. You know, I have been to very risky areas and sometimes your life is at stake. I feel it’s about the message that it passes and I don’t want to focus on fiction but on the facts. I think that’s it for me. The stories I hear move me. They move me to tears, sometimes. I love to be connected to the environment and to the people. It’s like a home for me. Anytime I’m shooting a story, a documentary story, it just gets to me.