Naija Movie Night

naija movie night

I am at The Palms Shopping Mall, Lagos, buying popcorn and a drink before I proceed to the cinema theatre.  My popcorn, a warm mixture of sugar, salt, and butter, sends my taste buds to heaven with every crunch. This is the preamble to a wonderful evening.

Friendly and professional staff check our tickets and wave us in. We make our way to the last row at the top of the theatre, a vantage spot for viewing pleasure, and sit mid-row. The easy banter of friends, shuffling feet, and polite excuse-mes, set the mood in the theatre before the lights go out.

Panic erupts from my left side. Stampede follows.

“ Rat! Rat! Big rat!”

We scamper in a radius of confusion. Questions hang like clothes left to dry in the sun: “Where?” “Did you see it?” Eventually we regroup at our row. Some people brave the popcorn-littered floor and the “invisible” rats to collect their belongings, while others take our places. My popcorn sits intact in its paper carton, but I decide to donate it to the rats.

We settle for another row of seats. Governor Fashola’s message hits home. Kate Henshaw tells us to park our cars at home and ride the BRT buses like her. Funke Akindele tells us to pay our taxes so green Lagos can extend beyond Alausa.  Eko o ni baje o.

The movie begins. It is fast-paced. I like it. Soon, a bluish light amplified by the darkness, irritates my vision. It emits from the row in front of us. Ping, silence, ping; a BlackBerry in motion. It must be important. Ping, ping, ping. Maybe her mother is dying. Silence at last, but the light keeps harassing my eyes. I ignore the luminescence the way I ignore a stubborn particle in my eye that refuses to leave after a thousand blinks.

A phone rings from the row above us—someone who forgot about silent mode. I commiserate inwardly. My phone has rung at inopportune moments too, like laughter at a funeral service. I imagine him quickly switching off his phone and apologising.

“Tunde! My man, I dey Palms.”

A relaxed conversation ensues, as if he is sitting in his living room drinking Guinness Stout with his mates. I wait for the reprimand that surely must come. Instead, another phone rings from a row several levels below us.

Quiet resumes as the movie draws us into a web of suspense. The actors are clueless. People shout hints so the actors can hear them. I am not perturbed enough to proffer solutions. Don’t they know that the leading actor never dies?

The action scene over, calm replaces the excitement of moments before. A holy hush descends as both the leading actor and all of us recover. A baby’s cry pierces the quiet, followed by a mother’s insistent, “Sssh, sssh!” A baby in the cinema? What were the mother and father thinking? What were the staff at the entrance not thinking?

I expect the Occupy Baby movement to arise. I am not disappointed.

Madam, abeg give de pickin breast!”

Not long after, the baby’s cry teeters to a stop.

I give up watching the movie on the screen. Real life offers colours and sounds that Technicolor and Dolby Surround cannot match. The sporadic flash of cellphone cameras blinds me. Babies protest against the ludicrousness of being in the cinema theatre. Cell phones ring in programmed sequence, one after another, as when you snooze your alarm, it startles you out of sleep fifteen minutes later. I drown in the conversations and debates floating up from below and drifting down nonchalantly from above.

How can I describe the cooing in sync when the leading actor achieves a milestone? This is it. He typifies our lives, the relief that washes over us when we cross difficult hurdles. It is a Kodak moment. We coo without cue, a sound so tender, goose bumps chase prejudice away. The fantasy that we came to revel in for ninety minutes is over. We applaud, burying our irritation underneath a shared experience.

Outside, my friends apologise for the people’s behaviour. I ponder their apology. Dutch people do not apologise for being Dutch. French people do not apologise for being French. English people do not apologise for being English.

I take their advice and return the next morning to watch the film in peace. The theatre is empty save for about ten other people. A man slips into the seat next to mine.

In the dark, confidence buoys his voice, “Wetin dey happen? Wetin de man talk?”

I smile, “Make you come watch for night; dem dey show de pidgin version for night.

I watch movies in the morning. Then I return in the night to watch the same movies again because I cannot get enough of the beauty, the diversity, and the insanity that is Nigeria.

naija movie morning

©Timi Yeseibo 2013

Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Timi Yeseibo and with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Image credit: curtain vector:

font: Carpenter Script:

font: Disco Diva by annyluswonderland:

All people illustrations, animes, avatars, vectors by Microsoft

design: ©Timi Yeseibo 2013

62 thoughts on “Naija Movie Night

  1. I was deeply amused by this story. I know it is commonplace for Naija people to sometimes apologize for the kind of etiquette that our people display particularly when a “Tokunbo” or an “Oyinbo” is around.
    I do like the part where the story states “Dutch people do not apologise for being Dutch. French people do not apologise for being French. English people do not apologise for being English.”
    What I have observed is that people are people everywhere. If you don’t believe me, take a sneak peak at the rantings of a South Caolinian who recently went to a movie theater at the following link:
    As always, I enjoyed reading your stories.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I like what you said about photography: “Good photography, regardless of its style, is always emotionally generous in this way…” As a photographer I strive to make an emotional impact with every shot. I don’t always succeed but I try. Your lens is unfaltering. I loved your story Naija Movie Night. I can relate! I too like to hear every word and see every scene without distraction. I think you are bit more tolerant than I am about interruptions. I consider the movie going experience to be almost a sacred endeavor including the various rituals like the pop corn and the proper seating arrangement and the hush that falls upon the audience when the lights go out.

    I have been know to ask patrons to turn off their cell phones or to be quiet. I guess the cell phone phenomenon in theaters is world wide. I admire your tolerance for your fellow Nigerians and think your solution of going in the morning is a good one. I personally like matinees for the same reason although you can never totally escape it seems! Enjoyed the piece immensely!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You too? I like the rituals, including watching trailers of upcoming movies!
      The glare from cell phones is annoying, even when people are just sending chat messages. Yes, Benn, tell them to behave.

      In Nigeria, I’ve resigned myself to the noisy cinema experience and learnt to enjoy it.

      I enjoyed reading about your experience. Some things seem universal, like the applause at the end of a good movie. Have you had that experience?



      1. Yes, I must confess I like to get there early and pick a good seat, usually towards the back and in the center, and I enjoy the lighting as it goes from full to half to total darkness. I love watching the trailers to the upcoming attractions. And finally when the feature film begins I enjoy the feeling I get as I start to get caught up in the story and ….

        Liked by 1 person

    2. @photography, I was quoting Teju Cole.
      Although I don’t know much about photography, it sounds right … art should touch the heart, right?
      All the best with your emotionally generous photographs. I’ll look out for them.
      Thanks for your compliment about my lens.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Your words puts in that cinema with you, those words painted so much picture on my mind, I go try read the pigin English own for nght.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I love that you love what seems uniquely crazy about your fellow Nigerians. I have moments when the frailty of humanity in all it’s diversity gives me that same bond with others of every ethnicity, morality, values, education, and goals. Those are the moments when I rejoice in my own humanity however flawed and feel at one with the universe and God.

    I truly enjoyed this. You write so well, you re-awaken me to what’s important when my life’s challenges distract me from that awareness.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Your comment reminds me of a quote I read a while ago:
      There is no perfection; only beautiful versions of brokenness.

      This particular brand of Nigerian craziness tickled me; some other brands do not.
      In the cinema, I can relax and absorb the energy and interpret the aspirations of my fellow Nigerians as the plot plays out n screen.

      I’m glad that the picture I painted did more for you.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I can’t believe the guy on the phone, he fully had a full blown conversation by the sounds of it, and a BABY in a CINEMA?
    Only in Nigeria would you hear a scenario like that!
    I chuckled so many times whilst reading this.
    I can’t believe you went back to watch the movie again?

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I am hooting with laughter and clutching my tummy.

    TRUE! typical Nigerian cinema experience. The ringing phones never cease to shock me, like… really ?!


    1. We have our own set of rules at the Cinema don’t we? The ringing phones and the loud conversations that follow! 🙂
      So you made me read the post again and I’m laughing too!


  7. Cinemas, ehn. Aside a warranted laughter in unison during a funny scene and the like, some folks often seem to forget they aren’t the only ones seeing a movie. Or is it who we are? But considered differently, it could be part of the fun in the cinema-going experience. Lol

    Nice one.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Ha ha ha, “But considered differently, it could be part of the fun in the cinema-going experience. Lol”

      If one doesn’t know what to blog about, a visit to the cinema may change that! 😀


  8. Absolutely loved this post! Your attitude towards the insanity masquerading as Nigerian culture is commendable. I do wonder though, would you still feel the same way if you had to ‘stew in that pot’ interminably? 🙂


    1. Lol! You’ve got me thinking . . . relocating to Nigeria is like getting married; you’ve got to commit for the long haul. With regards the cinema, I learnt to instruct the actors with the crowd, oh the joys of being uninhibited!

      There were other aspects of Naija life though, which drove me up the wall. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  9. HAHAHA…

    In the dark, confidence buoys his voice, “Wetin dey happen? Wetin de man talk?”

    I smile, “Make you come watch for night; dem dey show de pidgin version for night.”

    Wicked humor


    1. When I watch a movie, I like to hear every single word . . . I know, I’m irritating like that. So when this bros surveys the empty theatre and chooses a seat next to mine- whether he understands the movie, whether he wants to buy me a drink after, whether he’s afraid of the dark, I don’t care! Let him leave me alone to enjoy my movie in peace 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  10. I was right there in the cinema with you! I have to put this on my must-do list next time I’m in Lagos. Still chuckling over ‘pidgin version at night’. 🙂


  11. Hahaha…all in a day’s work baby!..Unbeatable Naija drama…them movies ain’t got nothing on us…lol@pidgin version .

    People watching in cinemas?nah…anywhere else but there. I think…
    I’m a self acclaimed veteran people watcher

    Yaaay!!!I see you have started responding…
    Maybe not o@future weight struggle…#Dear God!


    1. Like Nollywood, annoying, interesting, funny, silly, same ‘ole, same ‘ole…. but I enjoyed going to watch the pidgin version!

      Ha ha, okay no future weight struggle for you #Dear God 🙂


  12. Really, it a crazy world! Naija for you. There you have to pardon your friends for apologising for other people’s ‘poor’ manners. That’s in consonance with the Nigerian attitude to defer to ‘foreigners’ – home bred or not.
    I liked the post, didn’t know you’ve got treasures buried in your log. I look forward to this new thing. 🙂


  13. Ah, how I miss the madness that is Silverbird Cinemas, sometimes I actually go there to watch the people and not even the movies. As weird as Nigerians can be in general *and we do have our fair share of drama if I might add*, I’m still #Unapollogetically proud to be Nigerian sha…


    1. Lol Ochuko, few things beat Naija “drama!” You’ve got to love the things that make us unique. Sometimes when I cant think of what to post, I wish I could go to the cinema in Nigeria 🙂


  14. Fabulous – i felt like i was there – you describe the journey from your expectation of a western cinema experience (assuming someone has forgotten to turn off their cell phone) to the realisation that this is a cinema experience like no other – really well – its a funny piece and yet full of the affection you have for your countrymen. i really enjoyed it.


    1. I’m glad you enjoyed reading. I grew to love watching movies at night in Lagos and even joined the commentary. I wish I had written down some of the comments & the context… it would have made for interesting reading too 🙂 Maybe when next I go to Nigeria….


  15. The Naija movie experience, you can never get enough of it. To be honest though I think it’s just proper courtesy to turn off your phone or put it on silent regardless if whether it’s the Naija style or not, but I’m guessing the average Nigerian is devoid of such. Nonetheless lovely writing!


    1. Onyekaononye, I agree, people should put their phones on silent mode. But what surprised me even more was that people weren’t chided for gisting on their phones!
      Thank you for complimenting my writing 🙂


  16. Hahaha! You gotta see it to believe! Great piece Timi, you’ve captured the experience excellently as usual, and in such a humorous way… I must say, it’s easier to laugh when I read this than it is when I’m actually in the cinema. Then I just want to scream!!!!!


    1. Thank you Anita. lol @”you’ve got to see it to believe it” very true. I can’t get over the babies at the cinema! But the rest is hilarious, especially the commentary 🙂


Leave a Reply to Gbolabo Adetunji Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s