No marks for guessing what Alan Channer’s THE IMAM AND THE PASTORis about. And there’s probably a place in do-gooder heaven for the director.
“In recent decades, Nigeria has been soiled by violence between Christians and Muslims,” goes an unseen narrator setting the scene. As the voice is clearly foreign and the faces onscreen are Nigerian, the sense is of a Caucasian conductor directing an all-black choir. There is cause to rejoice that THE IMAM AND THE PASTOR is not fiction or that picture may go beyond metaphor. This is not to say that this particular do-goodism is far removed from good—it is commentary on the way we live now that a divide exists between both terms. Or maybe that is merely a quirk of the English language.
Through interviews, the men of the title, Pastor James and Imam Ashafa, recount their personal histories, charting how their lives intersect with each other and the violence of Yelwa-Shendam, communities in Plateau State, Nigeria. Both were pushed to violence by similar acts perpetrated against their faith: in the end, one has lost his hand, and the other his cousin. Both subsequently nurse hate, turn distrustful and hope for vengeance. It is a great set-up for an exploration of the origins of violence. But this is not that film. Channer’s heart is firm in its quest for a solution and is concerned with forgiveness.
That is not a bad thing. Yet it is edifying to consider an unmentioned but inadvertent notion.
Both Pastor James and Imam Ashafa receive accusatory homilies; the latter’s change from militiaman to peacemaker mirroring the former’s conversion to Christianity from a boozy-girl-winking sinfulness. The inadvertent notion, sidestepped but nonetheless pertinent, is the power of the pedestal. It has to be said that whatever force changes a man’s mind from vengeance can turn another’s to violence.
“We have no choice but to live together,” says an interviewee, oblivious as to how much of that peace is down to two men. Not the titular duo, but the ones who gave those accusatory homilies. Both are unseen during the 39 minutes of THE IMAM AND THE PASTOR and yet the world inhabited by the film is largely of their creation—a notion very similar to religion’s idea of God.
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Source: The iREP Report
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