Nigeria continues to play a pivotal role in global politics, economics, film and music, but only a few know how far the country has come in these matters.
From the space race of the 1960s to the solidification of Hollywood, which was born around 1910, the West African nation, nicknamed the Giant of Africa, has been a constant feature in some of the most important events that changed the world.
For example, unknown to many, before a successful moon landing could occur, the United States needed to test manned and unmanned spacecraft.
In October 1958, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) launched Project Mercury, a five-year, $400 million project designed to test the feasibility of human space travel.
Obama, played by the legendary Sydney Poiter in Mark of the Falcon
Putting a spacecraft into orbit required ground controls in countries along Earth’s orbital path. NASA built 18 stations in strategic global locations, including Nigeria, recently independent from British rule.
As a result, NASA built the first satellite ground station in Nigeria, NASA Tracking Station 5, in 1961 in Kano to monitor the Gemini and Apollo space missions. The tracking station still stands to this day.
A few years earlier, Nigeria, precisely Enugu Statewas the host of the cast and crew of the movie ‘The Mark of the Falcon’.
Directed by Michael Audley, ‘The Mark of the Falcon’ points out the predominant struggles of the time: nationalism.
The mark of the falcon
Obam, played by the legendary Sydney Poiter, has just been elected as the newest member of the legislative council, but is facing an identity crisis.
His brother, also entrenched in activism, describes him and his wife, Renee (Eartha Kitt), as “the not-quite-African wife and a council member who is not as African as he likes to think.”
Obam, one of the only natives on the council, soon finds himself caught in an impossible battle. On one side are the interests of the British colonists; On the other are those of his people. It will take the help of Obama’s wife, Renee, and sympathetic missionary Bruce Craig (John McIntire) to keep the situation from escalating.
Although Obam is not fully accepted on the Council due to the color of his skin, his people doubt his alliances. His brother was expelled from school for not being politically agreeable, the same reason he was kicked out of the church.
It is also reflected in his younger brother’s teasing; “I was expelled from a white man’s school. If this is a white man’s house, I hope they kick me out. Do you think you represent the people? Well, we are the people and we don’t elect you. If you want to support Africa, join us.”
Obam, which translates as Falcon, also a symbol of the resistance, makes several demands on the Council, including allowing the men to vote to end the curfew.
A scene from Mark of the Falcon.
As the agitation for self-government rages, colonialists distrust the church’s “dangerous” teachings, the belief that all men are equal, and the hope for social justice.
Having put his faith in reason through the Council and the Church and failed on both counts, Obama has to make difficult decisions.
While the film does not establish Nigeria as its location, the use of the Igbo language and eastern Nigerian fabrics is prominent. Despite not being African, the main cast spoke the Igbo language sparingly.
Other actors in the film include Juano Hernandez, John McIntire, Helen Horton, Marne Maitland, Gerard Heinz, Patrick Allen, Earl Cameron, Francis Matthews, Frederick Treves, Ewen Solon, Lockwood West, Harold Siddons, Bill Nagy, Andy Ho and Lionel Ngakane. .
The film also featured local actors, although they did not receive due credit.
Released in March 1957, ‘The Mark of the Falcon’ was partially filmed on location in Nigeria, after which Universal bought the distribution rights.
Sydney Pioter and Eartha Kitt in Mark of the Falcon
Reports say that some scenes were filmed at the Premier’s Lodge. To do so, the then Eastern Region Prime Minister, Nnamdi Azikiwe, had to leave the house to them for a few days.
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A film about racial tensions, ‘The Mark of the Falcon’ also addresses the exploration of the British in China.
However, the film, despite having excellent actors, was a creation of Hollywood, the American film industry, since it featured mostly American actors.
Critics of the film questioned whether it would have taken a different turn if it had featured Africans and Britons in the leads.