“The Fake Prophet” is a concept film created and funded by Stepping Stones Nigeria (SSN), a non-governmental organisation, to promote awareness about the plight of the so-called ‘child witches’.
According to the organisation, the issue of “child-witches” grew out of the Niger Delta in the 1990s as many powerful pastors began accusing children of plotting to supernaturally harm their families and communities. Children were often coerced into confessing their ‘crimes’, following which their families were charged money for lengthy and sometimes painful exorcism rituals. Thousands of children - an estimated 15,000 in Akwa Ibom State alone - were blamed for their family’s misfortunes, shunned by their communities, and abandoned.
According to a report in the British press, before being pushed out of their homes many of these children were beaten, slashed with knives, thrown onto fires, or had acid poured over them as punishment or in attempts to make them “confess”. Many of those branded child-witches were murdered - hacked to death with machetes, poisoned, drowned, or buried alive - in an attempt to supposedly drive satan out of their soul. Once on the streets, many of the children became prey to child traffickers.
“We decided to make this film because we realised that the proliferation of Nollywood movies that focus on issues of witchcraft, specifically child witchcraft, was leading to the spread of the belief,” said Gary Foxcroft, SSN programme director. “We needed a counter to that.”
I want to be optimistic about the movie, but I'm still smarting from how woefully, laughably terrible this one movie I watched on a Liberian refugee who moved to Lagos was. And not for lack of talent -- the movie starred Omotolade Jalade Ekeinde and Ramsey Noah, so two of the biggest names in the biz right there. But hey, that was two years ago. Maybe I'll give this one a shot. For more on child-witches, click here, here, here and here. And here's a video from a short UK Guardian documentary on the issue.