Take Light

Caught up in the tangled wires of Nigeria’s electricity crisis

Take Light Although it has the largest reserve of gas in Africa, Nigeria cannot provide its population with electricity. Electricians, both legal and illegal, risk their lives on the power lines to earn enough to survive and provide for their families. When the lights go out, or customers can no longer pay their bills, the people have to take matters into their own hands. Take Light is an urgent doc that reveals a rarely-glimpsed side of Nigerian society.

“Everybody thought I was dead”. Martins, an electrician working for PHED (Port Harcourt Electricity Distribution Company), tells the story of the day a drunken power line operator electrocuted him and his colleagues as they worked on a pylon. Back on the ground, the customer service worker, Deborah, knows all too well the dangers of her occupation. “I’ve been beaten up before”, she says, amidst a scene of escalating tension at a disconnection appointment.

In Port Harcourt, a major refining hub in the Niger Delta, blackouts are the norm. They cover the bustling city just like the soot from the regular gas flares. Militant groups begin to convey their anger by destroying gas pipes and attacking failing power facilities. “They don’t give what belongs to us”, says the leader of one group. Without electricity, people turn to burning their own kerosene and diesel. They get burned or poisoned by carbon monoxide, placing further strain on hospitals. We see one which can’t even power the mortuary fridges.

But amid the tangled wires of Nigeria’s chronic power problem, hope flickers. Clean energy activists are educating people, promoting the use of solar and wind energies. “We’re flaring enough gas to provide all Nigeria with constant electricity, but we’re burning that all up”, explains Amara Nwankpa, who co-founded #LightUpNigeria, a highly successful social media campaign. “It is an absurd waste of energy…We need to make a cultural shift.”

“Even in the midst of this, we just have to keep hope alive”, believes Deborah, who knows her daughters worry about her safety. In this documentary, the blue-collar workers who keep their country running day and night share their compelling and dramatic stories. The gritty, beautiful, and urgent filmmaking reveals that the struggle for power in Nigeria is far from over.

Reviews and More

...a rare, yet refreshing, look at a people often misrepresented in America’s mainstream media” – Cleveland International Film Festival

"★★★★ Nakhai and editor Rich Williamson let it all flow elegantly, tying data to human stories rather than cold statistics" – Now Magazine

"A compelling and complex look at a society in a vicious cycle” – Cinema Axis

For a Q&A with director Shasha Nakhai, see here.

Festivals
LaurelHot Docs - Official Selection
LaurelAtlanta Film Festival - Official Selection
LaurelDurban International Film Festival - Official Selection
LaurelCleveland International Film Festival - Official Selection
FULL SYNOPSIS

The Producers


Shasha Nakhai - Director

Shasha is a filmmaker with Compy Films and Storyline Entertainment. Her award-winning films have screened at festivals and aired on TV worldwide. Shasha was 1 of 8 emerging producers selected for the DOC Institute’s Breakthrough Program in 2015, and was awarded Telefilm Canada’s Pay It Forward Prize as part of the Hot Docs Don Haig Award. Take Light is her first feature doc.


Ed Barreveld - Producer

A veteran of the Canadian film and television industry, Emmy award winning producer Ed Barreveld honed his skills at the National Film Board. In 2000 he co-founded Storyline Entertainment and since 2004 he has been Storyline’s sole principal, creating an international profile for the company with auteur driven social/political POV documentaries and distinctive historic programming.

Making The Film


Director's Statement

Port Harcourt is the source of my fondest childhood memories. Today, however, the city is much different than what I remember. Perfectly manicured green hedges have turned to black dust—the fallout zone of a fossil-fuel economy. Yet here, at the end of the world, shards of light pierce through the grey clouds. With Take Light, I want to show the urgency and challenges of transitioning to greener and more egalitarian economies. But, ultimately, this is a film about the power of hope. It is about keeping the candle lit in times of darkness and despair, about fighting to remain a good person when corruption is the status quo, and harnessing the power of humour and religion to make it through each day.

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