Mister Johnson

Australian filmmaker Bruce Beresford, after scoring a critical hit and box office success with Driving Miss Daisy in 1989, made the rather idiosyncratic decision – and not a commercially beneficial one, as it turned out – to travel to Nigeria to direct a film version of the Joyce Cary novel Mister Johnson. These, moreover, were turbulent, putsch-plagued years for Nigeria, and Beresford’s recollections of working in the country, expressed during an interview he granted for Mister Johnson’s Criterion Blu-ray release, were, I thought, sufficiently interesting to share with readers:

Filming in Nigeria at that time was a nightmare. […] Moving around was hell. For me, it was a great change from when I’d been there in the sixties, to when I was there in 1990 or whenever it was, because when I was there in the first place, it had only been independent [from the British Empire] for a little over a year, and they still had postal services and phones and the trains ran and there were traffic police and all the usual sort of things; but when I was back there in the nineties, nothing like that was there anymore. There was no post. Um, there was no traffic police. In fact, the police never seemed to be around. The roads were littered with dead people who’d been hit in car accidents. There was no supervision over anything. Um, it was very chaotic. And, uh, sometimes you’d be driving, like, to a location and a uniformed man would stop you and pull you out of the car and, um, pour petrol over you and hold up a lighted match and say, “We want money.” Which you would give them. It would be very advisable to give it to them. And it was fairly, pretty tense, quite often. A couple of times I thought we weren’t going to get out of there.

But, hey, at least the man got his prestige project finished – and the international critical establishment loved it (even if African-Americans thought it was racist), with star Maynard Eziashi becoming the second black performer after Sidney Poitier to win the Silver Bear for Best Actor at the Berlin International Film Festival, racking up another indispensable victory for the vibrant!

Rainer Chlodwig von K.

Rainer is the author of Protocols of the Elders of Zanuck: Psychological Warfare and Filth at the Movies – the DEFINITIVE Alt-Right statement on Hollywood!