The cast and crew of MAPS(Murder at Prime Suites) pose for photographs Interactions and relationships all happen among a community of persons. What happens when groups of people meet online and interact? The world is changing, and traditional models for defining human behaviour must grow into it. As the world becomes safer with new developments on all frontiers of human endeavour, so too do the dangers of living in these present times become larger, closer. We are more or less netizens of this world. The mobile phone has so assured that. We have arrived the age of social networking and getting more familiar with the use of acronyms in daily written conversations- HBD, lol, fyi, TGIF, lwkmd, lmao. Map instantly conjures up the memory of a landscape, of Google maps, of satellite views of Earth, of a superior, overseeing intelligence that connects all the dots between various points and locations, like Big brother from the novel Nineteen Eighty-Four(George Orwell). The Nollywood movie industry has added another movie with an acronym we take note of-MAPS (acronym for Murder at Prime Suites). On August 30th, the movie about the macabre consequences of some social network relationships premiered at the Genesis Deluxe Cinema, at The Palms, Lekki. MAPS is a crime investigation of an undergraduate student Florence Ngwu (Chelsea Eze) found dead in a hotel room. The movie opens with a call from the police to the victim’s brother Ifeatu (Sammy Eddie), and runs through the events leading to the death, and the unveiling of an unlikely killer. The first thrill looking at the poster comes from seeing the hard-faced Joseph Benjamin (MTN Project Fame West Africa season II, Torn, Stripped, and Darkside) pointing a gun, backed up by Keira Hewatch (Lekki Wives), his detective partner. But the movie unveils to reveal a more terrible monster whose powers have a greater impact than many bullets-anti-social networking games. Recently, BBC News reported the story of teenager Hannah Smith who was bullied by online acquaintances into committing suicide. The other time the world was celebrating the ‘successes of the Arab Spring which was helped greatly by social media interactions between the instigators for change. Here in Nigeria, the citizens woke up one day to the horrid news of the death of Cynthia, the undergraduate daughter of a military general. She was murdered by a Facebook friend she had gone to visit in Lagos. These stories reveal the consequences of what happens when the netizens test the strength of their interactions in real time, in the real world. There have been great times online, and not so great times too. MAPS deals with the not-so-good consequences of the effects of ephemeral social networking relationships. Social network behavioural disorders are rift around us. In church, we see it in the parishioner who pings through the priest’s sermon, or at home while eating breakfast, or in business meetings. We want to be seen as modern, multitasking beasts of efficiency connecting on various levels in diverse spheres, working ferociously at it as if our life depends on it. MAPS the movie totally depends on this energy to hold the grip of the viewer. Really, it is a life or death situation for everyone playing the game-death for Florence; new love, and life for Edmond and Lade. We meet the sleek cyberpirate who is contracted by the police to help hack into the Facebook page of the killer to unearth information that would eventually lead to arrest and prosecution of the killer.
Facebook, Blackberry Messenger, Tweeter, Whatsapp and Skype are arguably the most popular social networks. One enjoys the surprise of meeting old friends on these networks, exchanging phone numbers, etc. Exciting new relationships, even more permanent ones like marriages are formed through these online portals. But like I said before, this review of MAPS the movie talks about trips, a societal misfit, rapes, romance, identity theft and murder. We meet the familiar person who virtually lives in her phone, ignoring everyone in her space. MAPS is an example of what may go wrong when netizens land on Earth, and try to blend in. The rules of engagement are not always the same. It is so like E.T. landing.
MAPS was shot for nearly a year, using a Canon 5D Mark II camera. The professional lightweight camera is a low-budget, professional HD video shooter with amazing new creative possibilities. Since Hell and Back again by Danfung Dennis won the Sundance World Cinema Grand Jury Prize, other great movies like sci-fi cool Avatar, Captain America, The Avengers and Iron Man 2 are excellent showcases of the high quality of work that can be created using this camera.
The soundtrack for MAPS has the grandeur reminiscent of Bongos Ikwue’s classic soundtrack for Cockcrow at Dawn. Sunset in Paradise (by Dumebi) is an apt antithesis for announcing the Martian experience we are having in our online life. The work of fiction was directed by Eneaji Chris EnenG, and produced by Jumafor Ajogwu. Translating Facebook relationships to reality can bring that sense of disconnect, unreality to existence. One has had several notifications from Facebook of people who accepted his (purportedly) sent friend request, people he does not know. A celebrity friend sent out an alarm to all online friends that his identity had been stolen. People commit this crime to use such duplicate identities to solicit friendships, and ask for financial aid etc. Art mimics reality, always. Of course there must have been moments when the producer/writer got uncomfortably close to reality and tweaked the script. It is the artistic license, the point where the creator of the art work soars beyond fact to fiction, a consequent reality.
Another phenomenon is the way things go viral in social networks, for good or bad. ‘Now trending’ is very familiar new phrase going the rounds on all media. Friends share views and they appear on their friends’ walls, thereby spreading the views to their friends’ friends, and so on, in an unbroken chain of transmission. It becomes dangerous when the ideas being shared are against what one believes in, and yet, facilitated by Facebook friendships, one becomes unwitting host for spreading the idea. We thank God for the new Facebook word-Unfriend, something we should use more often to cut harmful ideas in the bud. We have disjointed conversations every day in social media interactions. Words shared online can be fleeting, vaporous. People ask questions that are answered depending on the battery life of the gadget being used for the conversation, or the timeliness of the question. So many words hang over the air, there are pings that go stale and build hate, kisses that will never be received or returned in real life. Life, and the matter of life, must be taken like drugs, in controlled doses. MAPS, the new Nollywood movie, bring a consciousness of the lurking dangers of the unreal interactions in social media networks, and the dire consequences that could arise if things go unchecked. There is the dire warning that the victim of the murder is an unwitting accomplice and instigator of her own death. Anti-social network behaviour includes using pseudonyms, and unfamiliar aliases as contact’s names, negating the very idea of creating a ‘contact profile’. Instead of Chika Nwanaeti, your dear friend, you must understand that her name on BB or Facebook is Cool Sexy Cat, and respond accordingly when she pings. Imagine the torture this can be, particularly when you have three hundred other contacts. Who on earth is that?! People go ‘public’ wearing a mask, a false identity, with fake names, then start posting all forms of rubbish. One wonders why they even try. MAPS locate humanity struggling on the strange tides of superficial conversations, smack in the centre of everyday life. And the crowd of over 270 people in the hall who watched that premiere at Genesis Deluxe Cinema could relate with that. The audience had glee time posing with the movie’s actors on the red carpet with the actors, snapping with their mobile phones, or whatever gadget. Hopefully for the producer, they have already started sharing stuff about the movie, and in a bit, it goes viral.
It is now common practice to get joined in on a social chat without prior consultations or consent. It becomes worrisome when the group chat has over 50 people with whom the only thing you share in common is the idiot friend who thinks you should belong here. The worst nightmare is to be a bit Facebook-challenged and not know how to leave the drab conversation. Forget the overworked, ‘photoshopped’ photographs. ‘You actually look better in real life than on Facebook, ‘Ladi told Edmond. Theirs was the only relationship in the movie that seemed to have a future. The movie ends with a funeral for Florence Ugwu, with an ominous voice in the background pointing out the interferences of our online activities even in hallowed spaces, at quiet, soulful moments. We need to re-evaluate our social network behaviour.