NIGERIA: Salesian movie ‘The Oratory’ premiering in theaters across Europe
Plight of street children and the work of Salesian missionaries are highlighted
(MissionNewswire) The Salesian movie “The Oratory,” produced by The Nollywood Factory in collaboration with Salesians of Don Bosco, is premiering in theaters across Europe, according to a Vatican News story. The plight of street children in Nigeria and the work of Salesian missionaries with them are highlighted in the movie. It was directed by Obi Emelonye, a Nigerian film director, and produced by Dr. Cyril Odia, a Nigerian Salesian priest presently serving in Dublin, Ireland.
The story raises awareness of homeless and street children in Nigeria and takes viewers through the life of Father Michael Simmons, an American Catholic priest on a missionary trip from Turin, Italy to Ikoyi, Lagos. Once in Lagos, Fr. Simmons witnesses the harsh life of street children in Makoko and resolves to help them. To do that, Fr. Simmons must confront Shuga, a dangerous Makoko kingpin who has the street boys locked in criminal servitude.
According to a Vanguard article, Gbenga Adebija, the chairperson of the organizing committee of the premiere, said, “‘The Oratory’ is not just a movie, it is actually an integral aspect of a multi-dimensional initiative of the Salesians of Don Bosco, which not only reminds us individually and as a collective of our civic responsibilities toward street children, but it’s aimed at creating an inclusionary framework for the upliftment of homeless, delinquent and juvenile youths who are at risk of negative social issues such as violence, sexual abuse, trafficking and crime.”
The Salesian-run Bosco Boys Home in Lagos has been a refuge and life-changing program for many homeless, and at-risk youth. Father Augustine Okeke, director of outreach, explained that many youth leave their homes in search of work and wealth, but once they get to Lagos, they realize they are alone, have nothing, and end up living on the streets.
Bosco Boys has become a refuge of safety for the boys and also a chance to turn their lives around. Once youth are part of the Bosco Boys program, they are provided counseling, skills training and daily support. The goal is to help prepare them for the next stage of life. Family reunification takes place later if it is possible. Salesian staff work with the family and each boy to help reintegrate him into family life. They then follow up with the family to ensure that all is well and to address ongoing challenges.
The movie not only shows the importance of the work of Salesians, it also reinforces Pope Francis’ Laudato Si’ message about caring for the environment. Makoko is a poor settlement with homes built on stilts on the Lagos lagoon. According to the Vatican News article, the town was at the center of a serious social-political conflict in 2012, when some Nigerian government officials attempted to eliminate the settlement, deeming it “embarrassing for the city’s image” after the BBC had reported on it. As a result, they initiated a general eviction and set fire to the town, actions that triggered heavy repercussions for the entire city.
“The choice of this location was effective in highlighting the critical environmental conditions, due to pollution and poverty, which further worsen the reality of those living in this precarious environment,” explained Fr. Odia in the Vatican News article.
The positive response from film critics and audiences, even with all the limitations of movie attendance caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, has inspired the film’s production crew to start a crowdfunding campaign to distribute it on a larger scale.
ANS Photo (usage permissions and guidelines must be requested from ANS)
Salesian Missions – Nigeria
World Bank – Nigeria