We partnered with IROKOtv (a major player in the Nigerian film industry, Nollywood) to develop a feature-length film for the study. The film, Water of Gold, runs approximately two hours and stars well-known Nollywood actors. It tells the story of a poor fisherman named Natufe living in the Niger Delta, and of his rags-to-riches brother, Priye. The two are close until Priye leaves their village, eventually returning many years later as a rich businessman. Against his brother’s protests, Priye enters politics and begins to work with corrupt local politicians. The film depicts corruption harming Natufe and his neighbors’ livelihoods, including bad medical care, police harassment, and oil companies disrespecting environmental concerns. Natufe becomes outspoken against the corrupt system in which they live.
We created two versions of the film: a treatment and a placebo version. In the treatment version, Natufe and a local activist set up a toll-free “shortcode” telephone number, and in six scenes totaling 17 minutes they encourage community members to use the short-code to report corruption by text message. They explain that their activist group will use the text messages to write a public report. Subsequent treatment scenes separately depict men and women, alone and in groups, reporting corruption to the shortcode. These treatment scenes do not appear in the placebo film, which is otherwise identical. In both versions of the film, an information banner echoing the content of the mass text message appears on the screen four times: “See corruption? Let us hear from you! SMS 50400 to report corruption to Integrity Nigeria. Tell us your story. Text for FREE. Your number kept secret.” A randomly assigned half of communities received the treatment film, and the other half the placebo version.
Photo credit: IROKOtv
Films were distributed by members of a Nigerian research firm who were trained on distribution protocols by the research team. Film distributors visited the main film seller in each community and introduced themselves as representatives of our film production partner, IROKOtv. The distributors explained that they were promoting a new, unreleased film. As part of the promotion, they were there to give out two free copies of Water of Gold to customers who bought any Nigerian film from the film seller (one copy for the customer and one for the customer to give to a friend). The distribution of 300 films in each community typically lasted from 3 to 5 days. We distributed 31,800 films across the 106 study communities.