Alain Kassanda
Watched at the Festival Cinémas d’Afrique de Lausanne 2023

The Coconut Head Generation is today’s generation of lazy, passive young people who want it all now and easily. At least that is how young adults are defined by the others, the grown-ups. What this perspective fails to realise is that the members of the Coconut Head Generation are not at all bothered by such labels and judgements; their only concern is to shape their path, to forge their own future. In this inspiring observational documentary, director Alain Kassanda gives us a clear insight into the beauty and intelligence of the Nigerian generation of young students. Thanks to this documentary we step into their world, their way of thinking and discussing.

In Coconut Head Generation we are made participants of the Thursday Cine-Club organised by the students of the University of Ibadan in south-west Nigeria, the oldest in Nigeria. Everything is centred around the cinema. Cinema not as a means of entertainment but as a place of education, a means of expressing ideas and broadening perspectives. The students use the films as a starting point for deep reflections ranging from the feminism to the importance of the restitution of stolen artworks. It is just impossible, as a self-proclaimed European Coconut Head Generation member, not to identify with these young people so distant and yet so close. Their topics of discussion are our topics of discussion. Our problems are also their problems, to which countless more hardships are added. In their discussions we hear all the desire for change, which may be feminist or ethic, in their own original way. While watching the films of great African filmmakers, the students became themselves the protagonists of a story of struggle and change in which they will have their say. They will switch from words to facts during the October 2020 uprisings against police violence finally becoming active members of society. Again, the parallels with us are striking, from the violent clashes for the Black Lives Matter movement up to the G8 in Genoa.

While watching the film, it is almost impossible not to be struck by the silence. I am not just talking about the silence of the audience captured by this truthful motivating documentary, but the silence in the movie, by the students for the students. A loud silence observed during all speeches to heed the other students, absorb their ideas and, perhaps, challenge them. Such profound silence, I think, we have lost in the discussions between ourselves. Far too often we are interrupted, and we in turn interrupt because eager to express our opinions and exalt our self-love. In our culture everyone talks but no one listens. I strongly feel that this film could be summed up using a transposed version of the incipit of Saramago’s Blindness: “If you can hear, listen. If you can listen, heed”. And perhaps, this time we should keep silent, heed, watch this movie and just learn from them: the youths of the Coconut Head Generation.

  • Mario Di Luca