In an interview published nine years ago, Yemi Sodimu, a famous face in Yoruba movies, stated that subtitling in some Yoruba movies was close to criminal.
While commending those in the Yoruba sector of the movie industry for keeping the industry alive, the actor said there were many things that still needed improvement
“I have seen some directorial approaches in our movies that are so painful and then I see some subtitles in our movies that are criminal,” said the actor.
That was nine years ago. Subtitling of Yoruba movies, however, appears to have moved from just being criminal to the verge of treason. It is an issue that many movie professionals are familiar with, but appear to be unwilling or unable to do anything about. Actress Habibat Jinad, in an interview with PM News, blamed the frequency of error-strewn subtitles on movie marketers.
“Everybody wants to subtitle their films, but getting professionals to do them is the problem. We have people who can subtitle films perfectly, but not everybody can afford them. But most times, the fault is from the marketers, not producers. When you produce your film and give it to the marketers, they will just give it to whoever they like to do the subtitling,” she said.
The most prominent errors of grammar in Yoruba movies are those arising from incompetence in the handling of subject/verb agreement, tense, spelling, article/determiner, preposition, verbs, adverbs and noun as well as from attempts to directly translate Yoruba into English in what is widely called “Yoruba English”.
Biodun Adeoye, a member of the Theatre Arts and Motion Pictures Practitioners Association of Nigeria (TAMPAN) guild of directors, attributed the shoddy subtitles to the National Film and Video Censors’ Board (NFVCB), which he accused of dereliction of duty in screening movies submitted to it.
“There was this period when there was no movie that will go through the Censors Board without subtitles. At that time, we didn’t have this kind of complaint. Subtitling is part of what is going to be censored before a movie is released. But at a point, I don’t know why movies are being sent to the Censors Board without subtitles. That is where the problem actually started. Every Tom, Dick, and Harry now feels is it not just to write from Yoruba to English? I can do it. That is what is going on right now,” he told Premium Times.
“We are going to blame some of our producers. We are going to blame some of our marketers, who are not ready to pay for the services rendered. They will just feel like ‘come, you’re out of secondary school now and it is just Yoruba to English. You can just write it’.
Bolaji Amusan aka Mr. Latin, President, TAMPAN, put the blame at the doorsteps of movie marketers.
“The major problem we are having is not with these subtitlers (sic). It is also the issue of our marketers and executive producers. Instead of them to wait for us to package the movie and hand it over to them, they rush because they want to make their money, because they want to get it done very quickly. So, they get half-baked subtitler (sic) to subtitle the movie and the result is what we are seeing today.
On the level of our members, we have been able to educate our members to give their jobs to professionals, so that they will be able to meet up with the standard expected of them from the people,” he told Premium Times.
The education to which he said TAMPAN members have been exposed to is yielding very meagre results, if at all.