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Palava: The First Film Shot in Nigeria, 1926

Palava: The First Film Shot in Nigeria, 1926
A scene from the film, Palava

In the year 1926, cinematic history was made with the production of “Palava”, the first film shot in Nigeria. This British film, both written and directed by Geoffrey Barkas, ventured into the heart of Northern Nigeria, where it was filmed among the Sura, Angas, Mangu, and Berom communities in the regions of Plateau and Bauchi. The result was a groundbreaking cinematic endeavor that would be released to the public on April 25, 1927.

The narrative of “Palava” unfolds as it delves into the complex relationships of the characters. At its core, the story revolves around a jealous British tin miner, Mark Fernandez, whose actions stir tensions among the native populations, inciting them against his rival, Captain Allison, a British District Officer.

Another scene from the film Palava
Another scene from the film

Amid this backdrop of rivalry and unrest, the character of Jean Stuart, a nursing sister, adds a layer of emotional depth to the film as she finds herself caught in the crosscurrents of love and turmoil.

“Palava” remains a significant cinematic milestone, not only as the first film shot in Nigeria but also as a narrative that intertwines the complexities of human emotions and colonial dynamics. It offers a window into the early days of filmmaking in the region and the themes that were explored during this pioneering era of Nigerian cinema.

Notable characters in the film include: Captain Peter Allison (acted by Haddon Mason), Mark Fernandez (acted by Reginald Fox), Hilda Cowley (acted by Jean Stuart), Dawiya (acted by Yiberr) and Yikubba.


Subsequent analysts have categorized “Palava” alongside other colonial films that propagated the idea of the “positive impact of European presence in Africa” whereas belittling the natives. Geoffrey Barkas, who served as the film’s director, producer, and scriptwriter, made references in interviews to his casting choices from “cannibal pagan tribes” and characterized them in terms of “blind savagery.”


  1. James Curran; Vincent Porter (1983). British cinema history. Weidenfeld and Nicolson. p. 132.
  2. Omipidan, T. (2020, March 9). Colonial Rule in Nigeria and Nigeria’s Struggle for Independence. OldNaija. https://oldnaija.com/2014/11/05/colonial-rule-in-nigeria-and-nigerias-struggle-for-independence/
  3. Ian Aitken (18 October 2013). Encyclopedia of the Documentary Film 3-Volume Set. Taylor & Francis. pp. 486–. ISBN 978-1-135-20627-7.
Cite this article as: Teslim Omipidan. (April 6, 2017). Palava: The First Film Shot in Nigeria, 1926. OldNaija. Retrieved from https://oldnaija.com/2017/04/06/palava-the-first-film-shot-in-nigeria-1926/


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