In film criticism, auteur theory holds that a film reflects the director’s personal creative vision, as if they were the primary “auteur” (the French word for “author”).
In spite of—and sometimes even because of—the production of the film as part of an industrial process, the auteur’s creative voice is distinct enough to shine through studio interference and the collective process.– Wikipedia
The Auteur theory is one that has never gotten unanimous agreement. Many strongly disagree and emphasize the contribution of the crew. While this is a valid point, the auteur theory is quite an interesting one. Proponents of the Auteur theory advocate that,
Auteurism was to make a distinction between films and the films that are worthy of serious study, making them unique in style and voice.
You can see this in the work of Directors like Tarantino, Wes Anderson, Martin Scorcese, Steve McQueen, Spike Lee, Tim Burton, David Lynch, Terrence Malick, Nicolas Widn Refn, David Fincher and others who do work with studios, but still show an indie spirit, there is a consistency in their body of work, a unifying thread and voice that you recognize, especially when others are trying to imitate the. The stories they tell, their dialogue, their cinematography (framing &composition), use of music, use of colour, the kind of characters who always appear in their stories, recurring themes
Which leads to the question, Do we have Auteurs in Nigeria? Andrew Dosunmu and Newton Aduaka, Akin Omotoso can be said to be auteurs . They tell African Stories, have identifiable cinematic voices, but how about those living and practicing their craft in Nigeria?
As this is Nigeria where everything is a little different, I’d like to propose the word Nauteur
NAUTEUR :A Nigerian Auteur who overcomes insane odds without compromising and executing a unique creative piece of cinema
Not to be confused with British Slang, NUTTER, a crazy person.
But we’ll revisit that another day
“Auteurs are directors who put a strong personal stamp on their films, usually through the mise en scene. They are contrasted with the metteur-en-scene, the director who merely functions, more or less, at the service of the script”.
I know, we don’t have a studio system (though marketers dictate terms like studios do) .
Do we have Directors whose body of work distinctively carries their voice in a very recognizable way, Has traits that are distinct to their style of filmmaking and shows up in all their films? Distinct enough that you can miss the opening credits, haven’t previously heard of the film, but are familiar enough with their voice that you can recognize it (or an imitation of it),
If so. Who? Not a rhetorical question. I really want to know them cos they could be flying under a radar cos cinemas and marketers just don’t know what to do with the types of films they make.
The aforementioned names have all significantly contributed to American cinema in the last 30 years , and have influenced many young filmmakers world-wide; while you may not like some of their films (or any) their impact on cinema is undeniable
Their voices are able to stand out in a marketplace that is flooded. Their films have a distinctive flavour that makes it different from the journeymen directors, directors for hire and others. Auteurs have turned the tide, created milestones and sometimes set the tone for the next decade(s) in film. They’ve started movements, opened doors and blown us away with their brilliant films.
Think about it in today’s world. Where a large proportion of what is available are generic rom-coms and comic book movies. Do you like that?
Where would cinema be if we didn’t have The French, American, Asian new wave, Dogme 95 et All the work of mostly auteurs, who wanted something different and put their stamp on it.
While generic (sometimes, widget) commercial filmmaking which is what keeps the doors open and the lights on, Auteur filmmaking is what keeps it an interesting art form and mode of expression, and while there are lots on non-auteurs with interesting and unique work, there is a reason artists like Fela Kuti, Basquiat, Hendrix, Miles Davis, Bob Marley all stand out in their fields, they weren’t just great, they were unique and their work is studied for its contribution.
The good news is, Nollywood is still very young, and evolving and can still define its cinematic voice in Nigerian, African and World Cinema.
The change in tone, ambition and production aesthetics in the last 10 years alone is very encouraging, and as filmmakers develop, evolve and transcribe cinematic language; the audiences will be in for a treat; and as technology improves, further democratizing the process by lowering some costs and directors are able to stamp their identity on their films, it will be a very exciting time for the future of Nollywood.
What do you think? Leave a comment and lets discuss.