Category Archives: DREAMING IN CELLULOID

Why Nollywood MUST tell our History

 

Nigerian History as a subject,  does not exist, many years ago it was stripped from our school curriculum ; several generations have gone by and know next to nothing about anything that happened in this country.

We know little pre-colonial, colonial or post-colonial history. We know very little about the many coups, parties involved, why, and the effects. Aside from what our parents, uncles and aunts may have told us – which is just their side of the story, could be tainted by prejudice based on what they and their parents lost – there is nothing. This is wrong and dangerous. As the cliché goes, “those who don’t know history are doomed to repeat it.”

So how can this be rectified? How can the younger generation learn these lessons, know these stories and avoid getting their information from hearsay, conjecture and ad hominem.

Movies have always been a way to bridge this gap. Those who don’t like to read or watch documentaries can always get into a well told narrative.  They can get engaged in a story well told while being informed about past events.

Watch the video below and see why these stories need be told.

 

Could this be the emergence of a Naija New Wave?

Cinema has seen various evolutions and movements since its birth, Italian Neorealism, German Expressionism, Third Cinema, Cinema Novo, Nouvelle Vague,Japanese New Wave etc

These movement were a contrast and somewhat rebellion to commercial filmmaking, which was all about beautiful stars, box office profit and opening weekend, leading to formulaic films, less risk and everything looking the same. These movements also existed to enable artists who didn’t have the resources of  studios, to make films on smaller budgets.

Lovers of cinema who saw the possibilities of artistic expression, unconventional thought, social or political messages started movements which went away from what commercial films demanded in how they’re shot,directed, edited, narrative structure and even casting. The most prominent being the Nouvelle Vague aka French New Wave and years later would come the Dogma 95.

Started by two Danish Filmmakers , the idea was

“In a business of extremely high budgets we figured we should balance the dynamic as much as possible.

Their intent was to “purify” filmmaking by focusing on story and actors performance and no reliance on special effects and technical gimmicks. Like the French New Wave before them they wanted to try new things outside of whats’ expected of traditional filmmaking. They wanted have films to have  personality, be expressive (auteur film) .

There hasn’t been a film movement in Africa or its largest producer of films, Nigeria’s Nollywood; which is why,  inspired by the French New Wave and Dogma 95 movement, 3 Nigerian filmmakers are working  on jump starting one.

The trio of Abba Makama(Green White Green) , C.J Obasi (Ojuju) and Michael Omonua(Sun Eje) make up Sureal 16.

According to a press release The collective is designed to create a new kind of Nigerian cinema that’s unhinged and unconventional – based purely on artistic freedom and expression.

The name Surreal 16 “because pure cinema transcends the physical in it’s size and scope, and isn’t limited to the tangible. 16 because the collective was formed in 2016”.

Each has directed a short film forming the anthology, Visions.

In an industry that’s been commercial from start, there’s never been room for films made for art or expression, resulting in anything not deemed highly profitable dismissed; this led to the current incarnation of Nollywood ignoring entire genres, limiting patrons options to comedy and romance.

Their contribution to spark a change:

By making films which question the status quo and confront audiences with questions. Inspired by the DIY attitude of the French New Wave, Dogme 95, and more recently the mumblecore films, we set out to make our first anthology of three short films titled VISIONS.

The films will première in November at the 2017 Africa International Film Festival(AFRIFF) the fastest growing film festival in Nigeria, where they unveil their manifesto.

 

Those previous movements gave rise to some of the greatest eras in filmmaking ;  the French New Wave influencing the film brats and that cascaded into the 90s indie film revolution which had filmmakers who influenced many of todays’ young Nollywood directors under 40.

It would be interesting to see what could become of what the collective aspire to do.

WHERE ARE THE NAUTEURS ?

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.

Naija FilmMakers in diaspora telling their story

Representation in recent years has gotten the attention it’s long been denied, with more demands for diversity on-screen and behind the camera being taken seriously; Wonder Woman getting a female director, Black Panther getting a Black Director, Queen Sugar having all female directors, Donald Glover on Atlanta as; star, writer and Executive Producer. Issa Rae doing the same on Insecure. The idea being creators, directors of the same gender/race of the character are in the best place to tell that story best.

I think this applies to nationality/ethnicity and how they’re portrayed. Hollywood and Western media in general don’t have a good track record of portraying other nationalities. Nigerians in American have always gotten the short end of the stick, as television shows have a certain way of portraying them as criminals, drug mules, voodoo practitioners or goofy comedic stereotype of a naïve or clueless African, when in reality; many are College graduates and highly qualified professionals in Engineering, Law, Medical and other professions.

There’s a growing number of filmmakers of Nigerian heritage, some who immigrated and naturalized and others born in the diaspora (North America & Europe) . These storytellers identity with both worlds, one rooted in their culture/heritage the other in an often contrasting environment they live. They know both sides of the coin and are able to tell stories in a way only they can.  Stories of the immigrant, culture clash, identity, racial politics and much more, with characters who are more than a punchline or token in somebody else’s story.

Nigerian Americans, Yvonne Orji(Insecure) and  Damilare Sonoiki(Black-ish) created First Generation and  African Time respectively, webseries on growing up with immigrant parents and the expectations which come with that. Rick Famuyiwa (Brown Sugar) wrote his lead character in DOPE as the son of a Nigerian Immigrant. British Nigerian Destiny Ekaragha directed Gone Too Far adapted from the Bola Agbaje play about a London born Boy who meets his Lagos born brother and the hijinks which ensue when they hit the streets of South London. South Africa based Akin Omotoso(VAYA) tells the story of a Nigerian man in S.A investigating the death of his brother who death was a Xenophobic attack.  Andrew Dosunmu’s Mother of George follows a young wife new in the States and under pressure to have a child by any means necessary. All stories requiring that unique worldview.

A proportion of the bad reputations’ deserved, every country has its bad eggs, just as guests on Jerry Springer or Maury aren’t representative of all Americans that’s not the entire story. That’s why in a world where most of the West’s only exposure to Nigerians are email/Nigerian Prince jokes in sitcoms and adverts,  self-narrative is essential .

the return

Hello. Is this thing on? Is anyone out there? Earth calling , Pilot to co-pilot.

Been having major issues with my website for the last few months and been unable to post anything new since the last LOGAN post. Did ya miss me 😀

OK,since the last post i have made a couple more videos looking at a few things happening in the Nigerian Film & TV ecosystem .

NATIVE Mag, a pretty awesome new online publication i came across in these radio silent month reviewed HONEY .The Age of Webseries video , the Art of Blocking . and Evolution of Nollywood’s Aesthetics

KONBINI did a write up on NAIJA IN 25 FRAMES .

So, if you haven’t, please check them out, watch the videos, like ,share and subscribe. Cheers

LOGAN – My Thoughts

I seriously doubt any film i see in 2017 will match the balance of action & character depth .

Exploration of such powerful themes: loss,aging,running from your past,legacy,mortality,death,feeling alone,loss of relevance etc  All while still making one of the most brutal films of the last decade

LOGAN plays more like a Western than a movie whose source material is a comic book. Take away the adamantium claws and it could very much be a modern Western; very much like UNFORGIVEN.

It was as if Sam Peckinpah directed this film while consulting with Kurosawa. James Mangold did a brilliant job on the script and directing, i very much look forward to seeing what he does next and going through his previous body of work.

As for  Hugh Jackman. Wow. What a portrayal. Such a layered performance. Vulnerability,Anger with Stubbornness and Compassion. Hope his performance gets recognized come award season cos it may just be one of,if not the best, by the title character of a comic book movie.

New comer Dafne Keen as X-23 aka Laura is a revelation, much like Hit Girl opened doors for Chloe Grace Moretz, this may just open so many doors for her; who gave a great performance of mostly no dialogue.  Personally, i’d like to see a spin off with her and Negasonic Teen Warhead, think Thelma and Louise type road trip.But with this movie set in 2029, it would more likely be Negosonic Middle Aged Warhead, unless they find a DeLorean.

This was a brilliant Goodbye to a beloved character whose previous movies never lived up to what they could have been. LOGAN has more than made up , all is forgiven.

CHAINED ELEPHANTS AND FILM MAKING IN NAIJA

 
There is a story told by life coaches and motivational speakers.
 
It’s about the Baby elephant in the circus.
Now a baby elephant is cute and pretty “harmless” but the circus owners have to think about when it’s fully grown, so to break it, and make it controllable. They tie it down , pin it to the ground with the strongest shackles they can get.
 
No matter how long it struggles and trashes about unable to move or break free. It remains this way for however long it takes for that elephant to stop struggling and resign its self to its fate, losses hope .
 
The chains that restrained it have gone, but psychologically that elephant is never the same. Even as an adult the trainer can tie it to stick with a rope and it wont struggle. It wont attempt to break free.
 
Psychologically that rope NOW, and the chains from THEN are the same thing.
 
Due to how things were in the early days of Nollywood, the struggles,the challenges , the technological and financial limitations , there were a lot of things that were impossible to do. There were places we could not see ourselves going, so resigned to those limitations, creatively, technologically and otherwise.
 
However in 2017 with availability of ANYTHING you want to know about film : screenwriting, directing, cinematography, editing, VFX etc available on YouTube. With the same technology available to us that has won indie filmMakers with $7,000 budgets prizes at Sundance etc .
 
We still use, “this is Nigeria, it’s not possible because of….(insert reasons)
 
Granted, Nigeria has its own unique set of challenges, nobody is denying any of that . There are unique frustrations in Nigeria (area boys, generator noise etc) other countries don’t have .
 
Our problems wont go away anytime soon.  But we want to make great films within our limitations and challenges.
 
But they will never be as great as they could be if we continue with the default of “it’s not possible”, “because of Naija”, “Stop comparing”
 
Actually, each time an audience member has to decide to how to spend their N5,000-N10,000
(Tickets for 2,Parking,Pop Corn& Drinks (Hotdog&Shawrma),Petrol+their TIME) on a Nollywood film or a Hollywood film, during that one free day in a week/month they are able go to the cinema, comparisons would be made 90% of the time it Hollywood film they choose.
 
WE have to break the psychological trap which has us defaulting to;
 
–They tried acknowledge their effort( Will you apply this next time your Bank,Telco messes up or Restaurant served you bad food?)
 
-Film is not easy in Nigeria( it isn’t easy anywhere, even with $m budget, ask
 
Josh Trank about Fan4stic($125m)  
David Ayer about Suicide Squad ($175m)
Joss Whedon about Avengers AoU($316m)
All problematic, stressful and frustrating productions with mostly underwhelming results ,despite abundance of finance .
These weren’t as a result of incompetent directors, if you know their earlier films you know ability was not the issue.
Resources and infrastructure are not a guarantee of a film turning out well or being a pleasant production experience.
 
On the other hand
Barry Jenkins whose $1.5m budget film competed with and beat films with budgets of $30m and above to win Best Picture.
Damien Chazelle’s $3m  budget WHIPLASH which took home two Oscars a few years back.
 
They made the best of those budgets and still beat films who probably spent their entire budget on feeding cast& crew  for a few weeks.
Some reading this is getting annoyed and thinking:
“$1.5m!!!  DO YOU KNOW HOW MUCH THAT IS IN NAIRA!!!!”
Converting their budgets to Naira does not change in THEIR country,those are small budgets for the type of films they were making and the rules that apply on work hours,work , safety, insurance, minimum pay etc
With the SAG minimum pay requirements and the rules of  other Unions they have to work with, $1.5m wont go as far as you think in the U.S .
The scale the scale of what they could do. BUT they still made fantastic films  WITHIN what the finance they could raise.
 
This is NOT about encouraging bashing or criticism of our films,
This is NOT about dismissing the difficulties of filmmaking in an environment like Nigeria
 
but discouraging getting defensive or upset when anyone says.
 
-We need to do better
-We CAN do better
 
If you tell a student they can and should do better in their grades, is that a bad thing?
 
If you tell a man he can and should do better in his role as a husband and father is it a bad thing?
 
If they start to list reasons why Nigeria makes it difficult/impossible being a good student or a good husband/father what will you think?
 
Not the same thing but, you catch my drift.
 
FILM IS HARDDDDD
 
But we make it harder when we let our minds work against us to the point that even with opportunity our subconscious is wired in impossibility.
 
Please feel free to :
-Mssscheewwww and dismiss this as just talk
 
Feel free to Say or Think:
-All this one na theory
-Na America be that, stop comparing us
-Go and make your own let’s see.
-Sharrapp. Which one have you made?
-He has come again oh.
 
Or we can think
 
despite all our issues/challenges
 
financing (not unique to Nollywood alone)
 
distribution(again, not Nollywood alone)
 
lack of Infrastructure (French New Wave& Italian Renaissance sprung out of these)
 
piracy (come on!, how are you watching Netflix &  HBO shows)
training
Hostile Environment
 
How can we , despite all this, make fantastic content?
 
THEN ,our minds will collaborate with us to think our way around these issues and maybe even make them work for out stories/Productions . Instead of it providing confirmation for why we cant meet certain levels of storytelling and production we want.
 
I don’t have a dog in this fight(yet) , im just a fan, who thinks there is greatness waiting release.
 
Ciao
 
This video is LONG  but worth it. (If you can binge watch a whole season of a TV series you can watch this).  Here you can listen to indie filmmaker in the U.S speak frankly about the challenges they face in financing, making and getting distribution for their films.
You’d be surprised how similar our challenges are.

THE IMAGERY OF ANDREW DOSUNMU

Andrew Dosunmu is one of the interesting Nigerian filmmakers working in the international scene. He started as a photographer and later directed music videos for  Talib Kweli, Les Nubians, Angie Stone and others. His background in Art and Fashion Photography influences how he approaches filmmaking in an incredible aesthetic way ; how the frames,composes and unveils emotion.

We look at how he does this in his 2nd feature, MOTHER OF GEORGE.

 

Short Films , Nigerian Film and Nollywood’s possible Future

In the last few years, short films in Nigeria have begun to gain a level of attention and respectability that was denied of the as close as 7 years ago. Now short films are recognized by the top local film festivals and award organizations . Check out my piece for Shadow&Act and see some of these short films showing what could be the future of Nollywood.