Category Archives: African Cinema

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 .

DEAR NOLLYWOOD ,CAN WE LEAVE THESE BEHIND IN 2016

2016 has been an interesting year, with many curveballs thrown, a few homeruns and many strike outs. As we enter 2017, there are some things we should let go in order to evolve and have some diversity and a more exciting industry. An industry moving, growing in skillset, craft, momentum and market share.

WHICH ONE HAVE YOU MADE(WOHYM)?
This is the most common retorts in response to negative reviews. Closely followed by “Go and make your own let’s see” . It basically means, as you haven’t made a movie, you aren’t qualified to critique mine. Its a reflex action based on years of attack Nollywood has received without acknowledgment of the challenges of making films in Nigeria, its a natural knee jerk reaction.

However , lets apply that logic being said by people from other industries.


You havent owned or run a restaurant so you are unqualified to comment about the food or service being poor .

You have never built a house, you dont know how hard/expensive it is so you have no right to complain about the bad plumbing, faulty electrical wiring and cracking walls in the one you are renting.

You havent operated a telco, so as you have no knowledge or experience in telecommunications, you arent qualified to complain about performance of the network which you pay to use.

You have never played football professionally nor managed a club worth millions,so you have no right to comment on the team’s purchases,their terrible performances or how well the manager does his job regardless of your years of loyalty to the team.

You havent served in a high office in government and experienced how hard it is to get things done, so you have no experience or qualification to criticize the performance of those in government.

If you are fine with being asked similar questions when a product or service you pay for is less than satisfying, then go ahead and keep asking Which one have you made.

Its tough to have someone who has never made a film telling you HOW you should have made yours. That one you can get annoyed at (thats a different matter entirely)

It’s tough to be told your movie sucks, doesn’t work or someone didn’t like it.BUT WOHYM kind of belittles the industry, and the skillset of ; screenwriting, directing, producing etc The question suggests that anyone should go off and make their own film. The film business is for professionals and while digital tools available to civilains(non filmMakers) have democratized it, there should always be a distinction between hobbyists and professionals who expect a paying audience.

As a professional you have the right to be upset about negative reviews(and option not to read them), but uttering those words publicly blinds you from seeing even a 1% validity in the review which may prove valuable feedback. It’s very tough especially with those who seem vindictive, on a rant or nitpicky, but it’s actually better to either say,“Yeah,but thats just your opinion”, tell them to F*** off(at least they’d know how u really feel) or just ignore what they have to say,rather than utter any of those sentences demeaning your own profession.

Critics and Reviewers have their function in every film industry around the world, a simple glance at Rotten Tomatoes, Metacritic,Roger Ebert shows how they asses films from their own country. Its not always pretty and its not beef, or hate. While some of ours are yet to get to that cinematic analytical level, we have to accept that its not going away anytime soon, so we figure out how to give them films they cant help but champion.

Let’s be grateful we dont have the Razzies over here, na war and assasinations that one go start.


NB: I do believe anyone who positions themselves as a critic/reviewer; their writing should reflect a strong knowledge of film form/language,objective analysis and an understanding of cinematic storytelling.

TYPECASTING
Can we quit typecasting? Can we stop typecasting actors and actually allow them to grow, be challenged, takes risk, surprise us and even themselves? We want to be shocked at someone we underestimated before. See some take the polar opposite we’ve known them. See the person who has always played upper middle class eloquent characters,disappear into the role of someone who can barely speak english and is struggling to survive that we have to wipe our eyes to make sure we arent dreaming.

Ok, let’s try a little game.

Who do you think of for a middle aged, beautiful, well-spoken and upper middle class or wealthy woman, who is a bit of a snob?

Who do you think of when you think of a cocky 30 something year old playboy who charms, and then does chop and clean mouth?

You need someone to play a young, good & faithful wife who overcomes a bad/rocky relationship?

You need an attractive IJGB,stuck up young female as an ex girlfriend/the competition/temptation. Who comes to mind?

You need a thug, leader of a gang or cult. Who comes to mind?

Need a funny fat friend or goofball to bring some humour?

The fact that you can think of specific people who’ve played these roles enough times that they come to mind is something which needs to change. No matter how much you like an actor by the time you see them for the 7th time playing the same character under a different name and show, it becomes tiresome. They want the challenge. They want to show you their range. They want a great character which would make them pull out resources they forgot they had, work acting muscles which have athrophied due to phoning it in. THEY WANT THAT CHALLENGE. Give them the opportunity.

LIMITING VIEWING OPTIONS TO COMEDY
Amongst the significantly financially successful Nollywood films in the last 5 years most have been comedy, this has created the perception that Nigerians only respond to comedies. This sometimes leads to other genres being neglected or dismissed. Non comedy films from Hollywood have made upwards of N100m with less screen than we have in 2016, this means there are audiences for these genres. While distributors have a right to reject some films, it should be about lack of quality rather than on genre.

There is the saying that “Nigerians want to laugh” and as the country is hard, comedy is what people look for as a means of escape. TRUE, from the results thats a valid point. But how about the Nigerians who watch non comedy genres at home faithfully like Game of Thrones, Scandal, How to get away with Murder,House of Cards etc. Dont they also want to escape? Take their minds off their worries for that period they’re watching?

While film is film and television is televison(very different story forms). Engagement is what is KEY. Engagement is what stops them from changing the channel or walking out of the cinema.

Can the story engage the audience. Captivate them and make them feel it was worth the distance travelled and time/money spent?

While comedy has the upper hand so far, i dont believe its all people go looking for while visiting the cinema.

This is not to say a level of humour shouldnt be presen in a film; in the right proportion (and if it fits in tonally) it helps.

Give them something thrilling and engaging, mayb even frightening and by the time the word spreads they will go see it. As the late great Amaka Igwe used to say, “People go to the movies to FEEL”

US vs THEM
The first quarter of the year unveiled the scheming of a few, trying to pass a bill which would affect the entire industry in what was described as draconian. It revealed a few things, the contempt some of the earlier filmmakers of Nollywood have for the current generation of active filmmakers, and also the lack of unity in the industry, a Young vs Old battle.

At this stage of the industry, you’d expect some of the earlier filmmakers to mentor and encourage the current filmmakers, they instead dismiss, mock and try to stifle them. Very similar to the political arena where the youth are meant to stay quiet and invisible and accept whatever happens.

Can we stop this? If we can’t/don’t want to work together can we at least stay in our lanes and let others do their thing?

Even if you think their work is absolute shite/rubbish/hot mess/trash, let them be, the wheat will be separated from the chaff. But this active intent of trying to kill the career of a whole generation must stop. How will the industry grow if people in their 20s to late 30s are considered children who should be quiet? It makes no sense.

There needs to be a paradigm shift for there to be real growth, we need a new way of thinking and working.

I know this is wishful thinking, maybe even delusion. But hey,as William Goldman once said “Nobody knows anything”

Let’s go forth and kick ass in 2017 .

HONEY selected for the BFI Blackstar/Beyond Nollywood festival in November

So, my short film HONEY is going to be playing at the BFI Blackstar Beyond Nollywood event in London in November

HONEY

A new generation of Nigerian filmmakers are revolutionising the industry.

A 3-day programme of international Nigerian Cinema showcasing a new crop of filmmaker who are revolutionising the industry – beyond Nollywood. From arthouse to documentary, animation and experimental films; Beyond Nollywood takes inspiration from my book The Nigerian Filmmaker’s Guide to Success: Beyond Nollywood.

More info can be found here http://www.nadiadenton.com/node/168

A Blind Spot Holding Back Indie Filmmakers in Nigeria

Nine out ten kids experienced this growing up. You are engaged in something; watching a great show, reading a great book or playing a video game, and just when it gets to the best part, your mom asks you to go and bring for her an item from her room. As you don’t want to get up, you respond, “I don’t know where it is.” She insists, and you get up to go look for it, and as you go, you’re saying to yourself, on the walk from your sweet spot to her room, “I don’t know where it is” over and over. You get to the room, open the cupboard and you are proven right, you can’t see it. You go back and forth as she insists it’s there and you say, “I’m looking inside the wardrobe and it’s not here”. Annoyed, she comes over, and picks it up; it was right in front of you the whole time. This is what’s called a Scotoma, a figurative blind spot in a person’s psychological awareness.

continue reading here

Nollywood Single Story?

A while ago, novelist Chimamanda Adichie gave a keynote speech at TED Talks titled “The Danger of a Single Story.” What’s Africa’s single story? The tainted lens through which the news media portrays Africa to the world; mostly starving kids too weak to drive away the flies that swarm them, famine, hunger, water projects etc. Then there’s the Hollywood narrative; African men are mercenaries, warlords and blood thirsty. This is mostly what the West is exposed to about Africa and Africans..

Now, many of those portrayals aren’t completely untrue, but they are a single narrative out of many – most of them still untold; just like the guests on Jerry Springer’s show don’t represent the U.S. narrative, these stories don’t represent all of us across Africa either.

Continue reading here

FILMMAKER DIARIES – SMAT SHORTS -HONEY

Hi guys, so a few months ago i shot a few short films, as part of a project headed by Emmauel K Uduma CEO SMAT Media called SMATfirst , a project working with young filmmakers ,who are mostly those under the radar . This partcicular short is part of the Media Initiative for Nigeria Development, a project by Emmanuel K Uduma.

Glad to present the teaser from one of them, called HONEY

So , watch, like , share and we will keep you update on screening and festivals where you can catch it
HONEY Facebook page
SMAT media’s Facebook page for this and other SMATfirst projects

and you can click like on my facebook page, to the right of this post ,where you can stay update with this and other projects im working on.