Tag Archives: auteurs

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.

..speaking of Auteurs

Auteur_Feat

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, saying that even if he director writes,shoots,directs and cuts, they will still need actors in front of the camera, and that is collaboration. While this is a valid point, the auteur theory is quite an interesting one. But to the proponents of the Auteur theory their idea of Auteurism was to make a distinction between films and the films that are worthy of serious study, making them unique in style and voice.

I personally agree with it, especially the auteur’s creative voice is distinct enough to shine through studio interference and the collective process

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 color,the kind of characters that always appear in their stories, recurring themes

Which leads me to the question. Do we have Auteurs in Nigeria? Nigerian Born, but not Nigerian based directors like Andrew Dosunmu and Newton Aduaka can be said to be auteurs but how about those living and practicing their craft in Nigeria?


“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 dont 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 rhethorical question. I really want to know them cos they could be flying under a radar cos cinemas and marketers just dont know what to do with the types of films they make.

The aformentioned names have all significantly contributed to cinema (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 popular culture can not be denied.

Their voices are able to stand out in a marketplace that is flooded. Their films have a distinctive flavor 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? Where would cinema be if we didnt have The French,American,Asian new waves? Dogme 95, Italian Neo Realism, German Expressionism. All the work of mostly auteurs , who wanted something different and put their stamp on it. While commercial filmmaking that explodes the box office is what keeps the doors open and the lights on, Auteur filmmaking is what keeps it an interesting artform and mode of expression, and while there are lots on non auteurs with interesting and uniques work, there is a reason that the Fela Kuti,Basquiat,Hendrix,Muhammed Ali,Michael Jordan all stand out in their fields, they werent just great, they were unique and their work is studied for its contribution.

A lot of new voices are rising in the Nollywood filmscape;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.

QUESTION : Do we currently have Autuers in Nollywood and if so, who are they ?

Martin Scorcese on Citizen Kane

My Previous post talked about watching cinema of all era, and studying them, doing this would not only make you appreciate the role of a director but also learn techniques from those that have gone ahead of you. Peak performance coach Tony Robbins ususally say “Success leaves clues”, find someone that has done what you want to do and follow it, like you would a reciepe.

Here is one of the most respected and admired directors of the past 40 years, talking about what he learned from the classic and legendary “Citizen Kane”. If you are farmiliar with Marty’s work, you’d notice what he picked up and infused into his own work

Naija Nu Wave??

A few years ago on my graduation day from a “professional” course. I sat down shooting the breeze with a three fellow fresh graduates. The topic ,”Where do we go from here?” One of the guys mentioned film school and the long desire to pursue directing as a career. The Eureka moment hit me. I realised that all my love from writing since age 8, where i saw the pictures in my head and walked the characters through dialogue; my peculiar love for movies on TNT classics, were actually the early on set of cinephilia. A latent auteur stirring. It started a domino effect. An effect that sparked an active interest in the back story of film makers. I started to delve into the indie film scene, reading up on the usual suspects Rodriguez,Tarantino,Kevin Smith,Linklater etc . And somewhere down the line I started hearing the term “French New Wave”. I then saw the short film J Taime John Wayne, a loving homage to Goddard’s À bout de souffle aka BREATHLESS(1960) and the spirit of the French New Wave and i was like WOH.

The New Wave was a blanket term coined by critics for a group of French film-makers of the late 1950s and 1960s.

Pioneered by film writers like Francois Truffat,Jean Luc Goddard Claude Chabrol ,Jaques Demy and others these directors radical experiments with editing, visual style and narrative part of a general break with the conservative paradigm. Using portable equipment and requiring little or no set up time, the New Wave way of film making presented a documentary type style. The films exhibited direct sounds on film stock that required less light. Filming techniques included fragmented,discontinuous editing, and long takes.

The new wave directors studied the work of western classics and they then went on to execute new avant-garde stylistic direction. Lacking funds,studio backing and a structure like their American inspirations their low-budget approach helped film-makers get at the essential art form ,innovation made them much more comfortable and honest form of production

Many of the French New Wave films were produced on tight budgets;Since they couldn’t afford to hire locations they cut costs by shooting in friends houses. The directors often hired their friends as the cast and crew further cutting costs.

Their guerilla style involved a lot of improvisation eg wheel chairs and shopping carts as dolly. Shooting on film didn’t come cheap,and so it was a major concern; thus, efforts to save film turned into stylistic innovations. Their final films took the world by storm and are still highly treasured in the hallways of cinema.

Some of the films brought about by the Wave are; Breathless,Jules Et Jim, The 400 Blows all considered classics all massively influential on some of the hottest and most successful directors today. In fact Quentin Tarantino was so influenced by the Wave that he named his production company A Band Apart after one of the films of the Wave.

I see a lot of similarities between the French New Wave and the gradual rise of the Nigerian auteur. A new generation of film makers dissatisfied with the status quo. Passionate cinephiles who are out to make their stamp in the world of cinema.

Like the obstacles the French innovators faced, there is little or no funding,no studio system ,problematic and tight production but a lot of heart. At the inception of the Wave, Goddard and others formed the auteur theory which holds that the director is the “author” of his movies, with a personal signature visible from film to film. This perspective inspired them to make their own films. Influenced by the works of Orson Wells,Alfred Hitchcock,John Ford and others, and they went on and created their own unique voices.

Similar to how those French Pioneers were influenced by legendary film makers of the 50’s and 60’s, the new generation of Naija film makers are influenced by a diverse variety of directors like Robert Rodriguez,Martin Scorsese,The Coen Brothers,Pedro Almodovar,Woody Allen,Chan Wook Park,Quentin Tarantino,John Hughes,Frederico Fellini,Guy Ritchie,Akira Kurosawa,John Woo,Ingmar Bergman etc

With no funding or any access to sponsoring,which many of their European and North American contemporaries have, they take a page of the book of Goddard and write within their means. Using innovation and clever methods to execute their vision.

There’s an interesting piece of trivia about the making of “Breathless”. Director Jean-Luc Goddard couldn’t afford a dolly, so he pushed the cinematographer around in a wheelchair through many scenes of the film. Many years later Robert Rodriguez would use the same technique while shooting his feature debut El Mariachi. If that aint innovation,slap me silly and call me !xobile.

So I’m asking myself, as a globally influenced generation of Naija film makers both home and abroad rise, is this a Naija Nu Wave? A rebellion and departure from the path that Nollywood has carved, the path that Nigerian film makers have been associated with so far?

From conversations I’ve had with several Naija bred and globally influenced film-makers, that time is like a pot of coffee that needs time to percolate.The beans are in and all that is needed is the water to reach boiling point and create a delightful pot of coffee for all to wake up and enjoy.

We aren’t quite there yet, but with the hunger i see in the eyes of many upcoming film makers and the passion i hear in their voices, I’m hopeful that it’s not too far. With budding auteurs both home and abroad with a passion for cinema and massive paradigm shift, it’s only a matter of time that it becomes the cinema equivalent of that great wave,the one surf heads dream about and for those lucky enough to experience it, go on to tell their grandkids.

How long that time would be? Well, i guess we will all just have to wait and see.

AUTHOR’S NOTE:
For any film maker reading this i highly encourage you to read up on the French New Wave, and get a hold of some of their movies.They are highly inspirational and an example of how innovation and creativity can pay off. Many of the films from the FNW are remembered and highly regarded more than some films with budgets 1000% higher than theirs. So, money does not always make the film but the innovation and creativity of the dreamers behind it.