Tag Archives: Film

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 .

Synergy : Working for the awesomeness of Nollywood

So a few years ago I’m on a break between shoots on a cross country road trip for a talent show i was working on; sitting in my hotel room channel surfing and I stumble upon the umpteenth episode of “Pimp my ride” in one week.

As usual they’re upgrading an old vehicle,or rather tuke tuke/jallopy and putting in all the efizi.

For the un-intiated,”pimp my ride” is an MTV show, where people with horrible cars get a free total overhaul, makeover if you will. Hosted by rapper X-zibit, a battered deathtrap which barely resembles a vehicle goes in the shop & a flashy ampped up Ride comes out.

The custom shop is armed with specialists for each & every aspect of the transformation of the vehicle. They got wheels,Paint,Interior,Electronics,Engine & Body experts each trained in the craft of those parameters. With a specific assignment for different parts of the transformation process each crew member brings his expertise to the table. Each person plays a part to this process.

This reminded me of the synergetic process of film making.

Film making is synergistic and has three stages. Pre-Production,Production& Post Production. All essential to the success of the final out come. But it all starts with script.

The writer is the architect who lays out the blue print for what we eventually see on screen. The story the characters the dialogue, the journey we embark on etc

A good script is VERY essential to a movie cos even with the greatest director and actors in the world. The wrong script is like a bad foundation in a house it will cave in on it’s inhabitants. Legendary and one of the most influencial directors of all time Akira Kurosawa said

“With a good script, a good director can produce a masterpiece. But with a bad script, one can’t possibly make a good film”.

Once the script is locked down the Producer looks for a director that can execute the material and once he does the pre production ball gets rolling. He begins to break down script and detail his vision. An assistant Director is hired to schedule the shoot of the film and make sure everyone and everything is in place everyday of shoot.

They begin to put together a cast . The actors who will breathe life into and interpret the characters .The director is assigned or depending on his clout picks a Director of Photography.

Now picking the right DP is like a wrestler picking the right tag team partner, if the fighter picks the wrong one he’s going to get his ass kicked. Also like a pilot picking the wrong co-pilot . The passengers better resign themselves to the reality that they have boarded the plane to their final destination.

When it comes to actors I’ll just go with the words of three legendary director. If you dont recognize the names, google them, because they are pretty awesome and they likely influenced a directorwhose work you love.

Half of directing is casting the right actors.” John Huston

An actor should be able to get the rhythm of the script,get the joke,sing the line. People like Sam Jackson&Chris Walken don’t grow on treesQuentin Tarantino

I believe directing actors is only really a matter of getting good actors in d first place then you just sit down and have a chat with themAlfred Hitchcock

Right now you are probably going , “i thought he said Nollywood, why is he talking about these oyibo directors “. Please stick with me, im getting to that…eventually.

Ok , lets continue.

With wrong actors everything falls apart no matter how great the script or talented the Director or anyone else on the crew. There has be synergy with the actors, the roles they are playing and the world that it’s set .

It’s not necessarily that the actor is bad, but they may not be right for THAT role,THAT character. Miscasting happens sometimes.

It’s said that a film is made in three stages .The script,the directing and editing and after principal photography is done we move to post production. Editing is another form of story telling and the way the footage is cut determines how the story is told and how we the audience feel ,connect and eventually love,hate or feel nothing about the film.

Another part of post production is the score. The over all musical character and life of the film. The rhythms and melodies that accompany the scenes,sequences et al. Those acoustic sensations that push us to the verge of tears when a character is in a deep emotional moment. Triumphant sounds when the underdog is about to achieve victory and makes us believe that despite the odds we can get up one more time and make it.

Remember how you felt when Rocky went the distance? The roaring score when he and Adrienne embrace after the fight with Apollo?

The awe when Superman takes to the skies after saving the day?

How you felt each time the Darth Vader theme came on and you knew he was making an entrance.

The score at the end of “The Usual Suspects” when Agent Kujan starts to put the pieces together as the mug drops in slow mo and Verbal delivers the last line and it fades to black.

The satisfaction you feel as the credits roll and the score plays on after watching a great film and you tell yourself “I’m getting this on DVD”.

Even the animes have made great use of this. Like the Naruto series. Scores for sadness,goofyness, rising action,expectation etc Each character is even assigned their own score unique to their personality.

A great score adds another layer on the impact will have on the viewer achieving synergy with the rest of the film.

Most movie fans instantly recognise the James Bond,Star Wars,Pink Panther and Superman theme songs even though most of them were conceived over 30 years ago often resurrecting the memories of the viewing experience .

While on the project I began to whistle a movie score and my room mate’s ears arched up. He recognized the song immediately and said he hadn’t heard it in years. It was the score from Speilberg’s War movie “Empire of the Sun”. He last watched the movies as a child. Never underestimate the power of a score.

The work of an art director is another vital role to the creation of the world of the story. They create the rooms,apartments,rendevouz points, and offices of the characters which lend authenticity to their personality and socio economic level . They help the director make the world of the story and character believable.

Without great art directors the worlds of: Gladiator,Star Trek,Star Wars,James Bond, Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings and many others would have remained just in the head of writer and director.

They and their team of set designers,armory,wardrobe,make up,props department and many others make the past,the future and fictional worlds possible on the silverscreen.

EVERY JOB ON A FILM SET, NO MATTER HOW “SMALL” OR UNRECOGNIZED IT’S TITLE, IS IMPORTANT, SO DO YOURS EXCELLENTLY

All those roles come together to make the final product and great synergy is required. Film making is truly one of those field where the chain is as strong as the weakest link and as possible it for the other links to compensate for the weak link. Everyone has to do their part for the whole process to work.

Picking the right team can make or break the film and the director is like an Orchestra conductor who needs every instrumentalist to bring the best to the game to make the experience of the audience pleasurable. A football team is not only made of a striker, every other team member is needed to win, and working based on the managers plan is essential to victory.

Dont you wish this for Nollywood? Dont you wish all the references i made here were Nollywood films? Dont you wish we had the identifiable score, iconic characters who we can dress up as to costume parties? Put on t-shirts, make pop culture references. Characters we can quote ,monologues we can deliver at auditions.

To get all that we have to work for it, and the Good News is that , the only way is up. We are still relatively a young industry and with a combination of the internet and 100 + years of cinema, we have a lot of resources we can learn from and not have to re-invent the wheel. Their success and mistakes can help us skip several processes and stand on the shoulders of cinema giants.


DONT BE THAT CREW MEMBER WHO HAS TO BE MICRO MANAGED, WHOSE WORK HAS TO BE DOUBLE CHECKED OR EVEN RE-DONE. AINT NOBODY GOT TIME FOR THAT

Synergy is key to the future of Nollywood. No more solo flying, no more phoning it in, no we more trying to make it all about you and we REALLY need to put egos aside and glory hogging if we want to make memorable, long lasting films which have a long shelf life beyond its time in cinema.

Films which become cultural icons and inseperable milestones from moments in the life of viewers.

We saw how fans came out and mourned the death of Star Wars icon Carrie Fisher, who was the beloved Princess Leia to the world. The articles it inspired, the eulogies, tributes and memories shared. How she and the character inspired them and what she represented to their lives.

Same for Alan Rickman who was Hans Gruber to fans of Die Hard(1988) and Professor Snape to Harry Potter fans. We need movies, characters which have such powerful impact and we cant have that if we do half hearted work or dont put in our best in the projects we do, whether you are a Production Assistant, a Sound Recorder or Associate Producer.

When Synergy works it’s magical and when it doesn’t it’s disastrous and we all have tales of disastrous films we’ve seen.

2016 was a year of incredible progress for Nollywood, but we cant rest on those laurels because we still have a long way to go. We have to keep up the momentum and build on that progress till a point when making N200m is seen as underformance for any film.

Let’s make 2017 a year of awesomeness.

the uncertainty of film

There is a saying in film “Nobody knows anything”. Originating from William Goldman’s Adventure in the Screentrade, it basically means, you could have a massive budget,the world’s biggest stars, a great script, and award-winning director, and the film could still not work out. On the other hand you could have a small budget, no stars, a new or unknown director, and the film could be a massive hit eg Blair Witch Project,Paranormal Activity,My Big Fat Greek Wedding. No matter how well you plan, it’s still in the hands of the audience to decide the fate of the film.

Here’s what the director of two of the highest grossing films in history had to say

I don’t think you ever know things are going to work out in any endeavour in life and certainly not in movie ; and you can make a movie exactly the way you imagined it without any compromise and have it go out and fail in the marketplace because of some fundamental disconnect between you as an artist and the audience out there.

And that’s what we ultimately fear as filmmakers. We dont fear the fact that its going to rain and ruin a day’s shooting.

We fear the fact that our filter for what works for us emotionally and in terms of what excites on the screen is different from the audience at large. – James Cameron

james cameron

..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 ?

Preparing Nollywood’s future icons

I believe one of the ways to take the Film Industry to the next level is to begin to prepare the next generation.

How?

Introduce Drama,Video Production (Shooting,Lighting,Editing) and Creative Writing at the secondary school level. This way kids can start early and get a taste of what film production is like.

From Kubrick to Speilberg to Nolan they all started making films with their fathers’ Super 8 camera before they turned 13.  Writing, Shooting and directing films starring their sibling and friends ,they were able to make mistakes and learn from them very early which is why by the time they entered their 20s their skill set surpassed those that only began in their mid 20s.

Elijah Wood,Leonardo DiCaprio,Dakota Fanning, and many others all started acting before they hit puberty , putting on shows for family, acting in school plays, doing cute commercials, before landing professional roles as child actors and today are some of the best at what they do today.

With the democratization of filmmaking through the digital revolution, it really doesn’t have to be expensive , buying cameras and basic LED or work lights should be no different from buying lab equipment for Science students classes.

This introduction to secondary school syllabus could revolutionize the kind of films that come out in the next 20 years. Help kids see the film industry as a valid career option is camera operators, editors, cinematographers, screenwriters etc

Most directors,screenwriters,actors of my generation only started in our mid to late 20s after wasting many years in unrelated university degrees gathering dust in our parents houses. A vast majority have no formal education in film, and just stumbled into it and have been winging it since. This kind of introduction from an age as early as 15 can make a vast difference to the landscape of the industry in the next decade.

Through the 60-90s , the oil industry was the place to be, it was the promised land that student looked to ,hoping to have a lucrative career. Leading many to study engineering and other related subjects.  As things have drastically changed in the last few years , the value in the film industry has become more evident. Nollywood is an industry that has the potential to be one of the biggest employer and earners in the country. It needs skilled professionals behind he camera , who have been trained in each field.

While what they learn in secondary school wont be enough, it can be the catalyst that helps them start to build their skills early on , and decide to attend a film school, or understudy a director, cinematographer,editor,screenwriter etc early on , and not waste time getting a degree they will never use.

From some of the videos I’ve seen made by some pre-teen kids, made with just an i-phone, with no adult supervision,if these kids and many could hone those skills long before entering the industry. Be encouraged and have access to equipment , see it as a valid career and not just a hobby.We can expect amazing things.

What say yea?

I FIT DO BETTER PASS THIS ONE , NAH

 

There’s something about a feature debut that affects a directors career, sometimes that brilliant debut is what launches a director to getting any sort of project he wants to do. He’s given the keys to the city and it becomes his play ground. People like Tarantino and Soderberg experienced this when they arrived on the scene in the early 90’s. A brilliant feature debut, kinda says, look at what this guy achieved first time out, what else can he do? Let’s give him some money.

The thing about young film makers, the real hungry ones, that live and breath film, they are really eager to come out with something. Sometimes , it’s literally a painful experience for them, when they see some films come out, and they feel, i can do this, i could do better, or they just beat themselves up for not having made a feature to show the world what they can do. This tends to lead to making a film for the sake of making a film, just to have something in the festival circuit, just to have something to show, even if, it’s not what they really wanted to make, but a mix of desperation, anxiety and maybe a little insecurity leads to such a decision. While for the most part, it’s a desire to launch their career and have a calling card to show potential investors or clients,sometimes it doesn’t end in the result they so desperately desired. 

Thinking about that scenario made the quote below all the more poignant

This is my own personal philosophy about first films. I think first-time filmmakers should make a film when they’re ready to make a film and when they have a film that they’re dying to make. I think the worst reason to make a film is just to go out and make one—or because you want to go to Sundance, or you want to be like Quentin Tarantino. The reason to make a film is because you have a story you want to tell, you have something you really, really want to say. – GREGG ARAKI

What do you guys think? What do you think of making a movie just for the sake of getting something out there ? Pls leave a comment. Cheers 

WHEN YOU’RE GONE

So, i was reading a blog by Seth Godin (brilliant mind, great writer). And there was an entry titled

The best way to be missed when you’re gone

“Is to stand for something when you’re here. Works for people, works for brands”.

Now, he’s talking about brands and marketing, but in my case, and in my current thinking, i applied it to film making and writing(my first love).

A few weeks ago a programme came on TV,talking about how Shakespeare plays were being reset in a  African setting by African thespians in diaspora. It really struck me. Shakespeare has been dead for several centuries now, but yet, his stories remain so relevant, to many cultures he may never even heard about.

In the 20th century alone, there were countless incarnations, retellings and simple renditions of his stories, both on and the stage and screen. Makes me wonder , if he knew his stories would transcend over a 100 years on.

Then later on, the Sight&Sound list came out , and Citizen Kane’s reign of over 40 years at the number one spot , was toppled by “Vertigo”, another film that is over 40 years old.Several of other Hitchcock films are highly regarded classics, and just a few days ago his post humous 113th birthday was acknowledged by fans worldwide(just shows how much awe and respect he is still regarded in) 32 years after his death.

It initiated another thought. There are film makers out there churning out movie after movie, sometimes 3-4 (or more) in a year. Now, while they may make a killing at the box office,in the next 5, 10,20, 50 years, how will those films be seen? Would anyone remember them? Would they be stored on the virtual holographic cloud drive of future generations 25 years from now? Will they have film school students, in awe of what you were able to achieve, analysing it to see what they can pick up? Would it just be a great oldie to watch and be entertained? Would it have film fans and critics pontificating about your work as a film maker. Or literary stalwarts , chat over coffee about your great writers voice. Do you really want to make a film, that people may enjoy, but never desire to own or see again and quickly forget by the time another movie comes out?

Not everything we do as artists, is going to be a masterpiece. Not everything will enter the annals of what is deemed as “classic”. Not everything has to aim to be an award winner or critics choice. There are many pop corn/escapist books and movies that transcend generations. However, i think we should aim to create things that would enable people to remember us when we are gone and continue to enjoy our creative output centuries after we are laid to rest. After all, isn’t that why we are artists?

 

Having Fun Idiots???

I’m worried, im seriously beginning to get worried. As a huge film fan and as a budding director , bidding his time to a feature length directorial debut, some of the things I see, read and hear have taken the jelly out of my doughnut, or at least threaten to do so.  There seems to be this idea about what an African film should be, or what kind of films an African film maker should make.  Now I’ve touched on this topic before, but the pot has been stirred again from some articles i recently saw on African Film Making.

It seems the world and the international film community , have certain expectations of what films should come out of the African continent, or even from any film maker that is genetically African, even though they do not reside or have never resided in the continent.

All films have to be about some social issue in the continent. Now these social issues could range from War, Poverty,Tribal issues, homosexuality and the African reaction to it. Forced marriages etc. As for those that live in the west, the central issue seems to be immigration. A story about an African immigrant, who is either hiding, barely adjusting, living below the standard of his education or socio economic background in the new land, due to either immigration issues, or lack of work. Etc .

Now, don’t get me wrong, those are necessary stories to be told. There are thousands of people going through those things, and attention needs to be drawn to them, but does every movie by an African have to be a heavy social message?? Don’t  we need a bit more variety and diversification? Movies which are just pure entertainment and a good night at the cinema? Life is hard enough as it is, we don’t need EVERY film reminding us about the difficulties that happen. We certainly don’t need to keep showing the world all out baggage.

Ok, there are several African films that are by no means social or message filled, a simple visit to the video store offers ,various exhibits, however I am referring to those films that make it to the global stage. Those that make it to festivals and sometimes receive some level of distribution in the cinemas are usually the type I am talking about. 

Let’s look at African cinema’s closest counterpart, Bollywood. For many years, and even till now, Bollywood and most of indian cinema, was known just for love stories, indian remakes/interpretations of American movies. However in recent years they have started to do a variety of different films. One of them which I came across a short while ago is 3 IDIOTS, which is where the title of this write up comes from.Now, don’t be deceived by the title, this is not some indian take on Dumb&Dumber or The Three Stooges. It’s a brilliant film that charts the life of 3 friends through their university education. I have to say, it has become one of my all time favourite films , and that includes a list that contains; The Godfather, 12 Angry Men, Die Hard, The Matrix, Arsenic and Old Lace,Rear Window and Back to the Future.

It has memorable characters, a great story line , brilliant performance and heart-warming moments. It’s a movie that everyone that I know who has seen it, has only great things to say, even those that never normally watch subtitled movies. 3 Idiots is entertainment at is best and is the highest grossing Indian film of all time, internationally. You know what else is remarkable about 3 Idiots? Even within it’s entertainment, it is highly informative, educative and affirming. It is chock full of life lessons which you learn consciously and unconsciously on the way. If you haven’t seen this film, i whole unabashedly recommend you track it down and see it.

From the film, we learn about Indian attitude towards education, career, financial security, family and marriage .Though not set in a village or with emphasis on tribal issues, or Indian problems, it is highly idiosyncratic about Indian lifestyle and behaviour without being heavy handed. All while discovering all these things, the fun never ends. Throughout the film it’s takes us on a roller coaster ride of laughter, joy, annoyance, fascination, contemplation, admiration and round again. By the end of the film , not only would you have felt a bond with the characters, you would have actually recognized a bit of them in your life.

In 3 Idiots, the entertainment never stops to announce “Hey we are Indian, pay attention to these important things about us” . We learn all those things along the way, even without realizing it. Due to how well it was made, it has won fans of people all over the globe that have never watched a foreign film before, but may even begin to give a chance to films they never would have given a moment’s notice previously.

This is what we need to start aiming for as African born film makers. 90% of the films I hear about and see. Most of those that make it into the festivals are limited to social issues, heavy messages, which may thrill at the festivals , but dull in the cinemas. No one wants to spend a Friday night at the cinema being lectured or slide into depression. We should refuse to be pigeon holed into such types of movies, if we want to take things to the next level.

Director Roman Polanski witnessed people in the Death Camps during World War 2, he’s of Eastern European heritage, but yet you don’t see him making every film about those issues? Some , yes like The Pianist, but he’s forged  other classics such as Macbeth, Chinatown and Rosemary’s Baby

Steven Spielberg is of Jewish heritage, and has made a few films about Jews and the war like Shindler’s List and Saving Private Ryan. But he has also made films like E.T, Close Encounters of the Third Kind and produced films like Back to the Future ,Poltergeist and Transformers. Notice how diverse his film making career has been?.

Naturally, there are going to be some film makers, who intend to pass a message with every movie that they do. That is their purpose behind the camera and that is admirable and perfectly fine. Spike Lee did a lot of that early in his career and to an extent still do so, telling stories that he feels need to be heard. The things that appeal to Michael Bay would not appeal to Terrence Malik.

There needs to be a wide range of diversity coming from African film makers. Showing the world that we are not just one trick ponies. We can do different things or any genre as good as any of our western counterparts.  As film fans , we have different film makers that we expect different things from we anticipate Woody Allen, Chris Nolan, David Fincher  James Cameron and Lars Von Trier films for different reasons, because they do different things for us.

Some because they are going to be profound , some eye opening, some life affirming, and some pure pop corn entertainment. Being more specific and focusing on my own country, I look forward to the time , where like Hollywood had Hitchcock, Wes Craven, John Woo, Peckinpah and comedy etc  Nigeria would also have Masters of Suspense, Horror, Action, Comedy on a global stage.

A situation where due to our incredible indigenous features, they would read a script and think, ”let’s give it to Director from Nigeria that made that kick ass film”. A time they’d have such great box office from our films, that they seek to fund and partner on our next projects.

But that’s not happen if all our films are thematically repeating themselves over and over again. A one trick pony can only hold your attention for so long, before you move to something else.

Like the example with 3 IDIOTS, it is very possible to make a very entertaining film, which also throws a spotlight on certain issues that you want to address. Whether it be, intertribal marriage, gender discrimination, brain drain , poverty , corruption etc. I highly recommend the movies of Akira Kurosawa. He had a way of perfectly mixing the action with insight on Japanese culture and idiosyncrasies .His  films like Ikiru, Hidden Fortress  and  7 Samurai are perfect  examples .

Just to be clear ,there are many great film makers in the country that only need that “one shot, one opportunity, to seize everything they ever wanted”. But it seems international partners and some local only want to finance those message films. Either out of “safety” or being caught in the pigeon hole mentality.  

Let’s pray such young film makers can find financing that would allow them to make not only entertaining, but ground breaking films that go round the world. I everly remain optimistic, tap my heart and whisper, “Aal iz well”

Image