Tag Archives: Hollywood

#SPITTAKE – IT AINT EASY BEING BLACK…………IN HOLLYWOOD

Wow. Been becoming more aware of this condition ,and this video , takes it down, to the “ordinary” man. The guy or girl who may not want stardom, but just loves acting and wants to land great and challenging roles , playing fully dimensional characters. Gives credence to what Chris Rock said about Hollywood being a white man industry, and that is coming from an A-lister , so it must be much tougher for these guys.

Having grown up in a country that is more or less 99.9% black (doubt if other race make up to .1% of residents) i never really got the concerns, debates and why certain casting or lack of casting upset black folks in the US/UK etc.

This is probably a reason to appreciate that, at least in Nollywood, Black actors don’t have to struggle to be cast and while stereotype roles still exist, as writing,directing keeps evolving, maybe one day it can be a Mecca for Black Actors from all around the world.So lets appreciate what we have and take it to the next level. ‪#‎SpitTake‬

Sodas , Cyanide and Award Winners

So I heard this movie got a standing ovation at a festival last year, and also won a few acting gongs; I came across it recently and decided to check it out…2hrs into the movie the plot had barely kicked in, it had numerous un-necessary characters, and the title character had appeared for less than five minutes , this basically describes all that was wrong with it


“Drama that uses coincidence, rolls out a character for plot requirements or tosses in a plot changing detail for convenience looks shoody & contrived”- Michael Rabiger

I should have known better, since a previous film i had seen by the same Director had very similar traits, which even the star studded cast couldn’t save. Conclusion? Lets just say if i ever make the attempt to watch any film by this dude again, I will first have to find a KGB doctor to install a cyanide tooth I can dislodge at anytime while watching.

It then got me thinking. What is our standard in Naija or Nollywood? How do we determine what film is worthy of  an Award or even worthy of getting Nominated? What is the screening process? What is the benchmark for qualification?

Is it based on who submits their film?(or lack of better submissions) The popularity of the stars? It’s box office results? Or is it based on achievement in film-Making which is above and beyond the hundreds of other films made in that same period? Measured by strength of the screenplay, cinematography,acting,directing,editing ?

When films which are very formulaic and follow EVERY cliche of its genre, get nominations and go ahead to win, what does that say about the award body? That’s like a Mills&Boons book being shortlisted for a Booker or Pulitzer Prize.

What does that say about our perception of what is great or good, or worthy of accolades? What does that say about our capability or potential as film-Makers, when colleagues from all over the globe view the quality of what we award as BEST? Would they want to collaborate, co produce, recommend? How does it look to colleaugues from around the world when the kind of films we award, are the type that they dont take seriously from their own people ?

Look at it this way; Hollywood is the biggest and most visible industry in the world. It makes a lot of great films and also makes a HUGE share of crappy, average,nice but unremarkable movies, every year. Those movies don’t pretend to be anything other than they are, and they certainly aren’t praised, lauded or awarded.

The only awards they get are the Razzies,very low rating on Rotten Tomatoes(and mockery on YouTube); and though we know some Oscar wins are political, a result of award bait lobbying,pretentious arts. There is a certain level of quality to which you can’t deny in Screenplay,Cinematography,Acting and overall impact they reached in comparison to other releases.

What would you think if films like GI Joe:Rise of Cobra , Mummy 3 , Baggage Claim, This is the End or Twilight ; started getting Academy Award nominations due to popularity or whatnot?

Last year I treated myself on my birthday to the movie “2 Guns”, absolutely LOVED IT, Denzel and Wahlberg cracked me up, and i had a good time watching, but it’s not even in the same stratosphere as films that get nominated like “There will be Blood”, The Lives of others”,”No Country for Old Men”, or Denzel’s previous films like “The Hurricane”, “Glory” or “Malcom X” ..frankly i’d think the committee were on crack if a generic movie is even considered for nomination.

That takes nothing away from the film, it is what it is, just not remarkable to that effect, cinematic-ally, tonally or in any manner. It’s not that much different from other buddy cop movies out there, a black dude and a white dude paired together; Lethal Weapon, 48 Hours, and others.

Would the Oscars still have the same prestige if they started nominating films like Maid in Manhattan, or Why Did I Get Married or Ride Along?; as fun they may be to watch? NEVER, they begin to lose credibility when the benchmark is set so low.

While the enjoyment of creative works like movies , songs etc is subjective, there has to be a certain benchmark set and we can’t allow sentiments or “na our brother”, “he’s one of us”, to be our rating system.

Started from nothing ..now we here: Roger Corman

STARTED FROM NOTHING is blog series dedicated to the heros and icons of independent cinema. Those whose movies and stories of triumph over odds gave hope and affirmation to aspiring film makers, that they too could do it. Some of them went on to make some of the most renowned film of the last 30-40 years,some carved a niche and grew a following others simply became inspiration of others

Now there are many types of independent film makers these days, but those in this series are directors,producers that:

started their careers and made their first film with No Government Assistance, No Bank Loan, and No Studio Financing; but went on to fledging careers with, in some cases with both commercial and critical acclaim.

They either sold personal items, used credit cards , got money from family and friends or independently cut deals with financiers to get their first film made.

ROGER CORMAN

It’s impossible to talk about independent cinema, or indeed American Cinema, without talking about Roger Corman. He may not have started Indie Film, but he’s certainly one of the Godfathers or Dons of the movement.

Like many people in independent film, he did not study film. He was an engineering student , but soon realized like many creative people that it wasn’t for him. he graduated and went on to studied modern English Literature for a term and decided to become a screenwriter. He wrote his first script and sold it, but was horrified with the final result, he decided he wanted better, and set out to became a producer/director.

He hustled and put some capital together, and made his first two films as writer/director/producer Monster from the Ocean Floor(1954) and The Fast and The Furious(1955). The success of those two films he financed and directed on his own led a deal with American International Pictures(nee American Releasing) , he directed 53 films for them over the next 15 years.

With hundreds of movies to his credit, Corman is one of the most prolific producers the film medium has ever produced, and one of the most successful–in his nearly-six-decades in the business, only about a dozen of his films have failed to turn a profit. Corman has been dubbed “The King of the Cult Film” and “The Pope of Pop Cinema,” and his filmography is packed with hundreds of remarkably entertaining films, dozens of genuine cult classics.

TRIVIA: A running gag in Hollywood was that Corman could negotiate the production of a film on a pay phone, shoot the film in the booth, and finance it with the money in the change slot.

He has hundreds of films to his credit of varying degrees of quality,commercial success, critical acclaim and vision. Known as the King of B movies, his films aren’t exactly a benchmark for film-Making or production , making everything from High art to some say Trash, but he did it anyway.

If nothing else(those that dislike B movies), one remarkable thing about him is that :

“Corman has displayed an unrivaled eye for talent over the years–it could almost be said that it would be easier to name the top directors, actors, writers, creators in Hollywood who didn’t get their start with Corman than those who did. Among those he mentored are Francis Ford Coppola, Martin Scorsese, Jack Nicholson, James Cameron, Robert De Niro, Peter Bogdanovich, Joe Dante and Sandra Bullock. His influence on modern American cinema is almost incalculable. In 2009, he was honored with an Academy Award for Lifetime Achievement.(Culled from IMDB)”

If anyone started from nothing , to become one of the most respected figures in American Cinema, acting as the catalyst for the career of many of American Cinema’s geniuses today, it’s Roger Corman

TRIVIA: At the 1974 Academy Awards nearly every major category featured wins or nominations by “Corman School” graduates–those whom Corman had either started in the business or mentored early in their career.

The Film Brats and Rise of the Naija Auteur?

spielberg-scorsese-depalma-lucas-and-coppola

In the 70’s , several directors burst into the scene in Hollywood, Steven Speilberg, Francis Ford Copolla,George Lucas,and Martin Scorsese all came out, revolutionizing the cinema experience. These young men that alll just came out of film school with fire in their belly set Hollywood on fire. Speilberg and Lucas created the summer blockbuster with JAWS and Star Wars, while Copolla and Scorsese showed directing at it’s best with films like The Godfather and Mean Streets. They changed the game gave cinema goers things they had never seen before, forever influencing the next few decades of film makers and changing the cinema experience. 

In the 90’s, Tarantino , Steven Soderberg, David Fincher,David O Russell came on the scene. Creating cinematic milestones like Pulp Fiction, Out of Sight, Fight Club and Three Kings. They have gone on to become some of the most anticipated directors, fascinating a legion of fans and a whole new generation of 

2013 has been quite a year so far in the Nigerian Movie scene. The AfriNolly competition which surfaced in late 2012  inspired and revealed a lot of budding and talented film talent of Nigerian heritage, both home based and living in Europe and North America; bringing to the surface a lot of short films that would have gone unseen and probably would have floated under the radar. Even some films that didn’t make the final top ten, still fascinated all that watched them and showed that they had unique voices that needed to be heard. 

Now that it’s back for a second season, it would be interesting to see the new voices that it reveals.

Just like those 5 friends lead the pack to revolutionize Hollywood, directly or indirectly this short film competition, others like it and the rise of webseries are revealing some of those that are going to be major players in the next few years. I for one wait wth excitement to see what this year would have to offer.

PS – From the few directors that have exploded on the scene in the last few months, with shorts, webseries and feature films, are there any you feel will do what these five did for Hollywood. Who are Nigeria’s 5? Are they here? Or yet to arrive? PLEASE COMMENT. THANKS

Abeg Sharapp, Which one have you made. Mscchewwwww, Hater.

So it’s been a while now, that the world of film said adieu to Roger Ebert, the man that was the poster boy for film criticism. Now, that word critic usually has a negative interpretation to most minds, but I took a look at a dictionary definition which said

 

“a person who judges the merit of literary, artistic, or musical works,  especially one who does so professionally”

 

His reviews or critics of films were highly regarded and anticipated, personally i didn’t agree with several of his reviews that I came across, but that does not take away anything from his contribution to American and indeed global cinema.  

 

This then got me thinking; does Nollywood need its equivalent of a Roger Ebert? A journalist with an encyclopaedic knowledge of movies, that can watch a film and analyse its merits and faults, from the writing, directing, performance and technical aspects, and then compare it to either the film makers previous work or other similar films? 

 

As I said, I don’t agree with some of his reviews I’ve read, but I do think, he probably made some filmmakers sit up, and drive traffic towards some films.

 

Now, some film makers say, “I don’t make films for critics I make films for audiences”. TRUE, but you also have to realize that many film critics are also film lovers, after all, they  loved film enough to make a career out of watching and writing about them; so they too are part of the audience.

Does Nollywood need voices like Ebert, to review and exalt great films, thereby driving more traffic and appreciation for a well-made film, and critique on films that weren’t well made, so that the film maker can avoid repeating the same mistakes on their next outing?

From what I’ve discovered, criticism is seen as a form of hate or jealousy when it comes to Nollywood films (sometimes it really is hate). In fact, anyone that does not praise a film and has some downsides to point out, is seen as a hater. I visited some blogs that review Nollywood films and from the comment section of some films this is what I gleaned;

…..i guess you are a failed director, who is only beefing…..

All these fake ass failed filmmakers and actresses coming here to spew crap because they could not get roles in any of these people’s movies…… 

Naija people, u too get mouth jor… I’m sure none of u can even write a script not to talk of producing… Y hate?

Why does the immediate response to someone not liking a film be deduced as hate? 

Sure, there will be people that are venomous and negative without any objectivity,and truly just want to hate on anything Nollywood, but that’s not everyone.

Does a viewer have to be able to act, write or produce before having the right to say he/she didn’t like a film or wasn’t convinced, especially if they paid to see it ?

EVERY film industry has The Good The Bad and The Ugly. Hollywood has it’s share of crappy movies, and the critics dont hold back in telling them so. There are films made by even great directors that for some reason or the other come out as less than stellar.

Is ALL criticism hate or can constructive criticism or feedback, enable a film maker to improve their craft?

Pacino and DeNiro are considered to be two of greatest actors of their generation, but even they have had films that were so bad, that they’d rather forget that they made them. Yet, take a look at the most highly regarded contributions to American cinema and each of them has at least 4 performances listed there.

Does their being great exempt them from being shafted by the critics? Nope, it makes them even a bigger target because EVERYONE has very high expectations from them.

In the literary world Ben Okri , Chimamanda and all writers have editors, who read their manuscript and give them feedback, pointing out things they have to change, improve or take out of their story during the writing process. Some of which they may not want to hear having worked for weeks or months on that draft. But the editor wants the best they can give, and the process ultimately yields a better book.  When the book is released, reviewers give their feedback, some of which is good, some of which is bad. Some can be accepted and used, others completely disregarded.

Are there times that we trust our gut instinct and stick to our guns? YES, ABSOLUTELY.

Are there times where it truly is HATE and BILE that a critic is spilling . YES

Do we listen to ALL of it? Absolutely not. Some will just be ignorant rambling. Some are actually just negative and never have anything good to say and it’s like a sport to bash certain films.

But SOMETIMES , a review/critic, truly has valuable feedback, that can make the next film, much better. Sometimes, they really did go in with great expectations and are let down, and because they love the previous work of the producer/director, they’d like to see better on the next outing.

Does it make a bad review easier to swallow? Not really,(actually NOPE, it’s like being told your child is ugly and cosmetic surgery can’t even help) but medicine rarely is, even when it’s intended to make us better.

Another popular response is “which one have you made?”.

While that may be a valid question to another filmmaker, it’s quite an absurd question to ask a regular viewer. If a man that wants to buy a car, takes it for a test drive and changes his mind cos he doesn’t like how the car drives, won’t it be absurd for the salesman to ask “which one have you made”?

Or

Imagine you eat something new at a 5 star restaurant but don’t like it, maybe it’s too spicey, not spicy enough, undercooked, or was just disgusting. Would “which one have you made?”  be an appropriate response from the chef or waiter?

Or, “Thank you for bringing this to my attention”. PS- If you think Nollywood gets a hard time, you should go to YouTube and check out CinemaSins and Honest Trailers, they really rip apart popular Hollywood films.

African American Actor, Isaiah Washington once tweeted : I’ve found that as an artist, that if you look at all criticism as “haters hatin”, then you’ll never learn from your mistakes and grow

Entrepreneur and Marketing Guru, Seth Godin said It’s people who have projects that are NEVER criticized that ultimately fail.

He also said

We’ve been raised with the false belief, we mistakenly believe that criticism leads to failure

Filmmaking is a BRUTAL and emotionally draining business. In Nigeria it is a 10x harder than in Europe or the US because of all the human and infrastructure nightmares producers and directors face, that aren’t issues in other parts of the world. It’s difficult to put your blood, sweat and tears into something for weeks or months and then have someone come and tell you they don’t  like it, or publicly rip it apart within seconds. But as creatives, we put our work on display for people to pay to watch, and be entertained, so criticism is sure to come, either softly or like someone taking a shit on your  head. I don’t think there is ANY filmmaker that has 100% acceptance or hits 100% homeruns in every game.

.From Spielberg, to Scorsese to George Lucas to The Coen Brothers, they’ve all made films that had fans go “Guy, you fall my hand”, “Dude, what were you thinking” Let’s take the case of  Woody Allen. Woody has made at least a film a year for 40+ years , in the 70’s -80’s he seemd he could do no wrong, making one critically acclaimed movie after the other which were also big with the fans. However in the last decade, most of his films failed to delight critics and fans. This is the  Woody Allen has had more Oscar Nominations for writing and directing (wining several) than any of the colleagues, plus he is listed as one of the 100 influential filmmakers in the world. So, review his case.Woody has put in 40 years in the business,has several classics to his name, more wins and nominations than many will ever receive, but still has critics, why will anyone else with less experience, less global success be exempt?

Here’s an interesting piece of trivia , : After he finished feature debut Boxcar Bertha, Martin Scorsese screened the film for John Cassavetes. Cassavetes, after seeing this film, hugged Scorsese and said, “Marty, you’ve just spent a whole year of your life making a piece of shit. It’s a good picture, but you’re better than the people who make this kind of movie. Don’t get hooked into the exploitation market, just try and do something different.” Scorsese’s next film was Mean Streets , which launched Scorsese on the path we know him for today.

Scorsese obviously took that advice, learned from his mistakes, changed his game, and went on to create many cinema classics, and today is regarded as the greatest living director, and one of the godfathers of modern American cinema. Just think, what if he has let his pride block him from taking that advice, or being so defensive that he saw Cassavates as “enemy of progress”. 

A child that ONLY receives praise and pampering from a parent, even when he misbehaves , will go on to be a menace to society, because he never received discipline and grew up with no consequences to his actions. An artist that feels he can just throw together anything and the audience will gobble it up is the same. Now, im not advocating, bashing a person’s hard work online, cos film making is HARD WORK, even those films that turn out not so good, took a lot of time and energy to piece together. But constructive feedback, just like a correcting parent, or a blacksmith with his hammer and furnace, brings out the best in the final product

. Without the feedback from Cassavates, Scorsese may have gone on to make ok, films, but may not be the legend he is today.

Should we now make films, and capitulate to please critics, NO. The worse form of censoring, is self censoring. If you have a core audience that love what you do, and a few people don’t like it for some reason, focus on your core audience and please them to the very core of their being. The Coen Brothers, David Lynch, Darren Aronovsky, Wes Anderson are all unique film makers, whose films are not for mainstream audiences, they have a unique niche that is faithful to them. So find that niche and stick to it. Is there room for improvement even within serving that core audience? MOST DEFINITELY,everything in life and creative outings can be improved.

Whatever your thoughts are on film critics and whether they are a necessity; as professionals and as humans,we should not bask so much in the chants of praise singers(sometimes sycophants), that they drown out the few voices that are trying to warn us about the career abyss we are about to fall into.

So,the question of the day, as an industry/creative individuals is there certain feedback which we are rejecting cos we see it as “hate”. Does the constant praise from fans, even for bad work,stiffle growth, and make an artist rest on undeserved laurels?

Thoughts please people

PS: Pls keep comments civil, topics like this tend to turn into a “let’s bash Nollywood match”. Let’s be cool, insightful and enlighten ourselves and have none of that bile. Cheers

When Holly met Nolly

Recently there has been an influx of African American and Diaspora based Nigerian actors to Nollywood for collaborations. Ok, maybe not an influx, actually more like a treacle, yeah, that’s it, a treacle of Hollywood actors.

From Hakeem Kae Hazim (24,Season 8),Kimberley Elise(Set it off,Dairy of a Mad Black Woman),Isaiah Washington(Grey’s Anatomy,Romeo Must Die) and the currently shooting adaptation of “Half of a Yellow Sun”,starring Chiwetel Ejiofor(Inside Man,Redbelt),Thandie Newton(For Coloured Girls) and Dominic Cooper(The Devil’s Double). The casting(of Newton) which set off a fire storm on the net when announced, but that’s a topic already covered.

Hazim was in Jeta Amata’s Black Gold(now Black November) and in Obi Emenloye’s sophomore outing “Last Flight to Abuja”. Kimberley Elise in “Ties that Bind” and Isaiah Washington in “Dr Bello”.

What brought them to Nigeria? Is this the beginning of new things? Is there finally a Hollywood/Nollywood collaboration? Or is there something else at play?

There are mixed opinions within the industry. Some are against it. Some are apathetic. Some are excited and see it as just a catalyst for bigger and better things.

A few people see it as naïve to believe that anything good is going to come out of this. Their opinion is that, the Western imperialists are doing what they’ve always done. Come to Africa , take advantage of our resources and leave us with the short end of the stick. Kinda like our oil situation.

Some see it as “has-been” American actors coming to Nigeria cos they can’t get work at home. Hence, they need us more than we need them..or in fact, We don’t need them at all.Howz that for National Pride, ey!

While each opinion deserves it’s fair share of consideration, each person has a reason for having such a perspective. Me!! Until proven otherwise I choose to drink the glass of water while the optimist and pessimist are still arguing.

Here is the kaleidescope I’m looking through:

1) With these collaborations, some of our actors who need to step up their game will be forced to for three reasons.

i) When they work with classically trained western counterparts, those less talented ones would see where they really are skill wise outside their protective circle of psycophants.

When they attend an audition and can’t pull off a monologue,and are promptly sent off, they’d see it’s not about being pretty and yelling about a cheating boyfriend or “you slapped me,Chidera you slapped me!!”.

Let’s face it , there are loads of people on screen calling themselves actors, with a gazzilion fans, that wouldn’t pass an audition for a high school play anywhere else in the world.

ii)Those that actually do have talent will still learn something,from the western counterparts. Who would have worked in more genres, diverse roles, and on action, high concept and epic films whose catering budgets could bank roll our persons last 30 home vids all their sequels, with enough change left to shoot 5 seasons of Tales by Moonlight.

iii) Working on a film that is shot within 60 days and one shot in 3 days have different discipline and approach. The actors will see the work ethic, expected performance and manner of shooting is different. So true ability will be seen, and much can be learned.

There will sifting of the chaff from the wheat and those with great looks, little talent and a lot of ego, could possibly reasses their perception of their ability when they can’t pass auditions or have to do 20 takes till the director is satisfied, when for years they’ve been used to just one “abeg make we do am comot” take.

2) When such collaborations reach the Cinemas in the west, those not usually exposed to Nollywood, could see the performance of certain actors and seek them out for jobs either there or when they have projects on the continent.

On twitter, Isaiah Washington raved about working with Genevieve ,stating something like “she’s the most professional actress I’ve ever worked with”, I forget the exact wording. (Na true or na wash na him sabi).

You never know who he shares an agent with, who that agent goes to lunch with or plays golf in the same club. Which producer/director will see one of our actor’s performance in a Holly/Nolly film ,and say “I want him/her in my next film”.; or that Kimberly Elsie won’t suggest to frequent collaborator, Tyler Perry,

“Hey I met this Nigerian actress on a film we did together,she’s brilliant, get her for the African role instead of getting an American to force a stereotyical accent”

6 Degrees of Seperation people!!!!

Loads of British Born Africans, are making it Stateside,playing all sort of roles. Idris Elba,David Oyelowo,Nonso Anozie ,Sophie Okonedo etc . With the right dialect/Accent coaches who says talented Naija actors can’t do the same?

3) If these films go on to be successful in the box office in North America and Europe,Hollywood studios could realize the market here ,see the investment possibility of funding films in Nigeria and setting up studios here.

MTV,TRACE and BET have come for music, so why not Columbia,Universal,Paramount,Disney etc for movies! Which can eventually inspire indigenous-ly set up studios.

Fox Searchlight, which is 20th Century Fox’s indie arm, already did that with Bollywood, “My name is Khan” being one of their co productions and It was a very good film. Why not in Nigeria? Who says it can’t happen?

4)Exposure to a broader more diverse global market and opening of possibilities for Nu Generation of Nigerian Directors. Those that are coming up and don’t have the ear of Alaba funders, nor the desire for such. There are a lot of talented young directors out there as evident in excellent shorts they’ve made, but no outlet.

Now, don’t get it twisted.

I’m NOT saying we absolutely need them to thrive and won’t without them.

I’m NOT saying that they are our only way out of the vicious cycle we all complain about.

I’m NOT saying that Hollywood is some sort of guardian or saving Angel.Far from it, they have their own many issues.

There are loads of Nollywood producers and directors who are doing well enough to reject any such offer,spit on it with disgust and tell oyibo where they can shove their collaboration. That’s cool. Elijah Mohammed would be proud.

For those open though,I’m just saying it’s an option worth exploring. Afterall ,we can’t keep doing exactly the same thing and then moan we aren’t getting better results.

If you have to get across the river , and a man in a speed boat offers u a ride as opposed to the canoe filled with holes and a drunk paddler you have, will u say “NO!!, I don’t want your help you decadent imperialist”. Ok, some of you might, but It all depends on the deal you make for yourself.

Several European film makers, got invited to Hollywood after making successful films(critically&commercially) at home.

The Swedish Director of “Let the Right one in” next directed “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy”.

The German Director of Oscar winner “The Lives of others” next directed “The Tourist”.

Bringing it back to “the motherland “, South African Gavin Hood, who won an Oscar for Tsotsi, went on to direct X-Men:Wolverine Origins

Ok, so some of their Hollywood debuts paled in comparison to the films that got them noticed. I’m sure due to interference by suits, constant notes/memos and little creative freedom. But the point is, They Got Noticed !!!! They got the chance to work with much bigger budgets, reaching a much wider audience. And with time will get that creative freedom or at least more wiggle room like Nolan went from Momento to Inception.

Who says that can’t happen for a Naija director? Who says a Naija based director with a brilliant feature can’t be handed a project like those?

Film collaborations between two countries is not a new thing. Britain and France have done it for years (Pathe and Working Title). The British and the Americans do it a lot. The Americans shoot A LOT of TV and film scripted in the US in Canada, hiring Canadian cast and crew, and thereby putting money in the economies of the cities they shoot in. Canadian actors get work,Canadian hotels and restaurants get business. Many of those Canadians became big stars in Hollywood Ryan Reynolds,Jim Carrey,Mike Myers etc While it may not work like this for “ethnic and exotic” actors. When you see people like Djimon Hounsou and others,you know it’s not impossible.

One of the belly aches about it is the financing. Whose pocket does the money go back into? Does it stay in the industry? Is it going back abroad?

Well, I guess he who drops the money gets the profit. If we financially co produce I guess that cuts a different deal giving equal say in profit sharing.

But in that naysayers argument or logic. They forget that a lot of crew and supporting characters will be Nigerian,as is happening currently in the “Half of a Yellow Sun” shoot. Now, I don’t know about the DP and above line crew members, but as we show we are as competent as them, they’d realize it makes more financial sense to hire indigenous DP,AD,2nd Unit Directors etc who can do the job just as good. Fing Fang Foom,Hey Presto!!!, Jobs for awon boys. (In absence of politicking,neo colonialism and tribalism)

It may be a phase,it may indeed be an imperialist move. They may not be coming here out of the goodness of their hearts,(after all,it’s called Show BUSINESS not “Save the Nigerians”).

Yes Hollywood is cut throat and a lot of the time is only out for the bottom line, but isn’t that the same thing here we “artists” moan about.

So for the time being,I’m gonna chose to be naïve as some call it, and focus on the hypothetical possibilities it could bring to the industry, for talented upcoming film makers and actors.

Cinephile Rant:What’s an African Story??

Im a Cinephile, phewwww, there , i said it.  i LOVE movies, there are few other things i love more than a great movie. In addition to that i’m a film maker myself , so talking shop about movies  the  movies i’d love to make,the one’s i wish i had made and the directors i admire is one of my favorite past times and something i often find myself doing when i get with fellow cinephiles.

When i express the desire to make certain genre specific films ,  with  stylized dialogue, pop culture references, every once in a while i’ll get some Afrocentric Malcom X  type that says “As an African, you need to tell ‘African’ stories, tell “our stories/culture”. This has increasingly begun to get me peeved.Why!! Because it presupposes that there is something specific that is an African story.

What exactly is an African story, and why should i be restricted to this? Should creativity or artistic expression be limited to your genetic code, culture or geographical settings? Is an Artist born in France only limited to drawing the Eiffel Tower, Croissants,Stripped shirts and Marie Antoinette. Is a German writer bound to only write about WW2, German engineering, and skinheads????.

It reminds me of a time a friend was mad at MTV Base when it first came out. Mad at their assumption that because we were African we only listened to Hip Hop and R&B ,and therefore they never showed any Rock or Alternative music.Should creativity be limited only to what one has experienced or sees around them?

If George Lucas had stuck to this “your culture” babble he would never have created the Star Wars franchise, there would be no Superman, Lord of the Rings, He Man, Robocop or any story beyond human experience

So what is the definition of an African Story?
Is it one set in Africa?
Is it one that tells of a historic event or historical figures?
Is it something that puts African traditions and culture on display?
Is it one that involves out fore fathers , mythology and superstitions?

Is it one from South Africa ,Kenya , Nigeria or Sudan. If there is an African Story is there also a European story, that British,French,Italian, Russian film makers have in mind and should tell?

Is the African story that which Hollywood has portrayed in films like Amistad, The God’s must be Crazy , I dream of Africa. Those films that give westerners the idea that we all run around in loin cloth chasing wild animals and retreating to out huts.  Or is it those War child,Famine,poverty, martyr boring ‘African’ movies that win at festivals but you wouldn’t want to watch at the cinema even if they gave you a free ticket , pop corn and a massage.

I suppose Native American film makers should only make films about Tepees, Totem poles,Peace pipes, performing rain dances and being chased by cowboys.

When you talk with some people about making a film.You get excited , cos it’s inspired by a classic, it has stylized dialogue, great sequences and enough pop culture references to blow QT’s and Kevin Smith’s collective load.  They start to push , an African Story agenda on you. “That’s not African,you have to make an African Movie”. You have to make something bus drivers, area boys and people in the village can enjoy. By the time they are done, they have watered down every creative juice from your idea and it is a bland,dull semblance of it’s former self. An emaciated version which you’d cross the street to avoid.

But let’s really take a look at this from a Global point of view. Tarantino has Italian roots, Guillermo Del Toro has Hispanic roots,Hitchcock was British and Truffat was French, all great directors from diverse cultures.But you never see any of them , making films that say “hey , look at me, this is my culture.And i hardly think when picking projects , any of them thought, “Hmmmm. Let me tell them, my Italian,Hispanic,British or French story”. Nor do the fans, go to the cinema thinking,”i want to see a European story”.

I, like many others grew up reading books by foreign authors like Enid Blyton, Roahld Dahl, Judy Blume ,Alan Ahlberg,Dr Seuss etc Not for a second did i read the back of the book and say ,”Huh, that’s a good British/Swedish story, let me read it”. The one and only thing that drew me were the characters,the story, the plot and the reading pleasure i perceived I’d get from reading them.

Also as a cinephile i love a wide range of movies. From the works of Frank Capra to Hitchcock to Woody Allen to Guy Ritchie etc . They make great movies, which you can enjoy regardless how different your culture is from theirs. It never feels like you are being schooled on their culture. The engaging story with interesting characters is what grabs the viewers attention, and if we learn something new about another culture , that’s great.

Now, there are specific films that are like constant exposition of a certain culture, which still manage to be entertaining . Usually stories involving ; Culture clash, e.g An Indian girl growing up in England wants to play football much to her parents chagrin . A wedding eg A Greek Girl marries outside her culture and the groom learns how bizarre their traditions could be.  Fish out of Water stories do this quite well.

If say, someone chose to adapt Chimanda Adiche’s book ‘Half of a Yellow Sun’ for the big screen, THAT would be a good telling of the Biafran Story, not only will it cover a significant aspect of history, but many traditions and cultures of the characters involved. Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart was a brilliant African story, the key word being STORY. It was a human story that happened to be set in Africa, and that is why it did so well. The events could have happened half away across the world ,granted a few changes here and there,but it was the human story, and not the African story that captured our attention.

Like in mythology, it’s the construction of the stories and the characters that capture us, and not necessarily their geographical location. For example, Shongo is a mythological god of thunder in Nigeria, but all the way over in Scandinavia , they have Thor, in Greece it’s Zeus in Roman mythology it’s Jupiter. Some could surmise that it’s all the same character seen from different cultural perspectives. Now, their geographical locations will affect the cultures they come from, and there is where the culture is put on display.

For example,if we properly wanted to tell a story “our story” distinct from a Western story, with elements of our culture;let’s take a coming of age story, with characters , say 12 years old boys.

They skip  going to after summer tutorials(lesson) to instead go shoot at lizards with catapults, throw sticks at fruit trees in a crazy neighbors house, and get chased, a general day of adventure and exploration.They are pre teen boys morphing into adolescence and developing new interests, and we see how it affects their friendship, as some mature faster than others. Wrap all those element around the story of one of the boys dealing with his father’s conflict with the extended family over his turning down of a Chieftancy title that could make them all rich because of it’s clash with his “western” religious beliefs, BOOM, there’s a story.

And things along those lines.
 

Many “African” films that manage to make it to film festivals , are , stating it bluntly, DULL . They may have great cinematography and performances,but ‎are more effective as Valium than entertainment, and won’t be flying off DVD rental shelves anytime soon. And personally, even the African American films,with themes that shout  “i am black, hear me roar”.”We are black here’s how we are oppressed”. Let’s put sentiment aside,i find them exhausting,a bit depressing and have no desire to watch them.

If instead of setting out to tell a good story, you want to force feed er sorry, i mean educate people on  “this is my culture check us out” , you might as well go and make documentaries for National Geographic or The History Channel.

Now don’t get it twisted, there are stories that need to be told. Historical events, both from the immediate past and from yesteryear. Figures in our nation that need biopics made about them. Dark stories of keeping traditions  that need to be brought to light so they are eradicated,  it’s not all about escapology. But, that all depends on the interest of the story teller. Directing is often equated to getting married, If one is not totally passionate about it, there is no point. There is a reason Michael Bay makes different type of movies from Michael Moore, or Kevin Smith from Paul Greengrass.

So i am not totally opposed to telling stories that inform both the world and upcoming generations ,who we are and where we are coming from. But back to the case at hand

We need to  tell a great human story that captures the emotion,and imagination. Whether it be to make one laugh, cry, shout or sit down and reflect, should be the most important agenda. Tell an engaging story with fascinating characters FIRST and then, the location,nuances, idiosyncrasies, slang and speech patterns and world view of your characters will represent their culture, THEN you have your African Story. KAPISH.