Tag Archives: Naija New Wave

Could this be the emergence of a Naija New Wave?

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

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

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

Started by two Danish Filmmakers , the idea was

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Their contribution to spark a change:

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

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

 

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

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

Nollywood New Wave?

Nollywood. We all know the story, well, most of us, ok , a few of us . A business man with a shop full of blank VHS tapes (look it up kids) decided that he wanted to do something with them, and had the epiphany to make a film. He put his team together, got his actors, had a script written and BOOM, the first Home Video was made and a cottage industry was born. Many saw the benefit and joined in, and out of the desire to use up video tapes, we birthed our own niche film industry. A few years later, the Home Video Industry (you forgot we called it that didnt you) was dubbed NOLLYWOOD and the name stuck, a brand name that would create superstars,(a few millionaires) adored across the continent and beyond by Africans.

Because there wasnt an abundance of funds, they had to use whatever resources were available to them , with low budgets, usually produced inside of a week. With it came criticism of the quality of some of the films , and the filmmakers responded with valid reasons. The budgets were low, no government support, no studios, soundstages or condusive shooting locations , you really couldnt expect glossy productions that could rival what most f us were used to from Hollywood. Could you?

REWIND A FEW DECADES

Across the globe, 1958 precisely, in formerly Nazi occupied France a group of young film critics got tired on the rigid and clinical way of filmMaking and the results that came from that type of filmMaking. They insisted on a naturalistic style, that broke many of the conventions of filmMaking in the studio way, from lighting to how the film was cut to the movement of the camera and awareness of the audience that they are watching a film. Thus was born , the French New Wave.

These rebels created a new cinematic style, invented breakthrough techniques to storytelling to express ideas important to them. Perhaps the most important and inspiring thing was that, they proved they didn’t need the mainstream studios to produce successful films on their own terms.

So you may be asking, what exactly is different about the new wave (and whats the connection with Nollywood) .What was it that made it different from other films, or every other film being made. here are some characteristics of the French New Wave

They replaced the glossy studio light with natural and available light.

From the early days of Nollywood, most of our films were shot like this, available light and unlike Europe we have tropical weather and great sunlight all year round. So this works for us.


French New Wave directors recorded the sound during shooting and did not do any correction
.

Ok, this one is a little tricky as it has been and still is a major issue for us. Bad sound which can be distracting, but if we can plan it to be part of the world of the film, part of the experience, it can work to advantage, rather than being a distraction or cringe inducing.

Low/No Budget Restrictions lead to thinking outside the box

The French New Wave emerged after World War II, France which had been occupied was still recovering, which meant there was very little money going into the arts, and much less going into experimental, Gung Ho filmMaking. So this lead to the filmMakers innovating.They produced their films on low-budget, most self raised and to cut costs, used friends apartments,houses, yards as locations. They also had their friends as cast and crew.

This has also been a staple of Nollywood. There is NO Nollywood producer that has not done this at some point. Basically any filmMaker outside the studio system even in the USA does this. Afterall, $30,000-$50,000 doesn’t leave much room for renting fancy locations.

The use of Hand Held Cameras, which freed them from the rigidity of the tripod. This enabled them to shoot easily on the streets, create tracking shots, follow characters wherever they went or create , create an intimacy of claustrophobic feel with the characters.

Goddard while shooting BREATHLESS pushed(and pulled) his Cinematographer around on a wheelchair because he could not afford track and dolly(and he wanted to shoot quickly)

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We’ve been doing this too out of necessity, or lack of equipment. I’m sure when we intentionally do this and have a narrative purpose behind it, the lack of funds and gear, would turn into an artistic and creative choice, that lends something to the story.

Improvised plot and dialogue As part of trying to keep thing natural and less like clinical military precision. Many films of the New Wave were not planned well before shooting and the dialogue was often change or write the same day it was read. Sometimes, the actors are giving the general idea of the scene.

This is something that has been done since inception of Nollywood, and still goes on especially in the Asaba and Yoruba films. It has a strong following and works for the kind of stories that they are telling.

The French New Wave emerged and influenced global cinema. Despite their limited resources, the films they made sparked the American New Wave, directing influencing the philosophy of John Cassavettes, Martin Scorsese,Francis Ford Coppola and later on Quentin Tarantino, Steven Soderberg, Wim Wenders and others. The finger prints of the French New Wave can be seen in films like Bonnie&Clyde, Easy Rider, Taxi Driver, Pulp Fiction, She’s Got to Have it etc

We have many of the same restrictions and limitations that existed during the French New Wave’s birth and how far Nollywood has come is a testament to how resourceful Nollywood practitioners can be. Now it’s time to further innovate and allow our creativity produce revolutionary pieces of art, that can make the world pause and pay attention, seek to emulate and maybe even begin, a Naija New Wave.

My Story

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From a very young age I was an avid reader, this extended to an interest in writing when in Yr5, we were told to write a story as a class assignment. That,was the spark that set my creativity on fire.

From that day i was consumed with the passion to write, It became my number one hobby, and even as young as 11 i had started writing a small novel.

Going into my teen years my passion increased, i dreamed of a future where i would be a novelist, like those i admired, but the Nigeria of the 90’s was not one that supported creative career, least of all one as a writer. So i took all science subjects , so i could be a “professional” in the future, but was miserable and the only thing that kept me going was the writing i did on the side; short stories which got good feedback from fellow book worm friends.

Fast Forward to my Bsc graduation day . I was sitting with a group of friends talking and one of them mentioned changing careers and going to film school to pursue his directing dream.That was when it CLICKED. All the stories i had been writing i always imagined them becoming films. As i’d write i’d see my self on set discussing the scene with actors.

From that moment i was fired up, i started to research on how to write scripts, watching every behind the scenes interview i could find; finding every screen writing article or fiction writing book i could lay my hands on. At one time i had to copy by hand a book on writing that a friend didn’t allow me borrow.

I regularly checked end credits of shows i enjoyed to see if i could send my script in and enter the business. I eventually did make it in as a staff writer on a show called The Station (thank you Lanre Yusuf and Ike Umeadi).

There i met and worked with Kenneth Gyang. We’d have extensive discussions on film and cinema then one day he screened “City of God”. That film was a revelation, it was not a Hollywood movie, and yet, this little film took the world by storm and create a buzz in the film community. We had been inspired by the story of Robert Rodriguez (El Mariachi) and Kevin Smith(Clerks) but this was something else. I felt, if our Brazilian brothers could make a film like that, why cant we?

I resumed my search for a film school and found SAE Institute London. Film School was certainly useful,but aside a documentary most of the work i did i was not happy with. I was depressed, my dreams of directing were becoming like an ice cube on the Sahara

Then one day i ran into a friend Sunny King, who i grew up with back home, but had relocated to the UK since our teens . We had not seen in over a decade, so imagine what it was like discovering we were both pursuing a career in “the pictures”.

We’d have lengthy discussions about movies we liked and where we saw Black,Nigerian and African Cinema going, even dubbing the change of pace as The Naija New Wave .

Our talks revitalized me a little, and by the time he made his short(SIGNS) where i was a Lens Visual Precision Adjuster( ok , i was a focus puller) and it got good reviews, i was determined to do something.

Like Kurosawa said, “With a good script a good director can produce a masterpiece, with a bad script, one can’t possibly make a good film”. Trying to minimize location and cost I wrote a script that was all dialogue and no story, naturally it fell on it’s face. I was beginning to question if i had “the right stuff.”

Two more friends from grad school made nice short films and i was mad at myself for slacking, and determined to try again.

Luckily this time, i had watched an old Hitchcock interview on YouTube and it completely shifted my paradigm, when he said, “tell the story visually and keep the dialogue to a minimum.”

I took that advice literally, wrote another script, and with the last few pounds in my account made a short film called BLISS. Recruiting a course mate from school as producer(Roberto Iacurci) we set a date and God willing the shoot went great.

We released it on FaceBook on vatlentines day, and for the next two months, we had comments coming in, the responses were very encouraging,people enjoyed it.

Too broke at the time (and too late) to enter for many film festivals, we got into the Corona Fastnet Short Film Festival , and got a Special Mention .

This revitalized me, and i realized all those disdained films were my REAL film school.

Like the Edison story about the creation of the light bulb, i didn’t fail, i learned several way how NOT to make a movie. They were my learning curve and made me realize just exactly what indie film makers and the one back home had to go through to get a film made and realize their vision, and how sometimes despite passion and best intentions, it doesn’t work out.

ON THE FUTURE

Nigerian cinema is growing both domestically and in diaspora. With films like Half of a Yellow Sun and Mother of George premiering at TIFF, Confusion Na Wa at Rotterdam , Gone too Far at the BFI and the trailers of historical dramas “October 1st” and “76” have also raised a lot of excitement.

It is very clear that Nigerian Cinema is switching into a whole new era and i’m excited for what the future holds

This is my short film BLISS.

Please check it out, leave a comment (on YouTube) and share. Thanks.