Thumbs-up for Lion Heart, October 1, a few others
Renowned writer and literary critic, Molara Wood, has lashed out against what she described as “celebrating over-dramatic, ham-it-up performances as great acting”.
Wood took to her twitter handle last week to criticise “films without vision, deeper message or underlying meditative thought” referred to as ‘masterpieces’. Her outburst has generated heated debate on social media lasting several days, intriguingly drawing attention to the oft- exec relationship between Nigerian filmmakers and film critics. However, Ms. Wood, a cerebral author of several books, insists that for Nollywood to grow and earn its place in the comity of respectable filmmaking nations, certain standards and ethical codes must be met.
“There is a certain anti-poor bent to the splashy new films being churned out by many Nigerian filmmakers that suggests that only the lives of the rich are worthy of representation in films.
“In the same way, scenes of wealthy characters and surroundings become substitutes for high production values, technical achievement in film making, lighting and artistic merit. A rich home with rich people does not equate production design, artistic direction, cinematography etc.”, the writer tweeted.
The culture critic, who has been described as “one of the eminent voices in the arts in Nigeria”, also took a swipe at filmmakers who prioritise profundity over professionalism.
In her words, “Many filmmakers get away with the superficiality because we have an audience that did not grow up watching films. Cinema culture was decimated in the 80s. There’s no cinematic frame of reference for many.
“We’re seeing films with little or no overarching directorial vision, or outstanding sweep of artistry, no setpieces, dramatic lighting, nothing in the way a camera tells the story or directs the eye of the audience. Some actors play themselves in film after film. We say, ‘classic’.
“What about sound? How many Nigerian films get it right? How many have heard that a film needs a score, beyond just being packed by the latest radio hits not specifically written for said film? How many contemporary setting films get costume right? A film should be a work of art,” Wood added.
She also berated the prevalence of exaggerated acting which, according to her, is capable of portraying the average Nigerian in a not-so-good light to the outside world.
“The preponderance of hyped-acting does not exist in a vacuum; it is not harmless. Watch the average Nigerian film, people are shouting constantly, even when it’s a regular conversation between a couple. This impacts how we are perceived and how we see ourselves, what we reenact,” she pointed out.
On scripting she said, “Before we even talk about the script. An endless topic. One thing only: if a film is packed with 100 Yoruba proverbs thrown up by a focus group and inorganically deployed in virtually every scene, often without nuance – does that in itself confer authenticity on the script/film?”
But she also has a word of caution for film enthusiasts and critics, urging them to be wary of films “falling over themselves claiming to be the ‘biggest budget film’ – biggest grossing film ever at the Nigerian box office.”
However, she also commended some films which, according to her, are meaningful in the art of story-telling.
“I’ve spoken before about some of the recent films that I found meaningful, in that they were really trying to say something profound and challenge themselves, truly, in the art of film. ‘Lionheart’, ‘Up North’, ‘October 1’, to name few. Even a comedy like ‘The Meeting’ stands out.”
On a final note, the author, whose works have appeared in numerous publications, including African Literature Today, warned: “But before you declare that up-and-coming director Nigeria’s soon-to-be oscar-winner, you have a duty to educate yourself as to what makes a film great. Watch Hollywood, yes. But watch French, Italian, Korean etcetera films too.
“Watch the world renowned West African auteurs from Mali, Senegal, Mauritania. Heck, watch our homegrown hero, Tunde Kelani. Immerse yourself. Don’t believe the hype. A film can be just for laughs, for action, a film is allowed to be forgettable. But not all films are great,” she concluded.
- Yinka Akanbi