The justified consensus is that 2018 and the first few days of 2019 have provided good moments for Nollywood. Our success stories have diversified, more than ever, from impressive ventures into under-charted genres; King of Boys, The Delivery Boy, Kasala, Sylvia, to continuous box office smashes like Merry men, King of boys again and Chief Daddy to laudable debuts from new entrants into the industry Payday, Kasala, Delivery boy to a slew of wonderfully executed experimental shorts.
The much talked about ‘gradual journey to the top’ is continually given further credence and indeed we all can affirm that the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel might not be as distant as we think it is.
Another notable observable pattern is the continuous delineation between filmmakers, aficionados privy to the capricious nature of the industry, and critics, popularly tagged ‘oversabis’, or just about any non-filmmaker with strong opinions about Nigerian movies.
The purported idea is that these outsiders know nothing about the industry and the struggles that come with making films so they base their observations on the idealistic notions propagated by the western movies, Hollywood predominantly. The suggestion that caps this response is to tell these ignorant noise makers to rent a camera and shoot the ‘oh so brilliant’ idea their advanced brains can develop, with the underhanded anticipation that they will fail to do any better.
It would be false to suggest that these misguided rabble-rousers do not exist. Thanks to social media, Instagram especially, we are availed the opportunity to see them in the full glory of their ignorance. Even words fail to mask the prejudiced and under-informed reviews and think-pieces they put up. Be that as it may, the misdeeds of a few shouldn’t paint an entire system in the light it doesn’t deserve.
There are a good number of critics serious about propagating a much more refined industry and they will not do this by renting cameras and drones to shoot their films; what they can and will do is scrutinize the movies with frank lenses and use their vast understanding of films to make observations and assertions that are intended to inform and guide. But these lots are attacked, underappreciated and cast aside by an industry that sees them merely as verbose distractions.
One wonders if there’s some sort of rivalry exists between the two fields. Probably, akin to sibling rivalry, one,more befittingly the filmmakers, the irritable elderly one, thinks the brash other is overstepping his/her bounds and needs to be told off. The truth, however, should be obvious for those who refuse to be sentimental: film making and film criticism are exclusive fields; whatever relationship between the two stops at the complementary level. One isn’t more important than the other.
There’s no use reiterating the role of filmmaker but perhaps certain nuances of a true film critic should be highlighted: he/she must be a cinephile, must be studiously addicted to consuming a repertoire of movies, and it’s from this immersion that he/she will know what a good movie is, what works and what doesn’t work for movies. The legendary Roger Ebert’s love for movies drove his manic consumption of cinema and it was with this fervor he critiqued movies, so much he was accused by many of sadism.
One thing, however, was certain, Roger and his contemporaries were notable vehicles in the development of American cinema. The sometimes acerbic nature of their criticisms was born out of passion not a fulmination of the bitter core that came to be after, probably, failing at the craft themselves. Attempting to point out what works, what doesn’t and then going ahead to suggest recommendations without a firm knowledge on cinema—that comes from an immersion in cinema— is silliness. Film criticism, not armchair reviewing or thought sharing, requires work, a lot of work, and intention.
The filmmakers insist that the reception of the audience is all that matters and while that is valid as film making, like any other venture, exists to entertain the consumer, it is quite simplistic and I daresay, dangerous for a growing industry like ours. The satisfaction with such uni planar arrangement, and obstinacy to shift stance is simply a hallmark of complacency and that is no way to grow.
If the audience enjoys your movie, you have certainly done something right and deserve to be lauded but why starve these people the chance to enjoy even better offerings that can only be if critics and ‘oversabis’ are given the chance to contribute.
An industry’s growth is shaped by a myriad of factors; notable amongst them is the combination of the evolution of filmmakers and the audience. The audience will only evolve when they are exposed and challenged by a variety of offerings (genres and forms). This diversification can only happen when filmmakers grow. Nothing will accelerate their growth faster than when their works are subjected to criticism and are told in glowing terms where they have messed up and what they need to do.
Nollywood needs to encourage not crucify the attempts at professional criticism if, indeed, the desire is to grow beyond outlandish box office announcements on social media that only substantiates a false sense of growth and security. It’s from the corrections and stimulated conversations generated by critics that filmmakers can improve. An improvement in the quality of the movies will hasten the evolution of the audience and then we can begin to talk about a possibility of a more rounded industry.
ABOUT AUTHOR: Isaac Ayodeji is a screenwriter, essayist and content creator from Southwest Nigeria. He blogs at ayodejiseyi.wordpress.com and works as a content creator for ContentDocks Nigeria , a video production agency (www.contentdocks.com)