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Opinion

Nollywood, African Cinema Cannot Afford Anti-Intellectualism

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By Femi Odugbemi

Let me begin by expressing my personal admiration for the Founder of the KAP Film/TV Academy, the indomitable storyteller, artiste, filmmaker, and creative entrepreneur Mr. Kunle Afolayan. In many ways, today is a celebration of his passion for cinema and his leadership vision. There’s very little accolade left to bequeath on the depth of his talent and the quality of the craftsmanship in his films.

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For me films like October 1, a personal favourite, is a classic and timeless work that I will always salute for its creative intent, layers of subliminalities and the power of its cultural authenticity and performances.

Thank you for pushing the boundaries of possibilities in our cinema, and for building your work as a Nigerian brand with a global footprint. I see the KAP Film/TV Academy as an extension of that ambition and I am excited for this first set of trainees who I understand have completed a course in Post-Production. Of course with the USC film school and Netflix Grow Creative as partners, the quality and excellence of the course needs no confirmation. To all of you who have completed this inaugural programme, I say well done and congratulations on your success and I hope you will extend to others the protocols and new insights you have received from this programme.

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May I also salute the Academy Director and the Faculty especially the Head of School, Prof. Tunji Azeez, my friend and brother. His contributions to many initiatives in the creative industry deserves our respect and much appreciation. I thank you for all the support you have given to us at IREP and I have no doubt that you will drive the vision of this Academy with best global practices.

When I asked Prof. Azeez what he wanted me to speak about here today, he sent me a text asking me to make a case for why we need training in Nollywood. That would have been easy. It is a case I have made for over twenty years starting with my tenure as President of the Independent Television Producers Association of Nigeria (ITPAN) in 2002-2006). We focused principally on promoting professional training for the industry and the ITPAN Training School Gbagada was very active and impactful.

Many of those who are leading practitioners in Nollywood today attended ITPAN’s training programmes back then. It is also well-known that the IREP Documentary Film Festival which Jahman Anikulapo, Makin Soyinka and I Co-founded has had from its inception a strong training and learning element to it. And for over 12years now we have trained storytellers and filmmakers as part of ou intervention to broaden our industry’s understanding of the Documentary genre. I have also been consistent making the case for industry training through many public papers and lectures I have given over my 30 years in this industry. Indeed my recent stint as pioneer Academy Director of the Multichoice Talent Factory West Africa is testament to my continuing commitment to that message, and I am delighted by the progress many of my proteges have made, and are making in the industry.

But as I considered the subject I realized that infact it would appear that the message of institutional training as an important factor to the sustainability of the industry, or as a response to improving the quality of the films we make, has been well-made already. Just a decade ago there were less than 10 proper film training programmes available in the whole of Nigeria. Today there are dozens of film programmes in Nigerian Universities and of course twice that number in adhoc programmes. There is general agreement that the quality of product needs to improve and that the opportunities of international exposure and distribution will come only with a certain commitment to global best practices in technical quality and artistic exploration.

So I thought instead of making a case for more training, perhaps the case to be made surround our individual and personal commitment as professionals to a learning culture. It is one thing to institutionally create knowledge platforms, trainings and schools. It is quite a different proposition for each individual professional to embrace the opportunities to learn. 

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Learning is a very personal mindset. It is a relentless pursuit of that which is the most excellent output possible in any area of occupation and a willingness to be humble and open to new dynamics in its pursuit. Learning is a lifetime exploration. For institutional training to be effective and progressive, the beneficiaries must esteem the learning experience as critical not just to their economic well-being but to personal growth as artistes and storytellers. It is that esteem for learning, for growth, for intellectual width that I fear is missing today in our industry and one that is desperately needed as a response to expanding training opportunities. Perhaps important industry milestones like today’s event offers us an opportunity to openly address the generally poor attitude to continuous learning within the industry and what I may describe as pervasive anti-intellectualism. 

Whilst the commercial success of Nollywood may have come through raw talent, street-smarts, self-education and hands-on practice, our ability to sustain and expand its gains lies in the humility needed to understand that the dynamics of change in the creative industries will always outpace its current trends. Whatever ‘expertise’ we claim from yesterday is evolving even as we take grasp of it. If there are any fundamental realities that undergird any industry’s success globally today, it is that it must represent its unique cultural stories in ideation and expression, it must be driven by technology in its execution and distribution, it must engage strong creative collaborations with others and the quality control mechanism of global best practices in the filmmaking process are non-negotiable.
The demand of these is that the sustainability of an industry like Nollywood which has grown organically and mostly through practice, will depend on its openness to continuously learning, unlearning and relearning. 

And the learning to which I am speaking starts from understanding the fundamentals of the craft, the fundamentals of the technology driving it, the fundamentals of storytelling as both an art and a science and the fundamentals of the matrix and strategies that inform distribution on the different emerging channels and platforms worldwide. Beyond the fundamentals, learning is also how we esteem new ideas and fresh thinking. The underground joke in many international film festivals is that Nigerians come to film festivals for shopping and long bouts of drinking at bars and hardly watch any films. We spend time constantly talking about looking for funding but we don’t network or meet other filmmakers from other film cultures to learn. Even the film festivals that hold in Nigeria and the learning opportunities that they offer are rarely attended by the majority of those who need it the most. It is often the same usual suspects that gather at these festivals, because most of our filmmakers imagine themselves as self-made experts and superstars who already know all there is to know about filmmaking. We hearWe them say things like ‘filmmaking is not about speaking big big grammar,’ or ‘I just want to shoot my film,’ as if the creative craft is some exercise in sewing or bricklaying. We really like award shows on the other hand because it offers the public adulation that soothes our competitive instincts. We are all for the show but we ignore the ‘business’ in show-business.  

The problem with that is that filmmaking and storytelling is actually a serious business of imagination and intellect because it is about ideas, interpretation and representation. Maybe that also explains why we shy away from the treasure trove of Nigerian literature books waiting to be made into films. We are too anti-intellectual to engage the themes and stories of our own literary heritage. So we keep making stories limited to our personal contemporary experiences and trapped by the limitations of our exposure. We need to up our game. We need the humility to learn so we can grow. A Learning culture welcomes intellectualism, a seeking to interrogate assumptions in the hope of entrenching the good and moving on from what does not serve the best Interests of our development.
It is about openness to alternative viewpoints and contrary perceptions. It is about avoiding negativity whenever accountability is demanded of our creative products. 

A Learning culture also means we understand that there are conventions to the craft of filmmaking that have proved useful to different storytelling genres. We have to learn them properly because those conventions are an unspoken contract with the viewing audience. You do not present a comedy film in dark high-contrast tones or score happy music to a horror thriller. Those conventions are established because they are tested by experience to line up with the best viewing experience for the viewer. To reinvent the wheel we must first understand its engineering and the thinking that established it. 

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Learning means we must be quick to unlearn what is not working and to accept with openness valid criticisms that question the basis of our creative choices or explorations. I am always shocked and amused at the reactions film criticism gets in Nollywood. Unless you fawn and describe a film as the greatest ever made, the feedback is considered a personal affront, an attack to destroy or outright witchcraft. Somehow we seem to think that the success of a film is simply that it was made, regardless of its quality or the idiocy of its premise. ‘It is what the audience wants’ is the popular knee-jerk reasoning for many of the really odd streams of storytelling that seem to recently populate our industry. We insist that the the same Nigerian audience who seem to binge-watch very complex and subliminal films and TV series on international platforms only want our films to be built on an implausible premise, lacking in any creative intent and framed around slapstick characterizations. I find it somewhat disingenuous. What is our role as artists and public intellectuals and philosophers? Films as cultural artifacts are timeless.

It unlikely that generations to come will easily accept or understand argument that the work to which we have put our name can only be referenced or understood in the context of audience demand in a period in time. Perhaps we may not yet have a proper and well-educated film criticism culture yet, but we must understand that we need one, and a vibrant and fearless one at that, if we are to grow Nollywood in the path of its best potentials. It is my hope that film criticism will be one of the courses offered at the KAP Film/TV Academy in the near future.

Finally learning means we are keen to expand the boundaries of our storytelling beyond entertainment to also edutainment and elevating the consciousness of our audiences through our stories and the characters we create. Storytelling is too powerful not to be more impactful than only to make our viewers laugh. We can open up their world and challenge their thinking. Our films should be the soft power deployed in our country against tribalism, discrimination, inequality, religious intolerance and poor governance. Nollywood, beyond its commercial success, must be socially and culturally significant to our progress and prosperity as a nation and as a continent. 

Nollywood and indeed all of African cinema cannot afford anti-intellectualism. We cannot build a truly impactful creative industry with filmmakers alone. We must open the windows so that light can come in. We need more thinkers, more researchers, more explorers, deeper themes and stories that incite debate and engage the minds of our audiences. We need a shift in understanding that celebrates and embraces how far we have come yes, but only in the awareness of how much farther we can go. And that the road map winds through our individual and personal commitment to a lifetime of learning, unlearning and relearning. 

***Odugbemi, fta. rpa, Founder/CEO Zuri24media Lagos, delivered this piece recently as keynote address at the graduation ceremony of students at KAP Film Academy, Lagos.

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Opinion

Kunle Afod’s wife, Desola fights dirty with his alleged pregnant side chick

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Nollytrailers-

Self-acclaimed celebrity wife Desola Afod had a messy fight with a female troll who claimed to be pregnant for her husband.

The troll had taken a swipe at her actor husband, Kunle Afod, who is known for his cheating habit.

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Mocking him, the troll claimed to be pregnant for him.

“Afod wey his dick no stay one place. We don born for ur husband”.

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Desola, who was left furious at her comment, didn’t hesitate to lash out at her.

She dared the troll to use her original account to face her.

Desola vowed never to leave her husband.

“You don’t have to use a false account if you’re bold. Even if you do….. I won’t leave him”.

This isn’t the first time Desola would fight dirty with trolls.

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Desola Afod knocked a troll who accused her husband of having an extramarital affair with a lady in Ibadan, Oyo state.

The troll wrote: “Why do you want to kill yourself for a man that does not LOVE you. Na only you dey love up and down. Which dirty Afod husband are you praising. That has another wife and in Ibadan and she is presently Pregnant and they both planning engagement soon you will hear the news”

Responding to the troll, Desola Afod revealed she would not leave her husband no matter the circumstances or his wrong deeds.

She wrote: Use your original account … make AFOD fuck your mama! Make every woman born for am … they will be slaves for my children and I won’t LEAVE HIM gan sef…I don’t need him to love me ..: as long as I do WE MOVE” she responded.

Desola Afod had blown hot at those spreading rumours about her marriage.

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Desola Afod, who always described herself as a celebrity wife, didn’t hold back at lashing out at those wishing her marriage ill luck.

Her outburst came after faceless blogger, Gistlovers exposed the dirty things the self-acclaimed celebrity wife put up with to remain married.

Gistlover described her husband as a public toilet who was fond of sleeping with his film school students, which Desola was fully aware of.

Gistlover slammed Desola for shielding and covering her husband’s numerous affairs.

The blogger also spilt on how Desola snatched Kunle Afod from her friend at a birthday party.

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The post reads,

“I never reach Kunle turn this one don dey throw shade wos wos wobi. Rutu aboko ku je ki Ori eh kope (make your head correct) your husband na public toilet even worse than Itele and him go face him warrant. All these your local caption won’t make any difference. Olorun ngbo. You wey dey do like werey wan die there. No be second wife you be ni. No be queen Oluwa born first born ni. No be for birthday you jam kunle ni. Na your friend him toast na you jump go collect number as you wan sha famz oko celeb of pikin no meet itan. Pikin go meet aroba dodo. Shey jeje ooo. You are shielding a man sleeping with his student just to give them roles this kind woman if you born girl and kunle put prick for the girl yansh you go cover am iku loma pa together forever. No be you I get issue with na Kunle. Stop doing like a razzo. Must you always show the Omo mushin in you. Take time oooo (Gentle warning). I come in peace”.

Reacting to it, Desola Afod shared a loved-up video with her husband.

Offering a sweet prayer for her haters, she wished them double of what they wished for her.

“May God give you double what you wish for me”.

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Stamping her grounds to remain committed to her husband for life, Desola did a loved-up video peppering haters of her relationship.

The celebrity wife used the opportunity to make a lifetime promise to her man.

“I want a lifetime with you cos I’m better because of you. Thanks for being supportive Baba mi”.

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Opinion

How cinemas and streaming platforms are influencing Nollywood

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By Elizabeth Bamigbade

Cinemas and streaming platforms have undoubtedly brought Nollywood to the door steps of many Nigerians and interested viewers outside the country.

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Nollywood is fast growing that cinemas have in recent times represented a serious factor of cultural globalization and streaming, on the other hand, has definitely changed the industry, especially in times when theatres were shuttered as a result of the pandemic.

There is hardly anyone without one mobile device or more, which makes streaming on the go easy, leading to the explosion, not only in Nollywood, but also in the Nigerian entertainment industry as a whole. So it is easy to say that these gadgets are a great form of conversion for Nollywood since they increase the numbers of movie clicks and views which positively impact revenues with provision for sponsored advertisements.

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The emergence of streaming platforms such as Iroko TV, Youtube, Netflix, Showmax, Amazon Prime, Ndani TV etc are considered as the new era of movie production.

Cinemas on the other hand brings people out in their hundreds with equal impact the movie turnover and also provide an avenue for people of different languages and culture to merge and form relationship.

However, this doesn’t come with its own downside. There is hardly an industry in entertainment that doesn’t contend with the issue of piracy.

According to the communication officer at TNC Africa, a film and TV production company, Dika Ofoma, piracy platforms that have been producing people’s hard work illegally to their audience and making money off are engaging in criminal act.

“Film makers are not making enough money here. So to see them lose money to piracy is painful. My fight is not with the people that cannot afford Netflix subs but at those who are making money off piracy”, said Ofoma.

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While a pioneer Nollywood distributor, Gabriel Okoye revealed that “Piracy made me bankrupt”. He believed that many Nollywood investors died young because of the frustrations inflicted by pirates.

Despite the negatives, many of the old film producers like Kunle Afolayan, the producer of hit movies like A Naija Christmas, October1, still believe that the best revenue model for Nollywood is one in which cinemas and streaming exits side-by-side irrespective of their differences.

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News

Yomi Obileye: Now death has stricken

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Oh my God! He was to be back on Palace set with us. I have been postponing speaking with him for the last two weeks. I planned to visit him after the lockdown.

Now death has stricken.

Uncle Yomi was a great jolly good fellow. He was with us in Tade Ogidan’s Hostages between the late 80s & 1991, a shoot that took us about two years to complete due to so many factors.

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We all just left Nigerian Television Authority (NTA) and Tade had kept the Hostages script with him for long, waiting for the opportunity that would make it happened.

With little money, Tade family’s saving (May God watch over baba, Tade’s late dad whose tolerance for our excesses was legendary) as we turned his house to studio, office making him to move from one section of the house to another for us to use any space we chose, even in his retirement. It was in the midst of this that uncle Yomi came in as part of our ambitious film before Nollywood was dreamt of.

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Having confirmed our decision to have him played one of the leads, Tade and l left Lagos on a Friday around 3pm for lbadan. We traveled through Abeokuta to check my wife ,who was then an accountant of a bank in Abeokuta.

After a late lunch, we both dosed off and woke up around 7:00pm ready to face lbadan; disregarding my wife objection to the risky journey through the Odeda road that was under repair and being our first time traveling on that road. The car we were traveling in was a fairly used BMW 2 series.

We eventually arrived in lbadan around 9:00pm, got to uncle Yomi’s house at about 9:30 p.m. He was all over us, bothering about what we would like for dinner and within an hour of our arrival, his wife had prepared sumptuous meal of varieties.

lt was over dinner we discussed about reason for our visit. We were not there for his consideration of playing the role, but to inform him to accept the play.

We were through by 10:30pm and set to depart for Lagos, uncle Yomi objected; telling us that our rooms had been prepared.

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For us, we must return. Because of logistics ahead in our pre-production stage, we quickly lied to him that we already book into a hotel as soon as we arrived in lbadan. He reluctantly agreed with suspicious disposition.

We got on the Lagos/lbadan highway, Tade behind the wheels driving like a fugitive trying to escape a thousand patrol car chasing us; my heart filled my mouth through the dangerous speed.

Next was uncle Yomi finally joining us in late 89 to commence shoot that took us about two years of several postponement to gather money.

Many times, uncle Yomi would used his money to feed some and dash to several others.

The most striking thing that stood him out as a compassionate character was when he was finally paid for the job he stood with us through thick and thin to achieve. He gave his entire fee to one rascal among the crew, a friend of the house that l would not want to mention his name to go and settle some debt he was owing. This his unusual and onerous act left an indelible mark in my heart for him.

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The same scenario repeated itself when Ralph and I had to visit him in lbadan to cast him for the lead in Palace in 1997.

We arrived lbadan late as usual and he and his wife were there to receive us, with yet a sumptuous dinner along with our hand bag. He insisted that we stayed in his house since it was late for us to go back to Lagos, but we told him of the hotel rooms we had booked.

Uncle Yomi was with us in Palace; going and coming from lbadan for his shoot. As usual, he became a father figure for everyone; both the crew and other artistes.

l can recall the bond between him and Funlola Aofiyebi, who was playing her daughter. He was there to manage our challenges with us; he once slept on a foam in Ralph’ s place.

For the above reasons and many more, l got attached to him and his wife. I was always there to play the role of a good younger brother.

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Some eight or nine years ago, he took ill as he suffered stroke about three times, but came out of it and still acted in couple of films and series. He was to return with us on Palace and we asked him to leave his hair unattended to for almost a year for his role, for which he did.

We were still waiting for our partner, Africa Independent Television (AIT), to kick start another season that would involve him. He had gotten the scripts for over six months, still waiting ooooh my God.

Only to receive a text message from Sola Sobowale, another very closed artiste like sister to uncle Yomi that he has passed on. She was able to see him at the hospital before he passed on.

I have been procrastinating to pay him a surprise visit for the past four weeks before the lockdown, but l never got to see my dear uncle Yomi, a friendly, humble, lovely, kindhearted, ever in joyous mood, always wanting to ensure his surroundings are bubbling and no one is in a bad mood.

When you engaged him on your set, he would take over the management of peace, tranquility and happy moment for all.

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Uncle Yomi is gone like a flower plucked at its blossom.

Uncle Yomi, with tears streaming down from my eyes, trying to put this together since yesterday, …all the angels shall be waiting to receive you.

The good Lord will accept your soul and make you comfortable in the best zone of heaven.

You were a good great man, a quality thespian with class, taste candour sleep well my uncle.

Uncle Yomi sleep well!

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l shall use the Ramadan to pray for you. It’s a period when prayers are answered by God. We shall see and March on to glory on the day of judgement.

Adieu Babatunde Baker of Palace!

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