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Art critic, Molara Wood, calls for critical review of Nigerian movies, says they lack directorial vision

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Molara Wood

A Nigerian art critic, writer and journalist, Molara Wood, has called for an objective and critical review of films being churned out by Nigerian moviemakers.

Wood said Nigerian films have little or no overarching directorial vision, or outstanding sweep of artistry which she blamed on lack of critical culture.

“Critical culture is essential to how artistic traditions are built,” she said

She made the call in a thread via her Twitter handle @Molarawood on Tuesday.

Wood said her motive for the call is towards a robust critical culture as she urged moviemakers not to see criticisms of their works as a personal attack or ‘hating’.

She also urged critics to critically engage with artistic works without fear or favour, and to speak the truth as they see it. To do this she advised them to maintain an objective distance and accept no incentives except tickets to the screenings of the film, which, according to her, will allow them to maintain professional integrity in their criticisms.

She tweeted:

“Overdramatic, ham-it-up performances are what is celebrated as great acting, often, in Nigeria. Films without vision, deeper message or underlying meditative thought, are ‘masterpieces.’ Overhyped directors at start of journeys, still finding their voices, hailed as ‘masters’

“There’s 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 on film.

“In the same way, scenes of wealthy characters & surroundings become substitutes for high production values, technical achievement in filmmaking, lighting, and artistic merit. A rich home with rich people does not equate production design, artistic direction, cinematography etc.

“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. Any new film pushed with superlative hype is the best they’ve ever seen.

“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.

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.

“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?

“Let’s not even get into the ‘business’ of Nigerian cinema. I won’t; my business is art. But, so many films are falling over themselves claiming to be the ‘biggest budget film’ – *biggest grossing film ever at the Nigerian box office* – etc. **We need to query these assertions.

“Someone pleaded “freedom of expression” re the ‘anti-poor’ observation. Bullsh*t. Art is important. We must hold artists to some account. If 90 out of 100 celebrated films are about the stinking rich in a country of multidimensional poverty, we have a responsibility to say so.

“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.

“I’ll end here for now. 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.

“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.”

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She added:

“My motive is towards one thing only: a robust critical culture. We have to get away from this situation where it’s seen as a personal attack, or ‘hating’, or ‘bad belle’ – if one is less than 100% enthusiastic about a film.

“Critical culture is essential to how artistic traditions are built. We have a word in Yoruba, Ojuṣaaju – without preference for or prejudice to anybody. No double standards. I don’t care who you are, I will engage the artistic merit of your work as I see it, without Ojuṣaaju.

“We need our critics to critically engage with artistic works without fear or favour, and to speak the truth as they see it. It doesn’t mean every critic will be totally right; but when you have about 10 honest reviews, a measure of the value of a given work begins to emerge.

“The convenient lies we tell about the overhyped films of today are messages to the future of the culture. Is it to be built on lies? Will the filmmakers themselves grow if a mediocre film is pronounced The Godfather? Will performers improve their craft if lauded for hyper-acting?

“If you’re engaging in film criticism, don’t be too chummy with those whose films you review; you will tie your own hand. Maintain an objective distance. Accept no incentives except the tickets to the screenings, seek no favours. Guard your independent voice/professional integrity

“The critic works with an eye on posterity. Like a teacher, the good critic’s reward is in heaven, literally. Do the work. Let the filmmakers do the work. Let the performers & all creatives involved, too. Let iron sharpen iron, so we can grow a robust film tradition together.

“A Postcript: I see gripes about need for people to enjoy things. There’s room for all manner of films, especially crowd-pleasers. I’m all for films being fun & enjoyable to all. The caution is against the ‘unmerited greatness’ being conferred on some films/directors, that’s all.

“If you’re in Nollywood and you consider critics (or this thread) to be mild irritants you’d rather do without, then we’ll be swimming in mediocrity for a long time. Besides, that’s not how the film environment works from Sundance to Cannes; all who want to up the game, know this.

 

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See her tweet:

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Bollywood, Nollywood good to work in, says Nigerian actress who broke into Indian film industry

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Nigerian actress, Kehinde Omisande, believes collaborations between the Nigerian film industry and their Indian counterpart will yield good fruits.

Omisande recently broke into Bollywood after she featured in a Netflix original, ‘Little Things’, an Indian movie.

Though she is yet to work in the Nollywood industry, the actress vowed to contribute her quota to its development.

She said,

“I can’t compare both because I haven’t worked in the Nigerian movie industry, but from what I have seen, I think I would prefer to work in my country home’s industry more just because I think it will be easier for me mostly because of the language.

“I don’t understand Hindu, which will make it a little bit hard for me, but all the same, I think both industries are good to work in. I have a better plan for both industries. I will do my best to contribute my quota to the industries. I am committed to impacting greatly to foster the industry especially that of my country by extending qualities that will improve the standard of the industry.”

Adding,

“I think there are a lot of opportunities. I have an example of someone who has made appearances here which shows that it is possible. I don’t know if it is up to me to foster synergy.

“Hopefully, the authorities or agents or whoever influences both sides can see. I hope it is possible. I think it should be. I will do my best in my way.”

On her challenges as a Nigerian in Bollywood, she said,

“As I said earlier, it should be a language barrier. Although in Bollywood movies, they speak the English language, Hindi is their main language. So, as a Nigerian in their midst, it has not been easy and if you watch ‘Little Things’ season three on Netflix, you would see that I spoke little Hindi and luckily for me, my siblings taught me some Hindi words when I came to India, so, when I see them on the script I know what they mean.”

The Nation

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Mercy Aigbe speaks on crushing on 2Baba, first encounter with Sola Sobowale

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Mercy Aigbe

Nigerian actress, director and businesswoman, Mercy Aigbe, has revealed her first encounter with Nollywood veteran, Sola Sobowale.

According to the 42-year-old, before she got into the industry, she admired Liz Benson and Sola Sobowale; the former for her beauty and the later for the way she interpreted her roles.

However, her first encounter with the Sobowale a.k.a Toyin Tomato ended in tears.

Recounting the first encounter she had with Sobowale, Aigbe said,

“Before I got into the industry, I admired Sola Sobowale because she knows her onions. One day, I got a call to come on set for a movie titled, ‘Ohun Oko So Mi Da’.

“The movie was produced by Aunty Sola and I was shivering when I got to the set. I asked myself, ‘Would I be able to act in the presence of my role model?’ I went to a corner and prayed to God and told myself, ‘This is my opportunity. I shouldn’t allow Aunty Sola overshadow me. I should let my star shine.’

“Unfortunately for me, in that particular scene, I wasn’t meant to talk at all. I acted the role of her husband’s secretary and was dating her husband. She came to my character’s house to warn her. I was not supposed to say anything but I thought that as an up-and-coming actress, she would just kill my ‘star’ if I didn’t say anything. Guess what I did. I gave myself lines. As she was ranting, I was reacting to her rants. When she held me, I put my hands inside her brassiere. She just told the director to end the scene at that point, asking where they found ‘this kind of girl’.”

The ‘77 Bullets’ actress also maintained that she learnt consistency and doggedness from her mother. She added,

“I learnt being dogged from my mum. She is a very strong woman, who never gives up. She is very consistent and hardworking. I believe that whatever one wants to do, one has to keep at it until one succeeds.”

Actress, Mercy Aigbe, has revealed that for a long time, she had a crush on ‘African Queen’ singer, 2baba (formerly 2face Idibia).

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Aigbe stated this during the week as a guest on Gbenga Adeyinka’s Instagram Live chat. After Adeyinka played ‘African Queen’ while on the video call, Aigbe said with a broad smile,

“Don’t tell anybody o. For a very long time, I had a crush on 2baba.”

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Bollywood actor Ranjit Chowdhry, who appeared in ‘The Office’ and ‘Prison Break’, dies at 65

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Famous Bollywood actor, Ranjit Chowdhry, who appeared in two episodes of “The Office and Prison Break has died at the age of 65.

According to local reports, the actor died on Wednesday at a Mumbai hospital after he travelled to his home country from the US several months ago.

Local theatre personality Dolly Thakore told the Orissa Post that Chowdhry suffered a ruptured ulcer on April 14 and was taken to a local hospital, where he died during surgery.

‘He got a ruptured ulcer in the intestine which happened April 14. A physician was called who said he needs to go to the hospital and he was taken to Breach Candy hospital. They operated on him but he died at the hospital yesterday at 4 in the morning,’ Dolly said.

Chowdhry first starred in Indian comedies of the late ’70s and early ’80s before moving to the US. He appeared in two episodes of The Office in season 5 of the NBC sitcom.

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In the United States Ranjit is best known for his appearance in Prison Break, Girls, and Law & Order as well as the Last Holiday starring Queen Latifah and the 1990 film Lonely in America among others.

Chowdhry, who has acted in films including ‘Khoobsurat’ and ‘Khatta Meetha’, died in the US on April 15. He was 65.

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His half-sister Raell Padamsee made the announcement on social media.

Chowdhry, who was the stepson of theatre personality Alyque Padamsee,  acted in films including ‘Khatta Meetha’ and ‘Baton Baton Mein’. He also worked with Deepa Mehta for her 2002 film ‘Bollywood/Hollywood’.

Rahul Khanna, who acted with him in ‘Bollywood/Hollywood’, tweeted:

“Despite his diminutive frame, he was a towering icon of Indian diaspora cinema and a master of his craft. By far, one of the most endearingly quirky and acerbically witty people i have had the pleasure of knowing.”

He was born in Mumbai and grew up with a theatre background. He was an outstanding character actor who could do justice to any role, no matter how quirky or brief.

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Acclaimed directors Deepa Mehta and Mira Nair have expressed their condolences and grief at the actor’s death. The remember him as a blazing, maverick talent.

According to a report in English daily, Nair intends to hold a tribute meeting for Chowdhry over Zoom as they are all amidst a coronavirus lockdown.

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