Entertainment Nollywood

October 1: Between commercial and arty films

When 30 Days in Atlanta, a directorial feature by notable comedian, Ayo Makun, was announced as the highest grossing Nigerian film to date, concerns were raised in some quarters of the movie industry, about an imminent trend, that may soon see some Nollywood filmmakers toeing the comedian’s line. For all you care, AY, as the comedian-turned-filmmaker is popularly called, could suddenly become a book for the average filmmaker who may be spurred by the commercial value of that flick, and see the need for replicas in funny pass offs like 10 Nights in Onitsha, 15 Afternoons in Malaysia, Akpos In London etc. Experience has shown that  Nollywood has a history of joining the bandwagon and riding on the success of certain story ideas until they become nauseating. Remember the days of movie titles like  One Love, Bitter Love, Annoying Love, Love Without Sense, Acute Love, Fatherless Love, Secret Love and so on. Our filmmakers must understand that the life of a real filmmaker does not start and end with how much is made from his film. If money is all that a filmmaker lives for, then the worth of that filmmaker is as good as his last commercial film. Where does this place us as a country  when we  are yet to explore a quarter of our potentials for historical, educative, scientific, and cultural films? Where is the place of short films, documentary films, animations and other genres? Even though the days of art-for-art sake is gone, what with the Yoruba travelling theatres of yester years, days of playing buffoonery before kings and kingmakers, days of film by barter, being long gone, there is still the need to strike a balance between money that comes from a movie and a special place for the goodwill that could come from a filmmaker’s works as well. Such goodwill relates to international recognition that money can’t buy; a place of pride in competitive awards, institutional recognitions and educational referrals that have made educators out of several filmmakers, who also make money from seminars or conferences, giving talks or delivering papers. Nollywood must rise from mere commercial inclinations, and give room to arty films that have the potential to outlive them. Listening to Kunle Afolayan talk recently, about his foresight as a filmmaker, one cannot but call him the indisputable poster boy of Nollywood. If you go by the style of another filmmaker, Lancelot Oduwa Imasuen, you would also find a conscious effort to break into the global landscape. Indeed, Nollywood needs more filmmakers who strike a balance between commercial and arty films. Despite being the highest grossing film, there is no basis to compare the movie October 1, an arty film (one which tasks your imagination and provokes your thoughts while also entertaining you) with 30 Days In Atlanta (a wholly commercial film that lets you sit back and have a good laugh). The fact is, the commercial inflow from a classic like October 1, despite making well over N60m in the cinema so far, would inevitably have its commercial potential come in, in trickles. The difference in the two is that while one could be compared to a heavy downpour that ceases abruptly, the other comes in lasting trickles, and could fill the ocean in the long run. Logically, October 1 should have hit N137m mark (gross for 30 Days in Atlanta, so far), and still counting, when you take into cognisance, the series of private screenings, which the filmmaker arranged for executives of some corporate organisations, long before the film was released in the cinema. Another commercial avenue which October 1 enjoys and which has not been explored by other films, is the DStv Box Office. Knowing Afolayan and how his business sense is programmed, it is not likely that he will be releasing the DVD version of the film any time soon, what with 1st October, 2015, and several other holidays, which would still make the film feel brand new when taken to the cinemas. Indeed, October 1st for Nigerians, evolves nostalgic feelings, which naturally will have the young and the old gravitating towards such days of national importance. Such period, each year, may just be one of the cash cows for Afolayan, each time his classic, October 1 is shown at the cinemas. Lest I forget, the higher it goes, the cooler it is for the film houses, in terms of how it shares box office sales with film owners. This means that while the money made from a movie in its first week in the cinema is shared 50/50 between the filmmaker and the cinema house, subsequent exposures will bestow the cinema owner with higher percentage above what the filmmaker gets. That makes it a win-win situation for a film house. So, what’s the big deal about what a film grosses in Nigeria, when it is obvious AY might not get more than N40m from the celebrated N137m? On the other hand, an arty film like October 1 has the potential to be sourced by international film festivals. Already, the movie has made the official selections in two international film festivals; the first being Luxor Film Festival, Egypt and the Pan African Film Festival, Los Angeles, United States. Such is the mileage for this kind of film, going by the fact that an arty film is a serious, independent film, aimed at a niche market rather than a mass market audience. Film festivals promote the art of film, not only as a means of entertainment, but also as a vehicle for self-expression and a stimulus for dialogue about social, political and cultural issues. Going by the auteur theory, a word derived largely from Astruc’s elucidation of the concept of caméra-stylo (‘camera-pen’), it holds that the director, who oversees all audio and visual elements of the motion picture, is more to be considered the ‘author’ of the movie than the writer of the screenplay. In film criticism, auteur theory holds that a film reflects the director’s personal creative vision, as if they were the primary ‘auteur’. All this grammar simply points to the fact that October 1 as a movie, has gotten to the level of serious business where it can be picked by reputable film festivals. A film festival is an organised, extended presentation of films in one or more cinemas or screening venues, usually in a single city or region. Increasingly, film festivals show some films outdoors and with a platform like the Nigeria-domiciled Africa International Film Festival (AFRIFF), a culture of real international film festival is fast developing in Nigeria, for the first time. The core tradition of film festivals is competition, that is, the consideration of films with the intention of judging which are most deserving of various forms of recognition, and this explains the position of October 1, among several films, from other countries, that will be competing at Luxor and PAFF. In terms of awards and recognitions, Afolayan’s basket is already being adorned. Only recently, he received the Nollywood Man of the Year diadem, given by organisers of The Sun Awards. It will be recalled that the film, a psychological thriller, featuring veteran broadcaster, Sadiq Daba, actress Kehinde Bankole, Ademola Adedoyin, Kanayo O. Kanayo and Kunle Afolayan himself, received 13 nominations, the most in this year’s edition of Africa Magic Viewers’ Choice Awards (AMVCA). The nominations included top categories such as Best Movie (Drama), Best Movie of 2014, Best Art Director, Best Actress and Best Cinematographer. Of course the movie won nine of the 13 categories. The film also came tops at the last edition of AFRIFF, having won Best Feature Film, Best Actor and Best Screen Play laurels. Interestingly too, the film has also entered a distribution deal with Netflix, one of the biggest global online distribution platforms. Netflix, an SVOD platform, covers the whole of Europe and America. That tells the level of global exposure the film stands to enjoy henceforth. Indeed, one does not need a soothsayer to forecast the commercial gains of the movie, despite its several windows of goodwill. Not stopping there, Afolayan sa
id plans are ongoing to subtitle the film in 10 different languages, including Spanish, Portuguese, Finnish, Dutch, German and Danish. Last but not the least, the sky is indeed the limit for this filmmaker, who is already in pre-production stage for his next movie, which he said is another thriller, a contemporary film with a lot of commercial appeal. Added to this, he said another series, The CEO, is in view, a project in partnership with the Lagos campus of the Nigerian Law School. ‘We are going to reveal this officially when the time comes. It is going to be something that is very big. We will be taking court cases in Nigeria and converting them to stories. It is a law and order and crime kind of production,’ he said.
Victor Akande is a guest writer

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Ihesiulo Grace

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