A few years ago on my graduation day from a “professional” course. I sat down shooting the breeze with a three fellow fresh graduates. The topic ,”Where do we go from here?” One of the guys mentioned film school and the long desire to pursue directing as a career. The Eureka moment hit me. I realised that all my love from writing since age 8, where i saw the pictures in my head and walked the characters through dialogue; my peculiar love for movies on TNT classics, were actually the early on set of cinephilia. A latent auteur stirring. It started a domino effect. An effect that sparked an active interest in the back story of film makers. I started to delve into the indie film scene, reading up on the usual suspects Rodriguez,Tarantino,Kevin Smith,Linklater etc . And somewhere down the line I started hearing the term “French New Wave”. I then saw the short film J Taime John Wayne, a loving homage to Goddard’s À bout de souffle aka BREATHLESS(1960) and the spirit of the French New Wave and i was like WOH.
The New Wave was a blanket term coined by critics for a group of French film-makers of the late 1950s and 1960s.
Pioneered by film writers like Francois Truffat,Jean Luc Goddard Claude Chabrol ,Jaques Demy and others these directors radical experiments with editing, visual style and narrative part of a general break with the conservative paradigm. Using portable equipment and requiring little or no set up time, the New Wave way of film making presented a documentary type style. The films exhibited direct sounds on film stock that required less light. Filming techniques included fragmented,discontinuous editing, and long takes.
The new wave directors studied the work of western classics and they then went on to execute new avant-garde stylistic direction. Lacking funds,studio backing and a structure like their American inspirations their low-budget approach helped film-makers get at the essential art form ,innovation made them much more comfortable and honest form of production
Many of the French New Wave films were produced on tight budgets;Since they couldn’t afford to hire locations they cut costs by shooting in friends houses. The directors often hired their friends as the cast and crew further cutting costs.
Their guerilla style involved a lot of improvisation eg wheel chairs and shopping carts as dolly. Shooting on film didn’t come cheap,and so it was a major concern; thus, efforts to save film turned into stylistic innovations. Their final films took the world by storm and are still highly treasured in the hallways of cinema.
Some of the films brought about by the Wave are; Breathless,Jules Et Jim, The 400 Blows all considered classics all massively influential on some of the hottest and most successful directors today. In fact Quentin Tarantino was so influenced by the Wave that he named his production company A Band Apart after one of the films of the Wave.
I see a lot of similarities between the French New Wave and the gradual rise of the Nigerian auteur. A new generation of film makers dissatisfied with the status quo. Passionate cinephiles who are out to make their stamp in the world of cinema.
Like the obstacles the French innovators faced, there is little or no funding,no studio system ,problematic and tight production but a lot of heart. At the inception of the Wave, Goddard and others formed the auteur theory which holds that the director is the “author” of his movies, with a personal signature visible from film to film. This perspective inspired them to make their own films. Influenced by the works of Orson Wells,Alfred Hitchcock,John Ford and others, and they went on and created their own unique voices.
Similar to how those French Pioneers were influenced by legendary film makers of the 50’s and 60’s, the new generation of Naija film makers are influenced by a diverse variety of directors like Robert Rodriguez,Martin Scorsese,The Coen Brothers,Pedro Almodovar,Woody Allen,Chan Wook Park,Quentin Tarantino,John Hughes,Frederico Fellini,Guy Ritchie,Akira Kurosawa,John Woo,Ingmar Bergman etc
With no funding or any access to sponsoring,which many of their European and North American contemporaries have, they take a page of the book of Goddard and write within their means. Using innovation and clever methods to execute their vision.
There’s an interesting piece of trivia about the making of “Breathless”. Director Jean-Luc Goddard couldn’t afford a dolly, so he pushed the cinematographer around in a wheelchair through many scenes of the film. Many years later Robert Rodriguez would use the same technique while shooting his feature debut El Mariachi. If that aint innovation,slap me silly and call me !xobile.
So I’m asking myself, as a globally influenced generation of Naija film makers both home and abroad rise, is this a Naija Nu Wave? A rebellion and departure from the path that Nollywood has carved, the path that Nigerian film makers have been associated with so far?
From conversations I’ve had with several Naija bred and globally influenced film-makers, that time is like a pot of coffee that needs time to percolate.The beans are in and all that is needed is the water to reach boiling point and create a delightful pot of coffee for all to wake up and enjoy.
We aren’t quite there yet, but with the hunger i see in the eyes of many upcoming film makers and the passion i hear in their voices, I’m hopeful that it’s not too far. With budding auteurs both home and abroad with a passion for cinema and massive paradigm shift, it’s only a matter of time that it becomes the cinema equivalent of that great wave,the one surf heads dream about and for those lucky enough to experience it, go on to tell their grandkids.
How long that time would be? Well, i guess we will all just have to wait and see.
For any film maker reading this i highly encourage you to read up on the French New Wave, and get a hold of some of their movies.They are highly inspirational and an example of how innovation and creativity can pay off. Many of the films from the FNW are remembered and highly regarded more than some films with budgets 1000% higher than theirs. So, money does not always make the film but the innovation and creativity of the dreamers behind it.