So it’s been a while now, that the world of film said adieu to Roger Ebert, the man that was the poster boy for film criticism. Now, that word critic usually has a negative interpretation to most minds, but I took a look at a dictionary definition which said
“a person who judges the merit of literary, artistic, or musical works, especially one who does so professionally”
His reviews or critics of films were highly regarded and anticipated, personally i didn’t agree with several of his reviews that I came across, but that does not take away anything from his contribution to American and indeed global cinema.
This then got me thinking; does Nollywood need its equivalent of a Roger Ebert? A journalist with an encyclopaedic knowledge of movies, that can watch a film and analyse its merits and faults, from the writing, directing, performance and technical aspects, and then compare it to either the film makers previous work or other similar films?
As I said, I don’t agree with some of his reviews I’ve read, but I do think, he probably made some filmmakers sit up, and drive traffic towards some films.
Now, some film makers say, “I don’t make films for critics I make films for audiences”. TRUE, but you also have to realize that many film critics are also film lovers, after all, they loved film enough to make a career out of watching and writing about them; so they too are part of the audience.
Does Nollywood need voices like Ebert, to review and exalt great films, thereby driving more traffic and appreciation for a well-made film, and critique on films that weren’t well made, so that the film maker can avoid repeating the same mistakes on their next outing?
From what I’ve discovered, criticism is seen as a form of hate or jealousy when it comes to Nollywood films (sometimes it really is hate). In fact, anyone that does not praise a film and has some downsides to point out, is seen as a hater. I visited some blogs that review Nollywood films and from the comment section of some films this is what I gleaned;
…..i guess you are a failed director, who is only beefing…..
All these fake ass failed filmmakers and actresses coming here to spew crap because they could not get roles in any of these people’s movies……
Naija people, u too get mouth jor… I’m sure none of u can even write a script not to talk of producing… Y hate?
Why does the immediate response to someone not liking a film be deduced as hate?
Sure, there will be people that are venomous and negative without any objectivity,and truly just want to hate on anything Nollywood, but that’s not everyone.
Does a viewer have to be able to act, write or produce before having the right to say he/she didn’t like a film or wasn’t convinced, especially if they paid to see it ?
EVERY film industry has The Good The Bad and The Ugly. Hollywood has it’s share of crappy movies, and the critics dont hold back in telling them so. There are films made by even great directors that for some reason or the other come out as less than stellar.
Is ALL criticism hate or can constructive criticism or feedback, enable a film maker to improve their craft?
Pacino and DeNiro are considered to be two of greatest actors of their generation, but even they have had films that were so bad, that they’d rather forget that they made them. Yet, take a look at the most highly regarded contributions to American cinema and each of them has at least 4 performances listed there.
Does their being great exempt them from being shafted by the critics? Nope, it makes them even a bigger target because EVERYONE has very high expectations from them.
In the literary world Ben Okri , Chimamanda and all writers have editors, who read their manuscript and give them feedback, pointing out things they have to change, improve or take out of their story during the writing process. Some of which they may not want to hear having worked for weeks or months on that draft. But the editor wants the best they can give, and the process ultimately yields a better book. When the book is released, reviewers give their feedback, some of which is good, some of which is bad. Some can be accepted and used, others completely disregarded.
Are there times that we trust our gut instinct and stick to our guns? YES, ABSOLUTELY.
Are there times where it truly is HATE and BILE that a critic is spilling . YES
Do we listen to ALL of it? Absolutely not. Some will just be ignorant rambling. Some are actually just negative and never have anything good to say and it’s like a sport to bash certain films.
But SOMETIMES , a review/critic, truly has valuable feedback, that can make the next film, much better. Sometimes, they really did go in with great expectations and are let down, and because they love the previous work of the producer/director, they’d like to see better on the next outing.
Does it make a bad review easier to swallow? Not really,(actually NOPE, it’s like being told your child is ugly and cosmetic surgery can’t even help) but medicine rarely is, even when it’s intended to make us better.
Another popular response is “which one have you made?”.
While that may be a valid question to another filmmaker, it’s quite an absurd question to ask a regular viewer. If a man that wants to buy a car, takes it for a test drive and changes his mind cos he doesn’t like how the car drives, won’t it be absurd for the salesman to ask “which one have you made”?
Imagine you eat something new at a 5 star restaurant but don’t like it, maybe it’s too spicey, not spicy enough, undercooked, or was just disgusting. Would “which one have you made?” be an appropriate response from the chef or waiter?
Or, “Thank you for bringing this to my attention”. PS- If you think Nollywood gets a hard time, you should go to YouTube and check out CinemaSins and Honest Trailers, they really rip apart popular Hollywood films.
African American Actor, Isaiah Washington once tweeted : I’ve found that as an artist, that if you look at all criticism as “haters hatin”, then you’ll never learn from your mistakes and grow
Entrepreneur and Marketing Guru, Seth Godin said It’s people who have projects that are NEVER criticized that ultimately fail.
He also said
We’ve been raised with the false belief, we mistakenly believe that criticism leads to failure
Filmmaking is a BRUTAL and emotionally draining business. In Nigeria it is a 10x harder than in Europe or the US because of all the human and infrastructure nightmares producers and directors face, that aren’t issues in other parts of the world. It’s difficult to put your blood, sweat and tears into something for weeks or months and then have someone come and tell you they don’t like it, or publicly rip it apart within seconds. But as creatives, we put our work on display for people to pay to watch, and be entertained, so criticism is sure to come, either softly or like someone taking a shit on your head. I don’t think there is ANY filmmaker that has 100% acceptance or hits 100% homeruns in every game.
.From Spielberg, to Scorsese to George Lucas to The Coen Brothers, they’ve all made films that had fans go “Guy, you fall my hand”, “Dude, what were you thinking” Let’s take the case of Woody Allen. Woody has made at least a film a year for 40+ years , in the 70’s -80’s he seemd he could do no wrong, making one critically acclaimed movie after the other which were also big with the fans. However in the last decade, most of his films failed to delight critics and fans. This is the Woody Allen has had more Oscar Nominations for writing and directing (wining several) than any of the colleagues, plus he is listed as one of the 100 influential filmmakers in the world. So, review his case.Woody has put in 40 years in the business,has several classics to his name, more wins and nominations than many will ever receive, but still has critics, why will anyone else with less experience, less global success be exempt?
Here’s an interesting piece of trivia , : After he finished feature debut Boxcar Bertha, Martin Scorsese screened the film for John Cassavetes. Cassavetes, after seeing this film, hugged Scorsese and said, “Marty, you’ve just spent a whole year of your life making a piece of shit. It’s a good picture, but you’re better than the people who make this kind of movie. Don’t get hooked into the exploitation market, just try and do something different.” Scorsese’s next film was Mean Streets , which launched Scorsese on the path we know him for today.
Scorsese obviously took that advice, learned from his mistakes, changed his game, and went on to create many cinema classics, and today is regarded as the greatest living director, and one of the godfathers of modern American cinema. Just think, what if he has let his pride block him from taking that advice, or being so defensive that he saw Cassavates as “enemy of progress”.
A child that ONLY receives praise and pampering from a parent, even when he misbehaves , will go on to be a menace to society, because he never received discipline and grew up with no consequences to his actions. An artist that feels he can just throw together anything and the audience will gobble it up is the same. Now, im not advocating, bashing a person’s hard work online, cos film making is HARD WORK, even those films that turn out not so good, took a lot of time and energy to piece together. But constructive feedback, just like a correcting parent, or a blacksmith with his hammer and furnace, brings out the best in the final product
. Without the feedback from Cassavates, Scorsese may have gone on to make ok, films, but may not be the legend he is today.
Should we now make films, and capitulate to please critics, NO. The worse form of censoring, is self censoring. If you have a core audience that love what you do, and a few people don’t like it for some reason, focus on your core audience and please them to the very core of their being. The Coen Brothers, David Lynch, Darren Aronovsky, Wes Anderson are all unique film makers, whose films are not for mainstream audiences, they have a unique niche that is faithful to them. So find that niche and stick to it. Is there room for improvement even within serving that core audience? MOST DEFINITELY,everything in life and creative outings can be improved.
Whatever your thoughts are on film critics and whether they are a necessity; as professionals and as humans,we should not bask so much in the chants of praise singers(sometimes sycophants), that they drown out the few voices that are trying to warn us about the career abyss we are about to fall into.
So,the question of the day, as an industry/creative individuals is there certain feedback which we are rejecting cos we see it as “hate”. Does the constant praise from fans, even for bad work,stiffle growth, and make an artist rest on undeserved laurels?
Thoughts please people
PS: Pls keep comments civil, topics like this tend to turn into a “let’s bash Nollywood match”. Let’s be cool, insightful and enlighten ourselves and have none of that bile. Cheers