Thursday, June 2, 2011

NOLLYWOOD IN CANNES: World’s Second Best, Zero Impact

“The value of a man is what he does expertly and the mystery of existence is the connection between our faults and our misfortunes.” -Imam Ali bn Abi-Talib (as)

The celebrated Nigerian motion picture industry, Nollywood is currently the second largest film producer in the world with stars that cut across the shores of the continent yet, unable to join their counterparts from Hollywood, Bollywood and other notable film industries from other countries in participating and competing for the coveted prizes and other attractions of the prestigious Festival de-Cannes. None of Nollywood’s movies were accredited for screening at the main bowl of the world’s most populous film festival.

Every year, the Nigerian government spends huge amount of money and resources to rent a pavilion plus ester codes for the powerful delegation to represent the nation. Although it has successfully acquired a grand stand at the international village with its flag flying. From inception, one may quickly say it was a significant thing that happened to the giant of Africa for obtaining the unique Pavilion 111 at the International Village. The pavilion which is located next to the Cinemas du Suud of the Southern French Cinema was acquired by the Nigerian Film Corporation (NFC) and became home to the all other regulatory bodies, stakeholders and practitioners in the country’s motion picture industry.

However, with all these structures on ground, none of the movies or practitioners made breakthroughs to the great event or even outside the competition. Movie stars and stakeholders from Nigeria are simply unknown at Cannes as none of their products were available at the Marche du Film (film exhibition centre). Of course Africa and other Nigerian communities in the Diaspora celebrate with optimism and cheer Nollywood stars everywhere they go but what really counts is breaking the ice and making heads turn at the Cannes International Film Festival or Oscars and not at the usual local Silverbird galleria in Abuja or Lagos.

Nigerian filmmakers therefore need to aim at shattering the highest glass ceiling as South African stars have done for decades by winning Oscars. Cinematographer, Ted Moore (1914–1987) was the first South African to win an Oscar in 1967, when he also won the BAFTA for Robert Bolt’s magnificent film, A Man for All Seasons. He was from Benoni, the same town as actress Charlize Theron the first South African actor to win an Oscar in 2004 for Monster, her gripping role of serial killer, Aileen Wuornos was described as “one of the greatest performances in the history of the cinema” by the highly esteemed American film critic and screenwriter, Roger Ebert, the first film critic to win a Pulitzer Prize for Criticism.

Other Oscar winning South Africans are: Ronald Harwood who won an Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay for the multiple award winning movie, The Pianist in 2003 and his other screenplay The Diving Bell and The Butterfly had four Oscar nominations in 2007. And Gavin Hood who got the Oscar for the Best Foreign Language Film with Tsotsi in 2005.

To say the least, going to Cannes for the Nigerian filmmakers and its contingents is nothing but sight-seeing or as mascots of their respective organisations. The visitors to the pavilion 111 do not even get a catalogue of Nollywood movies there and no Nigerian product qualifies for accreditation at the competition. Nollywood buffs boast that it is now the world’s second largest, but unfortunately nothing can qualify its being at the competition. The most infuriating thing is that each year, Nigeria tosses an extravagant party at the end of the event. One may wonder what the rejoicing is for? Do they celebrate their failure to meet up conditions by the festival jury? Unknown to many of them, the country has been a laughing stock at the prestigious event.

The filmmakers have excelled into showing the world its mediocrity and carelessness about professionalism in the entertainment world. It is rather piercing for countries like Niger, Tunisia, Morocco, Egypt and so on to unseat Nigeria in the race of world entertainment professionalism. But nothing can be done when a Malian famous director and filmmaker, Souleymane Cisse was crowned with Cannes coveted Prix du Jury in 1987 for his film, Yeeleen (Brightness). He is the first African to receive this award from Cannes.

The story continues, it is invented and re-invented every year and at the same time, the festival team and the city of Cannes prepare to greet artistes and professionals from around the world. But to our dismay, the great festival continues with zero impact from Nollywood and the Nigerian players. Why, how and when do Nigerians want to make the decision that Nollywood become known not only in Cannes, but other similar events like the Oscars? Consider what is required: the enthusiasm of our filmmakers to produce world class projects that would meet international standard, the seriousness of the actors and above all making stories that will appeal to all.

In addition to this and as to the weather or unless government and other corporate bodies come to the rescue by rendering support is an old song, series of conferences and workshops were done to make it perfect. Countries like Egypt, Tunisia and South Africa have signaled to the world their desire for film transformation in their various countries, making the African continent bigger by the day.

Looking at the frequency at which Festival de Cannes operates, the 63 year-old festival was originally set to be held in Cannes in 1939 under the presidency of Louis Lumière. However, it was not until over a year after the war ended that it finally took place, on 20 September 1946. It was subsequently held every September – except in 1948 and 1950 – and then every May from 1952 onwards. Every edition, the appearance of stars from around the world on the Festival’s red carpet and increasing media coverage quickly earned it a legendary international reputation.

Many African films have been screened at the Cannes and among them are films from Morocco, Les Yeux Secs by Narjiss Nejjar, Le Silence de la forêt by Didier Ouenangare and Bassek ba Kobhio from the Central African Republic and Cameroon in 2003, Khorma by Jilani Saadi from Tunisia in 2003, Heremakono by Abdherrahmane Sissako from Mauritania in 2002, La Saison des Hommes by Moufida Tlatli from Tunisia in 2000, La Genèse by Cheick Oumar Sissoko from Mali in 1999, Kini et Adams by Idrissa Ouedraogo from Burkina Faso, Le Destin by Youssef Chahine from Egypt in 1997 and Po di Sangui by Flora Gomes from Guinea Bissau in 1996.

But the Nigerian film industry which is 104 years old, with its first film Palava, shot in 1904, is yet to be in the contest. I think the apex body of filmmaking in Nigeria must be questioned for such international embarrassment or seize. We are tired of old songs!

For the Records: Awards of 64th Edition of Cannes 2011

1. Feature films
•Palme d’Or: This most outstanding award goes to The Tree of Life, directed by Terrence Malick

• Grand Prix Ex-aequo: This years Grand Prix was lifted by Nuri Bilge Ceylan’s Bir Zamanlar Anadolu’da (Once upon a time in Anatolia) and Le Gamin Au Velo (The Kid with a Bike) by Jean-Pierre et Luc Dardenne

• Award for Best Director: Nicolas Winding Refn for his marvelous movie, Drive

• Award for Best Screenplay: Joseph Cedar for Hearat Shulayim (Footnote).

• Award for Best Actress: This award goes to Kirsten Dunst for her stupendous role in Melanchola, directed by Lars Von Trier.

• Award for Best Actor: 2011 most super star goes to Jean Dujardin for his performance in Michel Hazanavicius’s The Artist.

• Jury Prize: This award goes to Polisse (Police) directed by MAÏWENN

2. Short Films
• Palme d’Or: For short film goes to Cross (Cross-country) directed by Maryna Vroda

• Jury Prize: Badpakje 46 (Swimsuit 46) directed by Wannes Destoop

3. Un Certain Regard:
• Prize of Un Certain Regard Ex-aequo: Goes to Arirang, by Kim Ki-Duk

• Un Certain Regard Special Jury Prize: Went for Elena, directed by Andrey Zvyagintsev
• Directing Prize of Un Certain Regard: The movie Be Omid E Didar, directed by Mohammad Rasoulof

4. Cinefondation:
• 1st Prize Cinéfondation was won by Der Brief (The Letter) directed by Doroteya Droumeva

• 2nd Prize – Cinéfondation: Drari, directed Kamal Lazraq
• 3rd Prize Cinéfondation: Ya-Gan-Bi-Hang (Fly by Night) directed by Son Tae-gyum

5. Golden Camera
• Caméra d’Or: The coveted golden camera awards goes to the movie, Las Acacias, directed by Pablo Giorgelli

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