FILM CRITICISM AND REVIEWING.
‘You need to love film, the art of film criticism is a labour of love.’
Taiwo Egunjobi (2020)
Taiwo Egunjobi is a seasoned writer, director, founder/chief editor at Filmkaku.com and content director with ContentDocks, Nigeria.
FILM CULTURE AND APPRECIATION
Every conversation about film criticism and review should begin at the apex which will allow in-depth understanding of the rituals surrounding this art form of creating motion pictures.
The ability to possess fluidity of expression when it comes to the knowledge of film production allows you to know the many film movements, reason behind film festivals, understand its impact on society and all these will not be appreciated successfully without giving credit to the main conventions which include genre, roles of the producer, director, scripting & the process of filming. Some of the departments that cater to this special art form of film making are Camera, Sound, Scenography, Special effects, Post production and Distribution.
Film culture then is incomplete without fore knowledge on the history, creative idea and impact of film globally in diverse cultures for any budding critic or reviewer. All this will guide against ineffective criticism and reviewership in the long run by silencing the widely acclaimed knowledge of having first produced a film to give accurate recommendations to the audience which is not meant to be a prerequisite.
Simply put, you don’t need to be a film maker to properly contextualize your criticism but rather grounded in the knowledge and process of film making. Another necessity towards appreciating the film culture is awareness on growth of the motion picture industry in a particular country. Reviews or criticism towards a film created in an underdeveloped country will avoid passing its idea using the yardstick of a developed country as it will be too large of a shoe to fit due to its gross significant growth of the film industry.
FUNCTION OF FILM COMMENTARY IN THE CRITIQUE AND REVIEWS
Film reviewership is targeted towards the audience by evaluating films for their viewing pleasure.
The bi-furcal nature of Film criticism is an outlet to help the audience understand and appreciate the thematic message of a film properly while offering constructive analysis and evaluation for filmmakers in the body of their work.
In recent times we find out there’s more of film reviewership compared to criticism although academic criticism still exists in school environment and is targeted towards the cultural, societal or even philosophical relevance of a work of art. The end consumption is charged more towards the audience inclusive of directors and filmmakers.
- Giving the audience a recommendation: This helps the audience understand the cultural significance of film, walk them through the technical issues and appreciate it better by controlling the point of view of how they see it.
- Advice filmmakers on areas of improvement: Film criticism and reviewership shapes the film industry by helping producers and creators sharpen their directorial vision or ideas based on recommendations offered by critique writers.
- Uniting the vision of the filmmaker: This helps the audience grasp the point of view the film is coming from by elevating the art form and work up the audience attention towards seeing it.
Phrases such as ‘go see it’ are then used and often times attached with a direct link to a viewing page.
- The creative process: A film critique or review is incomplete without mention of the production process. That is the work that is involved towards making it a success (Plot, technical elements, cinematography, etc.)
CRITICISM IN THE INTERNET AGE
The evolution of film criticism stemmed from Journalism. Experience was measured based on the educational degrees accumulated, the journals, school papers, newspapers or books written and edited by these writers that overtime discovered a new path in film making that is, constructive criticism.
Due to technological advancement in this golden age through the use of Internet we come to a realization that simpler methods and ways that aid any budding writer with varying degrees of experience are rising up in manifolds.
How does this change affect Criticism and Reviewership as a field of study, is it a positive or negative impact?
PROBLEMS AND OPPORTUNITIES OF CRITICISM IN THE INTERNET AGE
Criticism can be subdivided into two major parts; Average audience level criticism and Academic criticism. Although we have more of the initial compared to the latter in Africa, specifically Nigeria and this stemmed as a result of several underlying reasons that will be duly expatiated on in the course of reading this article.
BIG PROBLEMS: An insight into the problems that affect this field of study globally.
- Amateurish downplaying: Due to the gross inexperience associated with the patriots of film reviewership a lot of great movies were devalued. There is need for at least an intermediate level of understanding of film history, its cultural, societal and philosophical relevance before starting off as a critic and offering recommendations.
Mr Taiwo Egunjobi pointed out albeit passionately that a large amount of films created in the 70s were downplayed due to inability of the writers to grasp the aesthetic appeal of such art forms.
- Political Reasons: Rottentomatoes, cinemapointer, metacritics and a host of others are some of the budding ineffective examples that contribute to the problems associated with Criticisim in the internet age.
The present day Audience are moved now by the number of ratings given to a movie by these creators that have been able to generate a following on social media platforms and often times for some poorly concealed reason these average critique bloggers influence them by giving low rankings to good films and vice versa.
Films are no longer weighed by their relevance but rather their satisfaction of an entertainment trend that storms the general public, influenced by personal judgement based on dislike of a member of the cast and crew or even a conflict of interest politically or not. We further realize that this breakthrough in technological age has raised film reviewership platforms that have poor knowledge on proper film appreciation and as a final word of advice to the budding critics of the Film Rats club;
“If you don’t know it, don’t say it.”
Taiwo Egunjobi (2020)
PATHWAYS FOR NIGERIAN CRITICISM
It is a challenge.
Herein we come to a grudging acceptance that Criticism in Nigeria is not a welcomed motive for betterment and viewed as a challenge against the achievement of the filmmaker. In this situation the nuance; a non-filmmaker cannot give a critical evaluation due to their lack of practical experience is chosen to tackle any form of analysis academically or not.
Why is this so? Is it as a result of the Cultural approach towards criticism, the weak history of the film industry targeted as a business venture compared to fulfilling an artistic vision? These are some of the unanswered questions that revolve around the unappreciative nature of Nigerians towards evaluation of their various art forms.
- The advent of the internet and various social media platforms is a love-hate relationship for critics. When you understand how to safely make use of its positive aspects it will invariably impact the following you’ve gathered. Globalization of the film industry gives your work the chance to travel around the world to the feeding more eyes to your articles and put your trade out there even to the international viewership.
- The audience is growing. They are getting more susceptible to poor and good films hence as an aspiring critic you should be able to participate in these discussions that revolve around movie recommendations, gather your information, compile and edit into an article to be disbursed as a whole. The audience are getting mature and seek more intellectual conversations (an avenue for you to stand out).
PROBLEMS AS A NIGERIAN CRITIC-IN-TRAINING.
The level of education we were exposed to, the types of poor films we watched in the past, the choice of genre based on personal interest and the accumulation of all these knowledge to rate your analysing prowess are sure fire signs of an ineffective critic writer.
How do you rid yourself of this naivety? It is tasking but involves a journey through the time capsule, you need to go back and re-evaluate all that seemed to attract you in the past. Get a clearer vision and pin point the fails and wins when you watch them era by era. Accept your lack in-depth knowledge and seek to emancipate yourself from your arrogant nature when you attempt to appreciate the film culture by visiting the roots and its branches; national, pan-African, intercontinental, etc. Watch movies that stretch beyond the borders of your nationality.
Influence from personal ideologies.
To become a good critic you should be able to separate what fits into your idea of a good film by watching it as detachedly as possible. For instance using Kunle Afolayans, Mokalik as an illustration we realize that it is an Italian neo-realist film. The language of its creation though not understood by most when watched by those well-educated on proper film appreciation was very enlightening as the film style preached a slice of life often used by Yasujiro Ozu another Japanese film maker.
In conclusion, the advent of The Film Rats club is an amazing platform that is commendable to be a part of as it sharpens the creativity, understand better what you are doing and gives you an edge over an average film critic because of exposure and variety of discussions.
You need to embrace the way of learning, it is not trendy nor cool but a necessity. Discover a niche you look up to for timely news on what’s new in the film industry via YouTube, have favourite reviewers, filmmakers such as Ken Loach, broaden your knowledge, familiarize yourself with phrases in the film industry such as the Language of Film which is how different directors and their crew members combine various forms to create something different.
Paul Bradshaw, Richard Hammond, Pauline Kael are some amazing critics that are fluent in the language of criticism. Laziness is the bane of constructive criticism, feed your eyes on pre-existing reviews to help sharpen your motive on article creation. Doing all that so often allows you expand your thoughts and become a better reviewer and film critic
QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS
Q: Do you see proper criticism as a p art of today’s filmmaking in Nigeria? Rate on a scale of 1-100.
A: With reference to my mentor Mr. Chukwu Martin says every filmmaker is a critic. And I agree and guess that our filmmaking enterprise has grown that way. At least for filmmakers who favour it? They have mostly relied on self-criticism. Also there have always been little artistic hotheads in this country that provide solid critical functions for filmmakers.
But for the bulk of the Nigerian film industry criticism isn’t necessary and is a waste of time to them. The industry was borne with mostly commercial interests and not artistic interests. So on a scale, maybe 10%
Q: Are you of the opinion the critics aren’t filmmakers? And to that own an opinion about the current trend of colloquialism fired at critics, Where is what you’ve done.
A: Filmmakers have been critics. And many critics become filmmakers.
However, anyone who refuses criticism because the said critic hasn’t made a film before is not literate about art.
Q: Is there a book of theories to back up different directors film language as in stage acting various forms and styles are used by the director to convey their message such as realism, naturalism, expressionism, surrealism, futurism and every other isms. Even when you made mention of Kunle Afolayan’s film language.
A: Digest from the wealth of articles, podcasts and ebooks available on the internet that focus on film movements/ cinematic traditions and genres that create a film language.
Q: What elements make a good movie for you?
A: First off one that elicits an emotional reaction from me. Secondly, one that is coherent in the sense that as a complete work of art it can be understood and assessed from an artistic point of view.
Q: How true is this (your reaction to a film is based on everything that has made you a person: your upbringing, background, religion, philosophy, politics and tastes.)
A: Yes, that is why we seek proper education, why a doctor advices against the use of oriental medicine to treat malaria. There is need for re-education if your grounding is not solid in film culture to stop being that small guy that watches Rambo and have a better opinion which makes you very knowledgeable.