“Is the movie good? Is it bad? Does it matter? It is what it is and occupies a world where the stars don’t shine.” – Roger Ebert

The demise of the world acclaimed film critic, Roger Ebert, who passed on at 70 after a long haul battle with cancer brings to light the power and influence of the critic on our tastes. For near fifty years, movie goers, auteurs, producers and newspaper editors cared about the opinion of one rather genial and opinionated Chicagoan concerning a particular film. His influence was so pervading that his trademark thumps up was keenly awaited and his stars brightened or dimmed the fortunes of many a film. A fellow Chicagoan, Barack Obama eulogised, “Roger was the movies.”

For a bustling film industry (the third largest in the world), Nollywood lacks critics with the knowledge, the panache, the boldness and professionalism of proper film critics. How then does one sieve through the myriad of video releases that assail our eyes every day? How then does one delineate the artistic from the derivative? The critic is like a guide, pointing the direction to the stars…… and the black holes too.

In the early days of Nollywood, when the movies were still a novelty and the term Nollywood had not gained traction, several papers ran film reviews and there were even TV and radio shows critiquing the week’s offerings. The TV shows naturally mimicked Siskel and Ebert’s but a lack of passion, or drive or sponsorship or the general amateurishness of the industry ensured still birth.

In 1967, Roger Ebert was appointed the film critic of the Chicago Sun-Times. He took the beat and not only did he excel, he became the heart beat of the industry earning a Pulitzer and a Star on the Walk of Fame. Film awards have recently become popular in Nigeria. One wonders the rubric for awarding the prizes, one wonders if the films tick the boxes for critical acclaim. For many years now media students have wondered why our Nollywood ‘blockbusters’ never make it at film festivals, even the nearby FESPACO. Well I think we need specialists who will start rating our productions, assigning stars and giving thumbs up. And when necessary throwing in a bit of ‘bad mouth.’ That will certainly weed the field and mitigate the influence of upper iweka.

There is a niche for somebody as a Nollywood film critic. Roger that!



Madame Bovary, Miss Havisham and a February ending.


Miss Havisham

“Before she married, she thought she was in love; but the happiness that should have resulted from that love, somehow had not come. It seemed to her that she must have made a mistake, have misunderstood in some way or another. And Emma tried hard to discover what, precisely, it was in life that was denoted by the words ‘joy, passion, intoxication’, which had always looked so fine to her in books.” Gustave Flaubert, Madame Bovary

And so February, the month of love (amour as the French will say), the month of affection and disaffection ends, with me reading Madame Bovary (text for a MOOC art class) – that classic tale of love gone awry, of the pursuit of the fickle, non-existent, ‘happily ever after’ love, that is, no matter how Romantic we pretend to be, rare in life: Chocked out by the hum-drum; by life itself.

Madame Bovary may have been written in the 19th century but two hundred plus years later, February, 2013 sees Valentine, soured by allegations of boyfriends killing girlfriends, of Madame Goldie – that sensual, ‘heart-on-the-sleeve-love’ apologist – dying so suddenly, not even Tarantino could have dreamt up a plot so obscure and spectacular. Her life deserves a movie: not the regular Nollywood fare, but something better, more dignifying, more artistic.

For Nollywood, the industry is stuck in a time-warp. Like Miss Havisham, who stops the clock, nay her life, at the exact time her groom disappointed, Nollywood is stuck in the 1970’s, the decade of The Village Headmaster. And that is why, with the death of any of the legends from that era, the cry gets louder. The cry of anguish and pain seemingly, but truly the cry of dearth: dearth of talent, dearth of growth, dearth of genuine new stars to replace the old guard. This time the Headmaster himself, Justice Esiri, has passed on to join his ancestors and his peers.

And while we reminisce on a bygone age, a Jack Nicholson gets a ‘bit’ part at the Oscars, playing a minor role in presenting Best Film to Argo, the story of the Canadian caper. And while Argo is a great film which I thoroughly enjoyed, I wanted Lincoln to win. I first read the story of Abe as a kid and gleefully fell in love with that All-American story of the most famous US president in history: The story of the poor little kid from the log house who studied hard and literarily pulled himself up by the bootstraps to rule the States and help free the slaves. A realist and modernist, he was very much unlike Emma Bovary with her illusions.

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