Wednesday, August 06, 2008

I, being a bad filmmaker
Yesterday, while browsing though some of the texts on filmmaking I read a PhD thesis titled “In Search of the Magic Wand for African Cinema” by Chika Anyanwu from the School of Media and Information, Curtin University of Technology. The topic was so interesting that the ‘always dormant’ reader in me got energized and engrossed it. It spoke about the need of filmmakers being natural and original in their creation. According to him a good film should emerge from the cultural background of the filmmaker, stitched on the fine thread of the traditional values of his own land and coloured by his own blood.
The writer expresses his fury as well as agony on the trend of African filmmakers trying to imitate other films industries like Hollywood that has no significance in the day to day life of an African. He has an interesting question for everyone,
“What is the difference between what we call witchcraft and what passes as horror movies from Europe and America? We are quick to defend the blood-sucking vampires in western movies as part of English gothic literature but condemn spirits and ghosts in African films as barbaric. While one is from a western ‘civilised’ nation the other is from a ‘barbaric’ culture.”
He says “According to Kwaw Ansah (1999), what is called witchcraft is religion to Africa.”
I liked this quote on African films
The image of Africa that I see through external filmic representations could be likened to a romantic dinner served to a western voyeur with the following recipe: a bag of political enslavement of African regions with two cans of Hollywood movies, sprinkled with seasoned media sensationalism, which is added to a chunk of humanitarian aid to soften the bones, cooked under heated debates for two centuries, then served on a plate of economic dependency with a bottle of chilled technological backwardness, to be eaten in a moonlit jungle hut.
Chika Anyanwu also attacks the western religious beliefs especially Christianity for degrading the African way of life and their religions as mere superstitions.
We have become an enlightened continent of contradictions. On the one hand we continue to claim victim status after many years of independence in order to avoid responsibility for our inaction, on the other hand we take refuge under Christianity instead of our traditional religion because punishment for our atrocities can be deferred until we get to heaven instead of facing instant justice as meted out by our ancestors and elders.
In 1985 William Akufu, a film distributor with no filmmaking background or experience got some money and friends together and used a VHS camera to make his first feature video, Zainab. The Ghana Film Corporation and the television stations rejected this video film with an interesting question posed to him, what is the meaning of VHS, to which he innocently answered ‘video home system’ and the result was that he should take his movie to his home. His persistence paid off because he arranged to screen the movie at various venues with hired projectors. As fate would have it, the film was well received by the people despite its technical shortcomings. For the first time African people saw their life in their own language. That is the start of purity in African films.
I left my homeland more than half a decade back. I used to read, write and talk in my mother tongue Malayalam than in any other language. Though my stay in other places made me open to different cultures and traditions, I believe that I have lost myself somewhere. Past six or seven years I have not written anything in Malayalam. All the films I have done till date is in English. I have not tried a film in Malayalam for the simple reason that I’m truly scared of hurting the language. I have this feeling that I am not matured enough to approach Malayalam in film. Hardly anyone would have heard me using any bad words in Malayalam, though I am more comfortable doing that in other language. Anytime, my biggest dream is to do films rich in the traditional values of Kerala and her eternal beauty. As of now I’m not prepared for that… Here I am introducing myself as a bad filmmaker to you.
I pity those who are in the mode of imitation of other’s culture, while losing their own culture. I pity those who already lost there identity by adapting another identity. I pity your confused state of being nowhere. I pity your state of searching for gold standing on golden floor. I pity your attitude of hating your own colour. I pity me for calling myself a ‘filmmaker’.


sansmerci said...

exploring is never rong, n its a gr8 thing tht ur keepin the best for the last ...n i think wen ur ready for it, give ur culture n language the biggest of ur time and talent n i bet u ll come out shining then, not jus cos of ur talent n commitment but for ur love and respect for it

n hey there is a tremendous change in ur writing style .. thts one more area ur exploring n ur doing awesome.. tht doesnt mean ur lettin ur filmmaking passion done rite? so keep exploring but give ur best to what u believe in :)

i hope i made sense!

Cockroach said...

Thanks de... It will take a lot of time to try something in my own language. Just waiting for that day.

sansmerci said...

u've been tagged