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The Place of an Auteur Director in the Nigerian Video Film Industry

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Introduction

Films are the product of many individuals working together. This is evident in the credits that are scrolled at the end of each finished work. I could easily say that it takes a village to make a movie.

Consequent upon the above stated, it becomes shocking to find out that there is a significant tendency among film scholars to treat films as the product of a single individual. To toe this line of interpretation goes to mean that the director of the film is the creative intelligence who shapes the entire film in a manner parallel to how we think of literary works being authored.

In his essay, �Notes on The Auteur Theory in 1962,’ Andrew Sarris, one of the key proponents of Auteur theory corroborates the above position as he posits that one of the premises of the Auteur theory is the distinguishable personality of the director as a criterion of value. He argues:

Over a group of films, a director must exhibit certain recurrent characteristics of style, which serve as his signature. The way a film looks should have some relationship with the way a director thinks and feels (Sarris, 1992, p. 586).

This paper shall try to examine the place of the auteur director in the Nigerian Video Film Industry; the reactions from other contributors in this work of art and how the director as an auteur has affected the development and growth of the industry in present day contemporary Nigeria.

Historical Survey

The idea of the director as auteur was first suggested by Francoise Truffaut who used the term polemically to denigrate the then dominant mode of filmmaking that emphasized the adaptation of great works of literature to the screen. This he did in his article, “Une Certaine Tendence du Cinema Francaise,” (A Certain Tendency in French Cinema) where he first made use of the term вЂ?Auteur’s Policy’ (La Politiques de Auteur), which was abbreviated by Andrew Sarris as вЂ?Auteur Theory’ in his book The American Cinema: Directors and Directing.

Sarris also goes further to state that the ultimate premise of the auteur theory “is concerned with interior meaning, the ultimate glory of the cinema as an art” (Sarris, 1992, p. 586). He tries to explain the interior meaning as drawn from the tension between a director’s personality and his material. This conception of interior meaning however, comes close to what Alexander Astruc may have defined as Mise вЂ" en вЂ" Scene (putting in the scene). According to him, Truffaut refers to it as the temperature of the director on the set (p. 587).

In an attempt to valorize a different style of filmmaking, Truffaut argued that the only films that deserved to be designated �art’ were those in which the director had complete control over by writing the screenplay as well as actually directing the actors. Sarris adopted this theory to legitimize film studies as an academic discipline. For him, the auteur theory was a theory of film evaluation, for it suggested to him that the works of great directors were the only significant ones. In his somewhat idiosyncratic use of the idea, he argued that the flawed works of major directors were artistically better than masterpieces made by minor ones.

Some scholars in film criticism have shared a particular belief in the absolute distinction between the auteur and metteur вЂ" un вЂ" scene. Edward Buscombe puts this distinction as that which is

…characterized by the difference between the auteur’s ability to make a film truly his own i.e. a kind of original, and the metteur вЂ" un вЂ" scene’s inability to disguise the fact that the origin of his film lies somewhere else(as cited in Ihentuge, 2007, p. 14).

Pervasions of Auteurism

A negative consequence of the influence of auteurism is the relative neglect of other important contributions to the making of a film.

In recent years, film theory has generally dismissed auteur theory from serious consideration. Many theorists will argue that auteur theory is not even a theory, but simply a listing of one’s individual preferences regarding film. Such view is not without foundation. The Cahiers Du Cinema writers from the fifties, with whom auteur theory originated, admitted that their views tended to reflect a subjective preference for one director over another, and that it was not based on any theoretically established criteria. In agreement with this position, Sarris, in the beginning of his essay, states:

As far as I know, there is no definition of auteur theory in English language, that is, by any American or British critic. Truffaut has recently gone through great pains to emphasize that the auteur theory was merely a polemical weapon for a given time and a given place and I am willing to take him by his word. But lest I be accused of misappropriating a theory no one wants anymore, I will give the Cahiers critics full credit for the original formulation of an idea that reshaped my thinking on the cinema (Sarris, p.585).

This lack of theory within auteur criticism has been recognized from nearly its beginnings. Andre Bazin, for example, complained that despite the fact that the writers of Cahiers Du Cinema have practiced for three or four years, they have not yet produced the main corpus of its theory (emphasis mine). Little wonder why many new books in film theory pay little or no attention to auteur theory.

One of the more influential intellectual currents which has contributed to the criticism and rejection of auteur theory is structuralism, and following it, post structuralism. Both structuralists and poststructuralists reject one of the implicit (and often explicit) assumptions of auteur theory: that is the belief that the auteur is the unifying, creative source for the meaning and value of a unified work of art, whether that work be a film, a novel, etc.

Michel Foucault expresses this sentiment properly in his essay “What is an Author?” where he argues that the word вЂ?work’ and the unity that it designates is probably as problematic as the status of the author’s individuality (as cited in Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy).

Another criticism often made against the auteur theory is its failure in the consideration of the external and/or historical factors and circumstances which contribute to the final product which is the film

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