Sunday, 12 June 2016

Anurin Nwunembom addresses Cameroonian filmmakers in a lengthy letter

Anurin Nwunembom
Anurin Nwunembom is an independent Cameroonian filmmaker with a penchant for highly aesthetic art. He is known for his works like Feature Films: Ninah's Dowry, Rita and short Films: Beleh. The following letter addressing filmmakers in Cameroon was written by Anurin Nwunembom and posted exclusively on Kamer Flow Magazine.

Even sex fails when the mind is unwilling. Sex is pleasure and leisure (I know it is above all else Sacred) but let us mirror film and filmmaking with the filmmaker in this light. An unwilling mind refuses to learn and grow the knowledge that makes it efficient and proficient in the practice of its activity. A filmmaker who does not know, understand and then accept the sacredness of filmmaking will never do film with the dedication and passion of a good lover making love to his/her lover/spouse.
Failure has tormented film and filmmaking (in Cameroon) for a better part of the last fifteen to twenty years because of undefinition. Nothing is defined or if it is, it is not defined with its etymological specifics. Too many generalisations, careless assumptions and presumptions are used by the many to define and guide film and filmmaking in our dear triangle. With the results that many people carry cameras around, recording and shooting, talking and fighting, editing and red carpeting, yet film and filmmaking still suffers from the unfortunate presence and practice of adventurers and idle bored minds. It is not uncommon to see actors who call themselves filmmakers. Or Camera operators who are called directors of photography. In this pathetic light being a director, producer, filmmaker becomes just a title to be hung on the head or neck and carry around without any care as to what it entails or involves. Is it not here that actors are classified and called in a so called A list and B list categorization with criterias determined solely by what who is classifying is benefiting from who they are classifying. Individuals with not even up to a supporting role (or whose filmography consists of a movie in post production) ends up as an A lister. Who are we kidding!
The entire process has dominantly been led by individuals who are armed only with lethal trial-and-error notions about film. Approximative practice of production, directing, motion photography, design, editing…then then then publicity, marketing and distribution ruin the steady growth of the film industry. No one seems to notice that it is not the quantity but the quality of productions that indicate growth of the industry. Have I not seen producers sweating over budgeting for their projects and productions when the final script has not been not delivered by the writer! Selfish interests and credit-mongery and usurpation methods passionately define how filmmaking happens in 85% of productions in the industry. Here we are many busy years after 1985 (31 years), and people still call the film industry in Cameroon infant, baby or just starting. Appalling turn of news event.
We are still held down by crumbs of subsistent filmmaking ideas dropping off Hollywood and Nollywood. There is no consistent effort to establish standard practices which will facilitate growth. Individuals fight to propose and impose their personal ideas at every level of decision making on the shaky and limping arbitration body. Why are all of the bodies or organizations in charge of building and maintaining this craft on good course, why don’t they attract stakeholders to affiliate with them for the greater good? That was just a stupid and idle question from this idiot. Guilds exist mostly only in name, General Assemblies and Occasions. Hardly functional if it is not to show power or authoritativeness. Same problems are raised, discussed and fought over then a rendez vous is taken for the next fight or general assembly. When associated to our confusionwood we are left with a nowood. That is why most stakeholders of film do not actually do only film for a living. Film is to put it plainly and sincerely a secondary or tertiary pastime for them.
Every new comer tags themselves as the mesire and saviour, the one who has come to change the limping industry’s fate. But usually ends up confounded and lives a few enthusiasts frustrated and lost. Usually with little or no knowledge of film and filmmaking knowledge, their intention is to taste and enjoy red carpet- Facebook glory a little while before inevitable irrelevance sweeps them into oblivion. Most new comers show and have no respect for the history that has gone before them. Few Cameroonian filmmakers know and master the history and development of filmmaking. That is if right now someone -reading this now- is not asking how it will benefit them. Anyone who till now did know that art is so dependent on history to the extent that artist function only with inspiration got from memory of great arts should shamelessly shut up, shut down and stay silent for good. Respect the history of your craft, learn it religiously for that is the beginning of film wisdom.
It is not a mad race to appropriate titles and positions on film credit rolls. It is a careful conception and execution of great audiovisual artistic and technical ideas in telling a story that will significantly impact the world. Very few have given the trouble to their minds to find out what film is and or what filmmaking entails. Socrates in ones of his arguments about knowledge said to be a shoe mender, one needed to know what a shoe is first. From there, an understanding of the function of a shoe and what mending it entailed will determine whether one ends up becoming a shoe mender or not. I guess to be a filmmaker one has to define what a film is, understand the elements and functions of film, then we can have a faint idea what filmmaking is. Proficiency is (I guess) what determines professionalism. If an individual kicks around trial-and-error ideas and guess-and-fail reasoning around a film production set what are the odds that any success will be recorded in the process?It beats my mind that for each year that comes and goes majority of stakeholders are rejoicing about the perfectly mediocre effort and slow pace of the development of our industry.
? Many fight to foster and promote themselves and mediocrity than build the industry.? People fight for positions of control with little or no preparation and/ or baggage to carry the weight of and take the industry forward.? We concentrate on fighting and hurting each other rather than fight and beat back the film illiteracy, ignorance, insincerity, dishonesty and selfishness that is running down the construction efforts of the isolated few good wills and hearts.? In this deep chaos, cynics take advantage and call for support and promotion of poorly done films because that is all that is available.
If anyone feels or wants to bedevil me, feel free. Even curse if your wisdom so allows your conscience to. But only do so after a thorough, objective, sincere and honest assessment of how many producers, directors, actors, camera operators/ directors of photography, editorset all have been in the industry for long and have made movies and till date have not got a show reel that can speak for them in the absence of their large mouths. A filmography of up to 7 movies and above and one cannot go anywhere and be recognized except when they start struggling to remember the titles of their hitherto unrecorded productions. That is a big problem. Use any specialized terminology on the field and you are immediately labeled an oversabi or called some derogatory name. That is a great worry.Whatssap groups and forums have become the most frequented film sets and production space. The gamut of film savvy people and visionaries who reside and practice in these multitude of Whatssap groups are impressive. Entire events are organized, consumed and expire on Facebook and the rest of the social media with the help of family and friends in the name of supporting the industry.
Using past bad ideas as justifications for present failures and misdeeds. Why not identify what was wrong with the first bad ideas or what went wrong in the implementation of the past good ones.
Even more frightful than the mediocrity culture in the industry is the intensive insouciance of some major stakeholders to the mediocrity. Industry standards are violated by any one in every/anyway by invoking the need to support the growth of the industry. Strange thing is that when a workshop or workshops (which are the main condition for reasonable and lasting industry growth) are called and organized, turn out and attendance is appallingly discouraging. Gross insincerity makes that in constituting cast and crew for projects most times, a great part of the producers or filmmakers (for good or bad) avoid to include and involve any film craftsmen or film savvy people for fear of giving them too much credit or they are worried and scared any such person will take away their shine. Most producers do not know and master (neatly) the various steps and processes of production. This makes for a painful trial and error filmmaking tradition which keeps industry standards in a dizzying pause.
An idle positive note is that short films and filmmaking practices are picking up and leading many in the right direction. Or the practice of making more and more festival films (as some would put it) is growing by leaps and bounds. There is a gradual recognize by some few filmmaking goodwills that film is not just carrying cameras and people around shooting images into DSLR cameras and cards. These new breed intends to go beyond the frenzy of good shining images, good acting into well written stories, artistically, technically and aesthetically mature films. They intend of making movies which will not end their journey on the red carpet, or producer’s cupboard or maybe on Facebook in ridiculously poster designs. We are only hoping adventurers with means don’t appropriate these too.
It’s a sad love story when the lovers wont tell themselves the truth and identify their problems, fix them and try happiness. It is bad romance when film does not like you and you attempt for many years to survive in it and it keeps spitting you out. It is a failed courtship when you fight for long to maintain a contrived and forced relationship with a field that does not like you. It is a bad sign when you keep complaining about the same old problem and all your wit, experience, intelligence and money cannot help you to solve or fix the problem. If you don’t love film, leave it. If film does not love you, leave it. Either ways do something before it leaves you with head and shoulders down.
Anurin Nwunembom


  1. Wow! Lengthy but insightful and articulate

  2. I think you just got the nail right in the head.This is terrific....I hope those in the industry read this and know that its not about names....director of this or that or producer.. .but its about having the professionality in you and using it well in your field of expertise.Don't know a little specificities about a microphone then you come to the industry and brand yourself "sound engineer" STICK TO WHAT YOU ARE GOOD AT" ...Dont claim things which are not your calling just cuz you wanna walk the Red Carpet or cuz you want the fame....Especially ya'll who dont even have the passion for acting or movie making....yet you come and claim key roles in movies and end up giving us bizzarre movies....meanwhile you are just not designed for the movie industry.please watch out fellow Camer peps.CAMEROONIANS TRY TO BE ORIGINAL...STOP TRYNA COPY THE NIGERIAN STYLE OR AMERICAN STYLE.JUST BE YOU CAMER

  3. Quite lengthy but the points are well spelt out. CFI is still being referred to as a baby industry irrespective of the fact that it has existed for years. Let's just do the work and sustainable fame will come in due time.