I have been reading a lot of articles lately and hearing a lot of things about the place of the movie critic in the industry. Especially on TNS recently (as they celebrate their 2 year anniversary – CONGRATS TEAM TNS!), there was one particular that goes into the place for critics in the society. Recently, as well, we read an interview with Kunle Afolayan by TheNetNG where he is asked whether or not he believes critics have a place in the industry. Part of the interview is below:
Interviewer: Don’t you think there is a place for critics actually in the industry. Because the argument is always, ‘have you made a film, are you a filmmaker, so you should not be able to say anything…
Kunle Afolayan: No, I’m not saying… It’s like saying a doctor, you go to a physician and you’re there and he hasn’t diagnosed you or anything, he looked at you and he says to you, ‘I think you have malaria’ and I think when you have malaria, your eyes will be red and bla bla bla. As the patient, Would you take such doctor serious?
Interviewer: That’s science…
Kunle Afolayan: No no no, it’s the same. Film making is a walk of life. Some people studied, they go to the university, they learn to be creative. When you do a film, do you know how many people get involved in film making? You have your sound department, do you understand, you have the different department.
So, when you’re judging or when you’re doing your critique… And the reason why I said some people are stupid and I’ll always say it that some people don’t understand this thing is this, a director can intentionally shoot a scene to be dark. I can say I don’t wanna reveal this guy’s face, totally, for mood reasons, and for whatever reasons best known to you. Then someone will see it and say ‘how come the room is dark, and how come we can’t see his entire face’. Why? Because they are used to the Nollywood kind of film where they bounce light up, and they just want to see everything in the room and there’s no aesthetics and all of that.
So, it is wrong of anyone… except if you’re an authority and you have an understanding of it. Look, I can even tell you that I’ve met with professors of film, doctors of film, in festivals and we’ll argue. We’ll argue because, they’re not practitioners, they’re scholars. And how they earned the doctorate degree and being a professor is because they picked the information from different people about films and how to do films. But they’re not filmmakers, so a lot of times, they go off. As a matter of fact, I read one of my father’s interview that he granted in the 80s and he said the same thing about critics.
All over the world, it’s the same thing. If you go and read studio’s response to some of these things. And that’s why I said there’s difference between PR and proper critique. There are some reviews of CEO that I have read and within me I’ll say, ‘you’re right, I could have done it better, but I couldn’t do it because I don’t have what it takes to do it’.
You know, there are some glaring things you know that oh, this person is just messing with you, and there some you’ll know that oh, this person is just being cheeky. You know with the rundown syndrome that we do in this country, maybe that’s what the person is trying to do. But, like I said, I don’t think it is fair to judge and base films of different genre in the same platform and pedestrian.
He has a valid point in that some critics have a very negative agenda. It is tempting to want to say something negative about those in the limelight and hope that it brings you fame, forgetting that those people are too. We are glad he makes the distinction between these critics and others.
As far as the question goes of whether or not there is a place for critics in the industry, I will say this one thing. No matter how difficult film making is and no matter how much of a process it is, in the end a film is created for consumption by the viewer. We are the viewers and like in any other market the viewer has a right to know which commodity to purchase, which is higher quality and which to skip over.
For this reason, critics will always be necessary. As far as the disparity goes between critical acclaim and box office hits, it is simply a fact of nature that people will have different preferences. In regards to those preferences, some will prefer cinema that does not pass certain quality tests and some will look for that in their cinema. It is left for a good critic to lay out their cards and let the readers know the reason why they believe certain movies are good and certain ones are bad.