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

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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 ‘Auteur’s Policy’ (La Politiques de Auteur), which was abbreviated by Andrew Sarris as ‘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 – en – 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 – un – 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 – un – 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...
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