samedi 15 septembre 2012

Cinema: Why Collywood-Cameroon film industry?

Many countries as well as some Cameroon filmmakers are going on with an atrocious imitation of the ideology behind Hollywood.  

By Zigoto Tchaya Tchameni, filmmaker/critic/journalist. 

Zigoto Tchaya Tchameni
Hollywood has expanded its tentacles even in the mouth of newly born babies in some parts of the world. While cinema halls in Cameroon have been closed down, India and Nigeria are on the limelight as the second and the third world’s largest in film production. 

It was in 2009 when I returned to Cameroon from England for Holidays and was invited by a good friend in the name of Kanjo Ernest, to attend a “COLLYWOOD” meeting. I didn’t understand the meaning of “COLLYWOOD”. Before leaving Cameroon for London in 2005, there wasn’t any set up or group that could put together professionals in the domain of filmmaking. The “COLLYWOOD” guys had put in place a structure known as “COLLYWOOD”, meant to bring together Cameroonian filmmakers in form of guilds: Actors guild, Director and Producers guilds. What a magnificent idea with people like Agbor Gilbert who had tremendous success as he made much money by merging the Cameroon film market with Nigerians? I was so glad that the different guilds had as plan of actions, to carve out strategies to bring back cinema halls in Cameroon as well as encouraging the culture of filmmaking, constantly make films whether good or bad qualities and flood the Cameroon market and to create film institutes to train film enthusiasts. 

The meeting was made up of a mixture some young gossips and some English speaking Cameroonians whose understanding of filmmaking was far from ideological conceptions, theories as well as understanding the history and evolution of world cinema and Cameroon cinema. The young amateurs who had neither training nor qualification as filmmakers, but just may be because an aunt or an uncle had offered them camcorders from the Western world and they go around shooting films difficult to view in Cameroon and International contexts, puzzled me. I was flabbergasted, stunned, astounded and staggered when no one could give me a tangible reason why the historical brand name for the Cameroon Film Industry – “CFI” was suddenly transformed into “COLLYWOOD”. I found it as total imitation. Aristotle approximated that: ‘‘Life is imitation”. Imitation in some contexts is somehow a circular logic that continues to fashion the world today in a direction of cliché. 

I am strongly convinced that Aristotle’s definition was not clear to some filmmakers. Many countries as well as some Cameroon filmmakers have attempted and are going on with an atrocious imitation of the ideology behind Hollywood. To my understanding, prove me wrong; imitation does not mean “Everlasting copy work”. I think from a dictionary definition: ORIGIN late Middle English: from Latin imitation (n-), from the verb imitari. im.i.ta.tion”, from its phonetic transcription |imi’tā sh ən|… in addition to it as a noun, it is “a thing intended to simulate or copy something else : [as an adjective] “The action of using someone or something as a model”. Interesting enough because Madiba Nelson Mandela is a model to many people in the world especially, if related to “Invictus” Morgan Freeman would not be left apart.

Considering imitation as a phrase, the definition will be: “imitation is the sincerest form of flattery”. Making it proverbialcopying someone or something is an implicit way of paying them a compliment.” Clinking on the proverbial definition, one could hold strong to the fact that we are in the Postcolonial era and it seems as if some Cameroon filmmakers have remained constant with the fulfillment of the requirements of courtesy. It somehow makes sense to give compliments in filmmaking, but highly inadmissible to brand the name of a film industry from a capitalist as well as a post colonially distorted manner that generation may come to question the founders of a nation. It cannot be an over-emphasis that all the countries that are carrying the “lywood” addendums can be considered to be under some form of Postcolonial colonialism. It splinters a pleasant debate on the Anthropology of African cinema. The major question is: “why is it that only countries in development are subscribed to the philosophy of the “lywood” addendum? If it was a generic name that characterizes the universality of filmmaking, then countries like: Britain should have had “Britiwood”, Germany “Germiwood”, Spain as “Spaniwood” as well as Belgium with “Belgiwood”. Adopting “COLLYWOOD” as a form of cinematographic branding operation is a wound that is opened for outsiders to mock at one’s preys.

CFI is more appropriate than Collywood

It is weird because there are ten regions in Cameroon and there are no such regions as ANGLOPHONE or FRANCOPHONE. It may be more appropriate if CFI is maintained as a historical brand name. CFI could have been a magnificent platform to bring together the East and the West Cameroons as well as to continue to discourage the notion of the Anglophone and Franco-phobia that separate the country for no tangible or palpable reason. Whereas, English and French are colonial languages that are tools to may be establish bewilderment, perplexity, mystification, disorder, as well as uncertainty among peaceful people. It is equally interesting to duplicate and try to be like, just as my daughter learns to speak by imitation. 

When charity begins at home, it should not end there. Emulation and attempting creation could have been the best approach because it sets a place for one to assert his own identity. Cameroon filmmaking would serve as a magnificent international mouth watering sausage if Cameroonians start to make use of precious time to think about how collaborative work can be done positively: just like the film signals: “SILENCE…” “STANDBY…” “TAPE ROLLING…” “ACTION…” “IT’S A WRAP…”, rather than spending precious time to invent and generate unnecessary divergences, be at odds, concur, skirmish or conflicts that would make one to instead spend much time on solving quandaries while others are making films and making money on the other part of the world. Lets also stand our grounds, use filmmaking and tell OUR own stories as well as make OUR own films, worthy of OUR own culture, OUR own history, OUR own Anthropology and make the outside world to take pleasure in them as the Nigerians have done all over the globe.

Addendum: More development on some of the factors that account for the slow pace of the Cameroon Film Industry. A brief historicity of Cameroon cinema, a review of some early and contemporary filmmakers like Dikongue Pipa, Daniel Kamwa, Bassek Ba Khobio, Cyril Masso and Agbor Gilbert.

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