As an aspiring filmmaker myself and seasoned storyteller, I have made it a point of duty to pay close attention to any person(s) whom I believe to be standouts within our craft and thus, you have been on my list of artistes to watch for quite some time now. However, I must say that I am becoming increasingly disappointed with the quality of material that you put out there.
Granted, compared to your colleagues in the industry, your work is above average and I am not going to make this open letter to be about technical issues like using techniques better suited to the theatrical stage in scenes,grammatical errors and misspellings in subtitles, excessive dialogue, improperly handled boom mics and poor scene blocking that results in crew shadows being visible to the audience. I am more interested in the content of your work and the fact that though I get excited when I hear you have come up with a new project, I am barely into the story five minutes and I am left deflated and disappointed.
1. Representing your sisterhood: There are very few women writers, producers and directors and so far there is no one that is at this point really presenting any progressive thinking for women. Women are simply portrayed in stereotypes and misinformation. The only type of woman that is celebrated is one that does not challenge the traditional roles which place her as secondary to the man and define her solely by her marital status and reproductive abilities. As a member of the sorority, I always find very little that caters to the modern woman. And your stories don't.
In Jenifa, all the girls that were fashion conscious were promiscious. All the sexually active girls either ended up dead, diseased or with a reproductive defect. As someone who went to Unilag, you cannot tell me you don't know of females who keep up with trends without the sole purpose of securing an older and irresponsible man to financially support them. Also, you cannot tell me that all the sexually active girls that you know end up with the same results listed above. Do a bit of research and you will find thousands of females with stories to inspire and encourage and not endorse stereotypes that objectify or demean us.
In Aye Olomokan, all I hear from the beginning of the movie till the end, despite the supposed twist at the end is that, if a woman cannot cook and clean, this is reason enough for her man/husband to sleep with the maid or any other woman who figures that she knows how because she can mix pepper, locust beans and spinach into an edible concoction.
If you believe the stereotypes you portray, then you, Funke Akindele, are not an artist or complete as a woman. I mean, where is your husband and children, if that is all a woman is defined by? Your life and work are an antithesis to the embedded messages you present.
Are you then saying to your fellow sisters, that all we are to be are cooks, maids and breeding machines? Really? With a university degree under your belt?
2. Over exaggeration of humor at the expense of the plot: Exaggeration is a technique better suited to the stage because the person at the end of the room cannot clearly see the facial expression of the actor beneath the lights and thus the thespian has to employ over emphasised gestures and extended dialouges to explain what is going on.
It is only in Nigerian movies that one would find characters conducting a monologue with no one else in the scene. And yet, we are from a culture where such an action is considered a sign of lunacy. Gatemen/hired help will spend almost five minutes saying nothing important, even though it is funny. Characters have quirks that don't correlate with their image:I mean,in Aye Olomo kan, why would a woman in her twenties be watching Hannah Montana? Fifteen year old Americans don't watch Hannah Montana and for some reason, a character in your story does? Okayee. Humor must have a point or it is a waste of reel, editing and audience time.
3. Depth of characters: There is never depth to your characters. They are always one dimensional and have linear expressions within the plot. You have in Jenifa, a girl who seeks to define her identity within an environment that is superficial ending up with HIV (that one is even a post for another day) and you have your main character in Aye Olomokan loosing her husband because she can only boil water, make tea and custard.
I know that just because a woman is bad at one thing does not make her a bad person or a total write off. Maybe she cannot cook, but she is good with making money. Maybe she is not good with money but she had great people skills that come in handy with the relationship. Maybe she is lazy with housework but a gifter writer. Maybe she can sing and write songs. Maybe she is fashionable and that is a way for her to changer her life and the lives of others.
A woman is multi faceted. Have you not seen women athletes, braving it all. How about market women who have to rise before dawn to get to the depot to meet with trailers coming from the north; negotiating sales, customers with dreams and aspirations for themselves or for their kids?You are multi faceted. Why is that never expressed in your stories?
Also, the men in your stories are always old fashioned and playing by stoneage manuals: Man comes in and says to wife "Go into the kitchen and fix my food." I thought to myself, is she a maid or "bone of his bone". There are men who don't base their relationships with their wives on whether or not eba is hot, or if they ate pounded yam. I feel that constantly presenting men in that light sets low standards for them. A man, who will walk out on a marriage because of vegetable soup is not worth his oxygen. What will he do in the event of a huge test from God? Disappear?
I am not calling out anyone else on this because frankly speaking, I don't expect them to do any better that what they have and I am don't care about what they do. Most of the other producers are men, and frankly speaking, you think they are going to advocate for the woman? But you can. You are a woman too and you appear to be enlightened. I know that you are much better than what your work implies you to be. I sense it in your attempts and presentation but don't see it in the delivery of your subject matter.
I know that our styles of storytelling are different and you most likely will totally disagree with me; afterall, if I have all this to say, where is my own film portfolio? I guess without one at this point, you might give no credence to my observations. Still, as a soror of the arts, I expect more of a mind like yours because these are the standards we should be setting.
So, you and I need to have a talk.