The Art of making a movie!

About Eritrea - Art & Sport

The 15th edition of the European Film Festival in Asmara kicks off this week. Let’s take a little journey around the beautiful world of movie making.

Nowadays our movie houses seem to have taken fancy to video films made in Eritrea by Eritreans. Long are gone the days of theatrical plays. What happened? Maybe it is easier to transport videos than a group of actors with their accoutrements. And stage actors may get ill and miss rehearsals. It is difficult to get a replacement soon. The understudy, under pressure of the shining light, usually tends to mess things up.

As regards video, the story is already imprinted in the magnetic tape or perhaps digitally stored. The actors have already left after being paid. The producer is now free to do whatever he or she likes with the film. He/she can even make the actors speak in various languages by simply inserting subtitle or through dubbing. This cannot be done with plays.

The problem with our local videos is, however, in their lack of simplicity. They are high budget films made with low budget projects. They aspire to reach the stars but remain grounded for the rest of their lives.

I have seen some of them recently. Good story, bad script. Good script, bad shooting. Good shooting, bad editing. They are never perfect or near perfect. There are exceptions of course; the current ongoing series, Georgeo, and short sitcom, Enda Zimam, prove to me that we are on the right track in terms of making movies, short series and sitcoms that tell the Eritrean story in a simple way.

However, most are made for quick profit with mostly inexperienced stage actors and sometimes with people who have never played on stage. A person can be a good stage actor but that cannot necessarily make him or her a good film actor. There is a great gap between plays and films. Histrionics is for plays; it has no place in serious films.

Besides, on the poster one can see the name of the producer, director, editor and costume designer, but most of the time the job description is not clear. There is no clear-cut role. That is why the producer or director rarely gives attention to lighting or sound effects. That job is often left to anybody. And anybody is liable to make foolish mistakes.

There are no consultants or advisors. Just make it a love film with enough melodrama to make the audience shed emphatic tears. Exploiting the emotional resource of viewers is not good. The idea should be to entertain and teach. When you make people weep, it should be justified. Poor producers are ready to make people laugh with antics and cry with overacted death scenes.

In most of the local videos I have seen, I have never come across anyone with its own film score. The music, or film theme, if there is any, is a direct copy or popular light or classical music. I remember listening La Paloma (a popular Spanish song) played during a battle scene. I do not know what this Paloma is about, but is the producer sure that it fitted into the scene he chose for it? Perhaps it was a dance battle!

Of course, no one is at the present time free from imitation . But, when one imitates, one should at least be very subtle about it. Imitation is suicide. It shows mental poverty . Creative minds should abhor imitation , especially cheap imitation.

Simple is beautiful. Why not produce films about the life of a Medeber scrap merchant? About the hardship of a student life? The dream of a shoe shiner? Etc.

A couple of years back, I watched a movie, Una Giornata Particolare (a special day), in translation. I envied the film for its simplicity. I came to realize the Italians were talented filmmakers. They are really great. Well, haven’t they produced Michael Angelo and Leonardo Da Vinci in the past and Versace.

The film is a superb production.

Hitler comes to Rome to pay a visit to the Duce. Everybody goes to the festival. The city is almost empty. Whole families are in the big square where the two dictators in turn harangue the poor Italians. Some old people remain at home and listen to the radio. A certain woman is home alone. On the next block, a man is home alone because he does not like dictators. The woman has a bird in a cage. She inadvertently opens the cage. The bird flies away and lands on the sill of the window of the house on the next block. The bird becomes the cause for the meeting of man and woman. But the romance (of course, a bit of cheating) remains until the festival is over. Five hours at most.

What I like about the film is that the whole story begins and ends in the same building. No location, no scenery, no artificial background, no extras, no trips abroad, no violent action. Just a simple and less expensive production. A real human encounter with human weakness and short comings. What about the music? The Italian or German national or festival music that was being played at the square served as the background music for the film. It was simply wonderful.

Of course, after a bit of searching in the old Google, I found out both actors, Marcello Mastroianni and Sofia Loren, were superstars. But what made the film unforgettable was its simplicity. Simple but wonderful!

I wish our video producers did the same with their production. In my meager opinion, keep it simple but creative. Do not imitate. Have some variety by changing themes. Not always on love and war. The world is more than love and war. Remember Good Will Hunting, The Postman, etc….

Truth is simple, one Philosopher said, it is the foolish of the earth that complicate it.