CULTURE AS AN ASPECT OF FILM AESTHETIC

Source:  CULTURE AS AN ASPECT OF FILM AESTHETIC    Tag:  inherited physical traits

According to the Encyclopædia Britannica, culture is the integrated pattern of human knowledge, belief, and behaviour that is both a result of and integral to the human capacity for learning and transmitting knowledge to succeeding generations.

Culture thus consists of language, ideas, beliefs, customs, taboos, codes, institutions, tools, techniques, works of art, rituals, ceremonies, and symbols. It has played a crucial role in human evolution, allowing human beings to adapt the environment to their own purposes rather than depend solely on natural selection to achieve adaptive success. Every human society has its own particular culture, or socio-cultural system. Variation among cultures is attributable to such factors as differing physical habitats and resources; the range of possibilities inherent in areas such as language, ritual, and social organization; and historical phenomena such as the development of links with other cultures. An individual's attitudes, values, ideals, and beliefs are greatly influenced by the culture (or cultures) in which he or she lives. Culture change takes place as a result of ecological, socioeconomic, political, religious, or other fundamental factors affecting a society. Culture is also described as the patterns of behaviour and thinking that people living in social groups learn, create, and share. Culture distinguishes one human group from others. It also distinguishes humans from other animals

Culture has several distinguishing characteristics. (1) It is based on symbols—abstract ways of referring to and understanding ideas, objects, feelings, or behaviours—and the ability to communicate with symbols using language. (2) Culture is shared. People in the same society share common behaviours and ways of thinking through culture. (3) Culture is learned. While people biologically inherit many physical traits and behavioural instincts, culture is socially inherited. A person must learn culture from other people in a society. (4) Culture is adaptive. People use culture to flexibly and quickly adjust to changes in the world around them. [Microsoft Encarta, 2004]

Culture is an essential aspect of film aesthetics, this is partly because film subsists in culture and also because is it made for an audience that has a culture, whether that audience is culturally inclined or not, as such films tends to reflect the culture or nuances of the philosophy of the society that produces it. Films from China, promotes the culture of that nation and its people, films from India reflects the music, dance, dressing and beliefs of that Eastern nation, movies from the United States of America highlight the values and patterns of daily life in that country, Nollywood movies uphold the ways of life and happenings in Nigeria. Films are cultural ambassadors of the society in which they are produced; film is an instrument of cultural proclamation. Each society tells it story. The cultural context of a film help explains where a filmmaker’s allegiance lies; whether to his culture or to sometime else other than a sense of belonging or inclination to his realm. Tunde Oladunjoye captures the essence of the role culture plays in societal development in an article published in The Guardian of Sunday, April 18,2004 titled “ Cannes Film Festival Knocks, Where Is Nigeria” in which he states:

“I am not aware of any nation that has been able to achieve development without proactive promotion of its essential cultural components. For example you cannot separate the culture of Japan from that country’s economic and technological achievement…..”[Oladunjoye, 2004]
Not only does culture facilitate development but it provides ample raw materials for the filmmaker to work with. Folklores, myths, fables, legends, folk music, folk dance, costume, folk architecture, ritual practices, kingship rites and other elements and aspects of culture, are ready materials that the filmmaker can explore, borrow, adapt or use vérité in his work. The film industries that have been able to use their culture as a springboard for cinematic expressions and other uses are renowned the world over. Bollywood is a contemporary example also the Yoruba film industry of the 1970s and 1980s captured the Yoruba essence and proclaimed it all over the world and audiences love it. Lagbaja, Asa, Yinka Davies, Fela Anikulapo–Kuti, King Sunny Ade are Nigerian musicians who are to blend their indigenous cultures with music and they are able to produce novel tunes and great music such that thrills even foreigners to the culture. Tunde Kelani is one filmmaker whose works is given glamour because of his appropriation of culture, in all his works he employs the Yoruba culture in story telling, costume design, set design, music, props, gestures, expression and in the use of language, this is one reason he is loved by his primary audience –the Yoruba people of Nigeria.

Moreover culture inclination in a movie makes it easier for the filmmaker to work. Especially, where he belongs to that culture or there are available adequate resources on the culture of the film story and access to see the culture in practice. Moreover, it guarantees success at the box office where the film portrays culture effectively; to some extent, because people enjoy their culture, celebrates it and loves to see it portrayed. Nobody wants his culture, his values and philosophy eroded. Examples of cultural hits include IGODO (Don Pedro-Obaseki, 2000), SAWÒROIDÉ (Tunde Kelani, 2001), SANGO (Obafemi Lasode, 1996), KING SOLOMON’S MINE (Compton Bennett and Andrew Marton, 1950) among others.

Culture serves as a basis for realism in movies. A work that builds on the established cultural nuances and conventions of a society is better accepted as an original statement about that society than those that do not. DANGEROUS TWINS (Tade Ogidan, 2004), RATTLESNAKES I, II, III AND IV (Amaka Igwe-Isaac, 1991-1996) are textbooks about Nigeria in contemporary times while such films as FALSE ALARM (2006) and CHAMELEON I AND II (2006) are refuted by critics as non-representative of Nigeria because of their un-Nigerian story nature, in FALSE ALARM the conflict is between a Nigerian “FBI” and Chief Lord Lugard Donko.
The thrust of the argument am putting forward is that every film should reflect as truthfully as possible to the limits that funding and technicalities would allow, the culture of its society or the society that it is depicting because it is only then that the film can gain from the enormous aesthetic benefits that culture provides for filmmaking. By working in the local idiom, Nollywood filmmakers can give their works original outlook such which cannot be rubbished but celebrated by their contemporaries in other countries.
Adenugba, Olushola Oladele

FOOTNOTES
All movie references are African. A bulk of the titles mentioned are from the Nigerian Film Industry colloquially called Nollywood also directors work in the same industry.