By Hamza4SL

A film, also called a movie, motion picture, moving picture, or photo play, is a series of still images that, when shown on a screen; create the illusion of moving images. This optical illusion causes the audience to perceive continuous motion between separate objects viewed in rapid succession.

The name “film” originates from the fact that photographic film (also called film stock) has historically been the medium for recording and displaying motion pictures. Many other terms exist for an individual motion-picture, including picture, picture show, moving picture, photo play, and flick.

The most common term in Sierra Leone is film, Cassette even when we are in the age of USBs, while in Europe film is preferred and the United States of America movie is preferred. Common terms for the field I have heard include the big screen, the silver screen, the movies, and cinema; the last of these is commonly used, as an overarching term, in scholarly texts and critical essays.

Movie in Sierra Leone is also a growing business and most youths are actively involved in the industry. Sierra Leone was commonly known as a ground for concert and theatre and this were studied in schools as students partake in acting dramas.

Sierra Leone should have been the first country in West Africa that should have been shooting movies but due to some political tensions, it did not. During pre-colonial period, many concerts and dramas that were documented were portraying the rich culture of Sierra Leone; ranging from the costumes to the settings down to the plot. Sierra Leone’s cultural songs were being sung in these dramas.

By that time, the dramas had moral lessons and they learnt about roots of the culture and good moral lessons to all that listened to it. When I was growing up, my mother told me about how Sierra Leoneans cherished their culture; she patiently turned page after page showing me her cultural photos. I can still remember how she patiently sat us down to tell us about our rich cultural heritage while our father related to us the story of our great ancestors; Sundiata Keita of Mali.

Currently speaking I did not know how it was but thinking about these stories and pictures; I asked myself, what happened? Why is our movie industry portraying another man’s culture? Do we have “Igwes” in Sierra Leone? Why do we use the same costumes as Nigerians?

Films are cultural artifacts created by specific cultures. They reflect those cultures, and, in turn, affect them. Film is considered to be an important art form, a source of popular entertainment, and a powerful medium for educating or indoctrinating people consciously or subconsciously. The visual basis of film gives it a universal power of communication. Some films have become popular worldwide attractions through the use of dubbing or subtitles to translate the dialog into other languages. A film has to portray a culture and not to imitate another man’s culture.

Just like the music; each concert and drama had meaning till the beginning of the 21st century, when dramas and concerts were transformed into movies. The current movie industry is composed of unprofessional as we see series of casts who do not know how to use script, we see wrong screenplays, too much of imitation and rookies.

As the music industry in Sierra Leone keeps gaining momentum bit by bit, so is the movie industry. In recent years, we have seen a barrage of Sierra Leonean movies gracing our screens, some with high standards and some still trying to meet standards. However, most Sierra Leoneans are proud of some movies in the industry that are highly intellectual. Sierra Leoneans should continue to showcase and give out support to this industry as it forms a major part of the entertainment sector.

As it occurs to the music industry, the movie stars in the industry have to follow suit by asking the following questions:

Can I act?

What character suits me the most?

Will my acting career be sustainable; will I make an impact?

Whose life am I changing with my movies?

How can I put Sierra Leone on the map with my movies?

Whose culture am I promoting?

What image am I showing the world?

After asking yourself these questions; one should endeavour to learn about movie, the method and practices of becoming a good and likeable actor. Unfortunately, the problems of the movie industry are similar to the music industry. Some of the problems are:

Poor Production/Low Budget Movies

Without an iota of doubt, it could be clearly seen that poor production has been one of the major problems with the film industries in Sierra Leone. There has been series of films released from time immemorial and these movies appear to be low budgeted movies with poor directions. Often times the story is in place but the production is always a problem.

Films are mostly classified and ranked according to their production and their stories. Most African movies are hitting round the continent not because of their stories but because of the type of production which involves powerful directions, costumes, settings, plots etc. It saddens me to see that most of our movies are poorly planned and our cast are not usually enthusiastic about certain roles they play. The argument is not for us to produce super standard 3D movies but at least an African standard movie to portray the beliefs and stories needed to be heard in the outside world. These are some of the qualities of a standard movie: There should be classic cameras, professional camera operators, professional Sound Mixers, professional Effect Coordinators, professional Casts, script supervisors, experienced Directors/Producers, expert costume designers, certified and experienced editors and well experienced makeup artists.

Movie Schools/Education

In order to produce a good movie, there has to be a well informed and trained cast and that can only happen as a result of opening and creating good training schools meant specifically for acting. Acting is a discipline in the entertainment sector and doing so one has to be totally submitted to learning it. Private sectors as well as government need to open schools for those that have interest in pursuing an acting career. It saddens me to know that most actors do act without having to come across a script; in conclusion most movies do not have scripts or plots.

Just as music, movie is not a new field and to pursue such a career there has to be an institution that will be responsible for guidance in different fields. Movie industries comprises of different sectors that will aid make a classic or a standard movie. The schools/institutions should also teach these actors about the essence of acting and the rate at which they inspire audiences and their viewers. About 90% of the movies released in Sierra Leone are poor oriented as a result of the poor cast they feature in these movies.

The entire problems evolve around imitations. Imitating the culture of another man and portraying their traditions as well. These proposed schools should be teaching the film industry and their casts about their customs and traditions in order to prevent imitation and also to send a unique message to the outside world about Sierra Leone tradition.

In addition, a large percentage of movies release and promote witchcraft, thuggery, sex and the love for money. These are important themes in movies but if the message is not clearly sent it could create a disaster for the audience. It is more like promoting it than downgrading it. There has to be scene management by the industry and this can only be studied in institutions of movies which gives licence or permission to certain ages to watch a particular movie. There should be more message of love; not the Romeo and Juliet type of romance entirely but love to the family, the society, and the country. People should see the reason why they should love their countries, message of being a good citizen, a good father, promoting gender empowerment, for a good movie is always a guide to a positive step. 

The movie industry also faces challenges when it comes to piracy. Despite efforts by the government to curb piracy through the passing into law of the 2011 Copy Right Act, the entertainment industry in Sierra Leone is still being plagued by the act of piracy with artists both in the music and film industries making little or no profit from their works.

At the moment when the Act was just passed by parliament there was so much momentum and noise about it. Pirates were a little bit scared then but since the campaign was only short-lived, they are at it again,” explained renowned actor Pastor Aiah Momoh.

“We are not making enough money from our work due to piracy,” he lamented, adding that the Sierra Leonean market is also too small. “Though we have improved on the content of our movies, people prefer buying foreign movies to the ones we produce here in Sierra Leone.”

Exposure: Lack of exposure is seen as one of the weaknesses of the film industries. In becoming a professional actor/actress one needs to be exposed. There are some scenes on movies, rookies cannot properly execute such task simply because of not been exposed to their surroundings. Gestures, postures and certain accent need to be studied by the cast in order to be more alike to the character they are imitating.

Actors should be entitled to travel and learn from other successful cast out of the country to know more. This actually leads to featuring. In featuring successful actors and actress; one gets to learn a lot about acting and this has been the reason for many successful actors. Some casts started acting from childhood and they know all the corners and tricks of the camera. We need exposure. If we cannot go to them, then we need to make them come to us. Most successful actors ranging from Hollywood to Nollywood have been encouraging their superstars to mingle and learn from others and this has been the ground for successful people in these industries but if we confine ourselves in the island of rookies, unprofessionalism becomes our salvation.

Critique Unit

There should always be a critique unit in the movie industry, to critique and rank the type of movies they are releasing. Ranging from the direction, screenplays, character, plot, setting, editor, sound engineer and costume designers, should be critiqued constructively in order to improve the industry. The message of the movies, the theme and the impact it would have on people.

The critique unit should also be an entire department in the movie industry. There has to be shows to critique these movies. In these programs, casts should be invited after every released movie to talk about their role as well as the directors; explaining the message they were trying to send for the audience. What gave that director the inspiration and what was he trying to depict in that movie.

The critique unit should also be responsible to issue out licenses to movies and attach restrictions based on age for children; which involves some obscene scenes, words that may cause damage to a child’s brain etc. the critique unit should be in charge of going through movies over and over again if it is suitable for the public or not.

Just like the music, in lifting the Sierra Leone movie industry, Sierra Leoneans should support one another in promoting our movies. We should be seeing our movies, cherish them, critique them constructively, accept their flaws and promote them in any venture; be it series, comedy, skits etc.

Poor Cultural Knowledge or No Cultural Identity

Poor cultural knowledge has led to the insufficient stories in the industry. Most people are unaware about the rich cultural heritage Sierra Leone has, stemming from pre-colonial times to the Atlantic slave trade. Movies are fictions and nonfictions and most of the literary works that are been done in other countries reflect their stories which includes tribes, clans, dynasties, ancient cultures and traditions.

Sierra Leone has vast cultures and different tribes that the world does not know about. These are all platform to making good movies and billboards in Africa. Portraying your culture and tradition gives the outside a world a catch about the country and this promotes tourism as well as researchers including archaeologist. Writers and producers should go out and learn more about traditions and cultures of the country in order to educate people.

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