AV Club: Wami Aluko’s “For Those Who Listen” fails to complete the mission

If you're thinking Michael Moore...

Last year, photographer and A Nasty Boy collaborator, Wami Aluko introduced herself as a filmmaker with her two-minute fashion film, “Neogenesis”, a colourful fashion film featuring Stephany Amata. The film’s cumbia soundtrack displays Wami’s ability to fuse visuals and sound to amplify viewer experience. On her new film, “For Those Who Listen”, she zeros in on the music and the creative scene in Nigeria.

Prior to the release, photos of the artists featured in the documentary were released along with a trailer as part of the promotional images for the documentary. Over the thirty-minute long documentary, she looks into the emerging alternative-music and art scene in Nigeria, capturing the ecosystem between creatives in Nigeria.

“For Those Who Listen” opens with clips of artists performing in front of adoring fans and Wami’s photo collaboration with fashion brand Mojokojo, while “Temper” by Skales and Burna Boy plays in the background, setting a light-weight motif. The documentary features interviews with Mr Eazi, and emerging artists like Idris King and Lady Donli. Wami also interviews visual artists, curators and people she believes have a fair understanding of the music and art scene within her chosen demographic.

Independent film projects are created by virtue of the producer’s sacrifice for the art, so it is important the eventual output is rewarding to both the audience and creative behind the camera as well. Wami said, in an interview with ThisDay, that she decided to focus on a specific demographic of new artists she feels are not properly represented in mainstream media, but this documentary barely shows any of their work. “For Those Who Listen” is back-packed nearly on celebrity features without a glimpse at the actual processes.

West Africa’s emerging urban culture is the product of years of refinement of craft, culture and style, yet for years the gap between niche obscurity and mainstream local acceptance has remained for two reasons; isolation from the rest of the industry and low commercial viability for that industry due to its limited amount of stakeholders. In recent times, however, the internet has allowed more visionary minds to accelerate their growth on a global mainframe. A documentary like this could have become an important tool for showing how active and progressive the culture is, so local acceptance can be courted with a story arch that provides reasons for the mainstream to take the burgeoning industry more seriously. Sadly, all you get are performance clips and a handful of creatives seemingly being interviewed about themselves.

Performative documentaries ought to connect personal experiences with a larger issue, this documentary tries, but fails to communicate a narrative. Perhaps working with a scriptwriter may have improved the narrative of the story.

Watch” For Those Who Listen” here:

Featured Image Credits: Wami Aluko/Youtube



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