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USE OF COSTUMES IN MOVIES
1.1 Background of Study
Every culture evolved from a historical experience that distinguishes it from others and these historical accounts can be expressed through many media including films. Hence, film is a historical event, a cultural artefact and every culture has to evolve its own filmic image. On that note, Abone sees film as: “one of the most important weapons by which the character of a nation, its image, identity, its culture, its peculiar sounds, politics, economy, its aspirations and achievements are impressed on the popular mind throughout the world “(23). Essentially, the Nigerian video film industry rose from these same events, especially culture, myths, folklores, contemporary social issues, and chronicling of true life experiences. The emergence of video film into the Nigerian viewing culture did not just introduce a new form of narrative but has also increased viewership, landmark of achievements, widened international exposure and employment opportunities for actors and actresses, script writers, scene designers, costume and makeup artistes, etc. In many films, costumes are incorporated as a part of the film’s spectacle. Costumes are items of clothing that are worn by an actor in a movie or play to build up, emphasize or portray his character. Costume includes clothing, headgears, eye wears, foot wears and clothing accessories. Costume helps to depict the place and time setting of the story, the culture of the actor as well as determine the social class of the character being portrayed.
Costumes communicate an actor’s mood; for instance, a costume of bright colours or bold design may indicate happiness and such costume might even brighten the mood of the viewer seeing the movie. A costume is made to meet the needs of the actor. Actors’ costumes need to adequately suit the type of work they have to do in any video film production. Costumes should also meet the style of a production; whether it is a contemporary story or epic, costume helps the viewers figure out in which historical period a video film is set as well as the locale in which it occurs. Costume also helps to establish the relationship between characters. In Nigeria, many Nollywood directors use costumes for dramatic effects. Costumes help to depict the right mood in film as well as aid the arousal of suspense in the audience; additionally costumes help the audience to know the age of the character being portrayed and are also useful in the building of character’s trait. For instance, an affluent Yoruba actor wears an ‘Agbada’ with a cap to fit and a pair of shoes.
The video film industry which is popularly called Nollywood emerged in the late 1970’s with the decline of the cinema and the already deteriorating nation’s economy. On his part, Ukadike states that “the phenomenon of this video film is a unique cultural art whose main objective is commercial viability” (24). This was the atmosphere that brought the Yoruba Travelling Theatre, Nnebue, and other Igbo electronic dealers into video film production. As Haynes observes, “the experimental effort of Kenneth Nnebue in the packaging of Sola Ogunsola’s Yoruba video film, paid off” (5). It is in fact the commercial tenacity inherent in the industry that attracted business men and traders who were amateurs in the activities of film production. As a result of this, the video boom turned into a glut as the market became monopolized by substandard video films. Continuing, Haynes in this regard explains “the quality of most of the videos is quite lousy; they provide little of the visual composition of true (video-film) cinema” (100). Nevertheless, the majority of audience seems transfixed to the video films even though the quality remains poor technically and artistically. These films have become major sources of entertainment at homes and in public spaces. These video films also serve for relaxation after the day’s hustle and bustle. The audience have begun to empathize with the popular and familiar faces that dominate their video screens. Enahoro in the same vein observes that: “Cinema (video film) acts thus as a tension management technique, helping us to control the tensions inherent in our social structure and activities. The cinema becomes their (audience’s) world of dreams and illusion that they could escape to”… (77)
The Nigerian film industry is undoubtedly the most important and most popular film industry in Africa. It is regarded as the world’s third largest producer of video films. The industry is growing fast, units like Nigeria Film Corporation (NFC), Nigeria Copyright Commission (NCC), National Film Distribution Company (NFDC), National Film and Video Censors Board (NVFCB), etc. are all growing alongside the industry to ensure appropriate regularization in the industry. Hence, costume designers in the Nigerian video film industry still have a long way to go in enhancing their crafts, so as to make designs appropriate to characters being portrayed. Some producers and directors of Nigerian video films paint pictures not merely larger than life, but indeed extraordinary. Oftentimes these video films are dominated by flamboyant costumes, exaggerated make-up, extravagantly furnished mansions, unnecessary display of wealth and the use of fashionable vehicles not in harmony with the realities on ground. In agreement with this statement, Adesanya States that “aesthetically…this is regrettably the metier of the home video movies, gaudy costumes, vulgarly furnished mansions and exotic vehicles” (19).
Nevertheless, costume designers in the industry have been making credible attempts in the area of character creation in epic films through the use of costumes. The industry seems to have a copious supply of costumes with which to experiment. Hence, costume designers have made some attempts to improve in innovation with each successive film production. However, it is worthy to note here that this positive attribute of the Nigerian Video film costume designers is mostly noticed when the film is an epic or traditionally set film. Costume remains one of the most underappreciated films making arts. Far in excess of merely ‘dressing’ an actor for their role, costume is discourse. A film can be read via costume; sometimes overtly, sometimes sub-textually. In movies, even the most rudimentary item of clothing can be a message the director wants to pass across to his viewers. Costume in video films is the language through which visual statements are made.
An assessment of some Nigerian video film productions show that most times, costume is not well treated in film production meetings. The costume designer finds it hard to carry out research on the background of the tradition, culture or attire of the people that are about to be portrayed on screen. Some costume designers hardly go through the processes a costume designer is supposed to go through before finally arriving at a particular costume for the actor. Even the colour combination that is supposed to help bring out the mood of a character becomes difficult. When this research is not carried out, it is bound to be a wrong picture painted by the costume designer. Costumes should be able to fill in the gap of what a viewer might miss in the course of the actor’s verbal delivery. Hence, the need for professionals in the area of costume is indeed important for an effective video film production.
1.2 Statement of the Problem
Costume is an indispensable attribute of any dramatic or filmic production and it represents the total visual appearance of the actor’s body. Costume is a significant fact of acting; therefore it is not mere covering or beautification of an actor. Thus its importance is entrenched in the fact that the actor wears it, moves and speaks in it and constantly within the attention of the spectator. Costume aids characterization so that whether in film or on stage, the audience can ascertain age, social status, personality, nationality, dislikes and likes long before the character utters a word. Costume helps to establish the relationship between characters. This implies that proper coordination of the production elements contribute in boosting the cultural image of the people whose lives are reflected in the stories being told in these video films.
Costume designers in some Nigerian Video films rarely put in effort or thorough research into the culture that is about to be portrayed. Costume is no longer seen as an essence of identity by the costume designer, but a means to showcase the actor’s curves and beauty. It is no longer seen as an aspect of video film production that needs to be taken seriously forgetting that there are a lot of messages that only a costume can help to pass across to the viewer.
Research reveals inadequacies traced to such problems listed below:
The lack of information i.e. ignorance on the part of the designer about the play’s culture.
The lack of cooperation among theatre professionals.
The lack of professionalism in work ethics.
This area of specialisation calls for a critical study. This implies that the proper coordination of the production elements contribute in boosting the cultural image of the people whose lives are reflected in the stories being told in these video films. Costume design could therefore become an effective tool for character portrayal and cultural promotion if properly manipulated. Studies have shown that although some costume designers of Nigerian video films have made some plausible attempt towards achieving effectiveness in their use of costumes as tools for cultural sustenance, especially in epic movies but in the contemporary movies, the best uses of this design is yet to be properly harnessed. It is against the backdrop of the foregoing problems that this study is situated to evaluate Costuming in Nigerian Video Films with a view to ascertaining its effectiveness in character portrayal.
1.3 Objectives of the Study
The main objective of this research work is to evaluate costume designs in selected Nigerian video films with a view to determining their level of effectiveness in character portrayal.
The Secondary Objectives are as follows:
To examine the various ways in which costumes can effectively help in the general aesthetic development in Nigerian Video Film industry.
To critically appraise the nature of costume design in selected Nigerian Video Films.
To highlight poor costumes in some selected Nigerian Video Films.
And finally, to examine the role played by costume designers in the Video Film Industry in Nigeria to expose the need for professional training.
1.4 Scope of the Study
The scope of the study covers three Nigerian Video films as representational paradigms of many video films produced in Nigeria’s movie industry. Film as an agent of culture particularly the epic video film is richly embedded with the people’s beliefs, culture and values and costuming is the commonest way of identifying with people’s culture. The video films are Akwa-ugo, His Royal Majesty and Moonlight Girl. The study involves a critical analysis of costume; the study is therefore restricted to evaluating costuming in Nigerian video films in order to ascertain its effectiveness in character portrayal.
1.5 Significance of the Study
The study is expected to make way for other scholars to go into further research. It can also help students who wish to learn more about costume designing for video film production. Theoretically, the outcome of this study will provide, enhance the existing body of knowledge and theories on costume design in video film production.
This study will help to establish the effect of poor costuming problems on consumers of Nigerian video films especially the teeming adolescents in Nigeria. To this end, it is hoped that this study will assist in forming the basis of creating and enhancing improved technical composition of the video film industry and policies that will help address this problem, invariably stem the negative effects of indecent costuming on young minds thereby achieving a revival and preservation of our cultural heritage.
Finally, it is hoped that the findings, recommendations and solutions that are made in the study shall serve as a guide or a reference point that will assist different tiers of government and other stakeholders to unravel the problems and challenges faced by costume designers in the entertainment industry in Nigeria.
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