French realist painter Gustave Courbet once stated that his masterpiece “was in reality the burial of Romanticism”. By elevating a quotidian scene in a rural town to the same grand scale (3.1 x 6.6 meters) previously reserved for a history painting (which includes religious and allegorical subjects), Courbet was declaring “death” to the definition of painting that had dominated European art since the Renaissance.
Could this “engine of revolution” also be applied to Tunde Kelani’s pioneering work as an African digital film-maker? The celluloid tradition has been moribund in Nigeria ever since the financial downturn of the 1980s significantly depleted the purchasing power of Nigerian filmmakers, causing increased difficulties in financing projects and diminished access to imported film stock. Kelani praises digital cinematography for its relative affordability and convenient work flow (especially in post-production). Yet he has not compromised the quality of his films since he has maintained the same craftsmanship honed over two decades as a celluloid cinematographer. In this way, Kelani has made celluloid’s aesthetics work within Nollywood’s economic constraints.