Nigerian Teenagers Are Making Slick Sci Fi Films With Their Smartphones

Someone should really snap up the rights for a movie about The Critics, a collective of self-taught teenage filmmakers from northwestern Nigeria.

The boys’ dedication, ambition, and no-budget inventiveness calls to mind other filmmaking fanatics, from the sequestered, homeschooled brothers of The Wolfpack to the fictional Sweding specialists of Me and Earl and the Dying Girl and Be Kind, Rewind.

While smartphones and free editing apps have definitely made it easier for aspiring filmmakers to bring their fantasies to fruition, it’s worth noting that The Critics saved for a month to buy the green fabric for their chroma key effects.

Their productions are also plagued with the internet and power outages that are a frequent occurrence in their home base of Kaduna, slowing everything from the rendering process to the Youtube visual effects tutorials that have advanced their craft.

To date they’ve filmed 20 shorts on a smart phone with a smashed screen, mounted to a broken microphone stand that’s found new life as a homemade tripod.

Their simple set up will be coming in for an upgrade, however, now that Nollywood director Kemi Adetiba has brought their efforts to the attention of a much wider audience, who donated $5,800 in a fundraising campaign.

It’s easy to imagine the young male demographic flocking to a feature-length, big-budget expansion of Z: The Beginning. It’s possible even the art house crowd could be lured to a summer blockbuster whose setting is Nigeria, thirty years into the future, a novelty for those of us unversed in Nollywood’s prodigious output.

The post-apocalyptic short, above, took the crew 7 months to film and edit. The stars also inhabited a number of offscreen roles: stunt coordinator, gaffer, prop master, composer, continuity…

What’s next? Earlier this month, Africa News revealed that the boys are busy with a new film whose plot they aren’t at liberty to reveal. We’re guessing a sequel, to go by a not so subtle hint following Z‘s final credits and a moving dedication to “the ones we’ve lost.”

“Horror, comedy, sci-fi, action, we do all,” The Critics’ proclaim on their Youtube channel, carefully categorizing their work as “films not skits.” (Their films’ length has thus far been dictated by the unpredictability of their wifi situation—Chase, below, is five minutes long and took two days to render.

“One of the targets we aim for in the years to come is to make the biggest film in Nigeria and probably beyond,” Godwin JosiahZ’s 19-year-old writer-director told Channels Television, Lagos’ 24-hour news channel:

We want to do something crazy, we want to do something great, something that has not been done before, and from what has been going on now, we believe quite well that it is going to happen soon enough.

Watch The Critics’ films and making-ofs on their Youtube channel.

Support their work with a pledge to their recently launched Patreon.

via Kottke/Africa News

Related Content:

The Strange and Wonderful Movie Posters from Ghana: The Matrix, Alien & More

High School Kids Stage Alien: The Play and You Can Now Watch It Online

Director Robert Rodriguez Teaches The Basics of Filmmaking in Under 10 Minutes

Hear Kevin Smith’s Three Tips For Aspiring Filmmakers (NSFW)

Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, theater maker and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inkyzine.  Join her in NYC on Monday, September 9 for another season of her book-based variety show, Necromancers of the Public Domain. Follow her @AyunHalliday.

Longform’s New, Free App Lets You Read Great Journalism from Your Favorite Publishers


If you have managed to keep your attention span intact during this distracting information age, then you’re almost certainly familiar with, a web site that makes it easy to find something great to read online, especially if you like reading informative, well-crafted works of non-fiction. Last week, Longform enhanced its service with the release of a new, free app for iPhone and iPad. It’s the “only 100% free app that filters out the internet junk and delivers nothing but smart, in-depth reads.” And, drawing on material from 1,000 publishers, the app lets readers “create their own custom feeds of high quality, feature-length journalism,” and then read it all on the go. It’s a mission that certainly aligns with ours, so we’re more than happy to give the new app a plug.

Sign up for our daily email and, once a day, we’ll bundle all of our daily posts and drop them in your inbox, in an easy-to-read format. You don’t have to come to us; we’ll come to you!

Miranda July’s Quirky Film Presents Somebody, the New App That Connects Strangers in the Real World

Having owned an iPhone for all of one month, I’m still a bit leery of all it can purportedly do for me. Convenience is great, but I’m not sure I’m ready to cede control of all the little tasks, challenges, and puzzles my own imperfect brain has been handling more or less well for nearly half a century.

I don’t hate blundering. And I really like interacting with librarians, local residents, and strangers who might be willing to use my camera to take a group photo in a restaurant or scenic location. 

Filmmaker Miranda July’s just released Somebody is, I suspect, something of a niche app.

If you cringe at the idea of flash mobs, Improv Everywhere, and audience interactive theater, it is most definitely not for you. 

It’s absolutely perfect for me (or will be once I get up to speed on my touchscreen.)

Basically, you take a selfie, create a profile, and wait for a stranger to select you to deliver a live message as his or her proxy. In addition to trawling the area for the designated recipient, you may be called upon to weep, hug, or get on your knees to get that message across.

Will you make a new friend? Probably not, but you will definitely share a moment.

And because no good deed goes unrewarded, your performance will be open to the vagaries of customer review, a humiliation July does not shy from in the promotional video above.

Is this app for real?

Yes, especially if you live in LA, New York, or another culturally rich Somebody hotspot.

If you don’t—or if receiving a message delivered, in all likelihood, by a tech savvy hipster, makes your flesh crawl—you can still enjoy the film as a comment on our digital existence, as well as a reflection of July’s ongoing desire to connect.

Related Content:

Watch Miranda July’s Short Film on Avoiding the Pitfalls of Procrastination

Learn to Make Buttons with Filmmaker Miranda July

David Sedaris Reads You a Story By Miranda July

Ayun Halliday is an author, homeschooler, and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine. Follow her @AyunHalliday

Free Stanley Kubrick App Features Great Photos, Script Notes, Interviews & More

KubrickScreenIn 2012, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) unveiled a sprawling, exhaustive exhibit on Stanley Kubrick. And it had just about everything you might want on the great director. Early photographs he took for Look magazine in the 1940s? Check. The blood soaked dresses of those creepy twins from The Shining? You got it! Sketches, notes and documents about Napoleon, the greatest movie he never made? They had a whole room for that. For those cinephiles who worship at Kubrick’s altar, LACMA’s exhibit was akin to a visit to the Vatican. There were more holy relics there than you could shake a monolith at—oh, and they had one of those there too.

The exhibit wrapped up in June 2013. If you missed it and you are jonesing for more Kubrick memorabilia, take heart — LACMA designed an app in conjunction with the exhibit for the iPhone, iPad and Android and you can download it right now. For free. The app is about as sprawling as the exhibit (and it will take a bit of time to download) but it features hand drawn notes from Kubrick, behind-the-scenes pictures from all of his movies, and interviews with the director, plus ones with the likes of Elvis Mitchell, Christopher Nolan and Douglas Trumbull.

The only thing that the app and the exhibit didn’t cover is the ever-growing number of insane conspiracy theories surrounding his work. Want something about how The Shining is really about a faked moon landing or how Eyes Wide Shut is really about the Illuminati? Look somewhere else.

Related Content:

Stanley Kubrick’s Daughter Shares Photos of Herself Growing Up on Her Father’s Film Sets

Dark Side of the Moon: A Mockumentary on Stanley Kubrick and the Moon Landing Hoax

Stanley Kubrick’s Very First Films: Three Short Documentaries – Free Online

Rare 1960s Audio: Stanley Kubrick’s Big Interview with The New Yorker

Jonathan Crow is a Los Angeles-based writer and filmmaker whose work has appeared in Yahoo!, The Hollywood Reporter, and other publications. You can follow him at @jonccrow.

Free App Lets You Play Chess With 23-Year-Old Norwegian World Champion Magnus Carlsen

Chess has been experiencing a surprising revival as of late, with the World Championships making headlines for the first time in  years. As it was during the days of Bobby Fischer and later Garry Kasparov, the resurgence is largely the doing of one man: Norway’s 23-year-old chess phenom, Magnus Carlsen. After having attained the level of a grandmaster at the age of 13, Carlsen had a string of spectacular victories that culminated in his win over India’s Viswanathan Anand in the world championships this past November. Carlsen also holds the highest rating in the game’s history. Oh, and he beat Bill Gates in 79 seconds (here’s a video). What’s next for the reigning king of chess? A free iOS chess app, of course.

The Magnus Plays app, which allows users to play against a simulated Carlsen, was  released this past Tuesday. If you’re worried that your technical prowess may not stack up against the new face of chess, don’t worry: the app relies on a vast database of moves that Carlsen used throughout the years, allowing you to play him anywhere from the ages of 5 to 23. I’m not a particularly adept chess player, but I didn’t have too much trouble with Carlsen at his youngest. The victory bolstered my confidence, so I decided to skip to Carlsen’s current 23-year-old self. As much as I’d like to discuss the outcome of the second game, it’s probably best to skim over the results. Suffice it to say that I have room for improvement. Luckily, the app also has a “Train With Me” section, where Carlsen provides video tutorials (some free, and some paid) on how to improve your game. If you’re feeling like you’ve lost a few IQ points after repeated bouts with Flappy Bird, Magnus Plays is a great alternative.


Ilia Blinderman is a Montreal-based culture and science writer. Follow him at @iliablinderman, or read more of his writing at the Huffington Post.

Related Content:

Watch Bill Gates Lose a Chess Match in 79 Seconds to the New World Chess Champion Magnus Carlsen

A Famous Chess Match from 1910 Reenacted with Claymation

Chess Rivals Bobby Fischer and Boris Spassky Meet in the ‘Match of the Century’

Leonard Bernstein Conducts Beethoven’s 9th in a Classic 1979 Performance

Even if you don’t know classical music, you know Ludwig van Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9. Finished in 1824, Beethoven’s final complete symphony, and the first from any major composer to use voices, has risen to and remained at the top of the Western orchestral canon as one of the most frequently performed symphonies in existence. The Japanese have even gone so far as to make it a New Year’s tradition. I remember, when first learning the Japanese language, watching an educational video about an amateur neighborhood chorus converting the original German into more readable Japanese phonetic script, so as to better sing it for their celebration. A charming story, to be sure, but at the top of the post, you’ll find Beethoven’s 9th rendered with the exact opposite of amateurism by the Wiener Philharmoniker, with Leonard Bernstein conducting. (Part one, Part Two, Part Three, Part Four.) Then again, at the root of “amateur” lies the term “to love,” and who would dare accuse Bernstein, however consummately professional a man of music, of not loving this symphony?

“I’ve just finished filming and recording the great 9th Symphony,” Bernstein says in the clip just above, describing how the experience got him thinking about historical dates. “My associations led me back to the year of my own birth, 1918, the year of the great armistice which brought the First World War to an end. Now, I had the key. The password was peace, armistice, brotherhood — ‘ain’t gonna study war no more.’  Peace, brotherhood, we are all children of one father, let us embrace one another, all the millions of us, friendship, love, joy: these, of course, are the key words and phrases from [Friedrich] Schiller’s [“Ode to Joy“] to which Beethoven attached that glorious music, ranging from the mysterious to the radiant to the devout to the ecstatic.” You can also watch the performance that put Bernstein’s mind on this track as one of the many included in Beethoven 9, Deutsche Grammophon’s first iPad/iPhone/iPod app. For free, you get two minutes of the symphony with all features enabled. “The full experience,” their site adds, ” is then unlocked through In-App Purchase.”

Related Content:

Leonard Bernstein Demystifies the Rock Revolution for Curious (if Square) Grown-Ups in 1967

Leonard Bernstein’s Masterful Lectures on Music (11+ Hours of Video Recorded in 1973)

Bernstein Breaks Down Beethoven

Colin Marshall hosts and produces Notebook on Cities and Culture and writes essays on literature, film, cities, Asia, and aesthetics. He’s at work on a book about Los AngelesA Los Angeles Primer. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall.

Learn to Build iPhone & iPad Apps with Stanford’s Free Course, Coding Together

Screen Shot 2013-01-28 at 1.01.26 PMJust a quick fyi. In the past week, Stanford has launched the latest version of Coding Together, the popular course that teaches Stanford students — and now students worldwide — how to build apps for the iPhone and iPad. Taught by Paul Hegarty, the latest version of the free course focuses on how to build apps in iOS 6, and the lectures will be gradually rolled onto iTunes from January 22 through March 28. Find the first lectures here.

This course, along with other top-flight coding courses, appears in the Computer Science section of our big collection of 650 Free Online Courses, where you’ll also find courses on Philosophy, History, Physics and other topics.

Looking for tutorials on building apps in Android? Find them here.

Watch Philip Glass Remix His Own Music—Then Try it Yourself With a New App

We told you in the fall about the album released by Beck and a troupe of other musicians to celebrate composer Philip Glass’s 75th birthday. Rework—Philip Glass Remixed is a collection of Glass works by artists including Beck, Tyondai Braxton, and Cornelius. Turns out that Glass himself was pretty turned on by the results. In the above video, Glass plays around with his own music using an interactive “Glass Machine” app, designed to complement the album.

You can almost see the wheels in Glass’s head turning as he swipes and taps away on the screen, creating new loops with phrases from his own music.

The app that Glass enjoys so much is available to anyone with an iPad, iPod touch or iPhone (3Gs or newer) and $10. The Rework app was designed by Scott Snibbe, who also created the interactive galaxy in Bjork’s Biophilia app.


The app includes eleven interactive visualizations of remixed songs from the Rework album (example on left) and a Glass Machine, allowing users to create their own Glass-inspired music.

As Glass himself said, while playing with the Machine, “the user has become the artist.”

Related Content

Philip Glass, Seen and Heard Through the Cinematic Mind of Peter Greenaway (1983)

‘The Ballad of the Skeletons’: Allen Ginsberg’s 1996 Collaboration with Philip Glass and Paul McCartney

Kate Rix writes about digital media and education. Read more of her work at .  

More in this category... »
Open Culture was founded by Dan Colman.