Godwin Gaza Josiah (part of artist group The Critics)

script writer / director


Creativity, thirst for knowledge, personal commitment, diligence and improvisation skill are key to succeed for realizing a personal vision. These cornerstones are even more essential, if the circumstances are miserable and make the project of shooting (sci-fi) movies almost impossible. Here: lack of money as well as professional equipment and a life in the North-West of Nigeria in a city whose infrastructure is in the development process still. However: where is a will, there’s a way and making a virtue out of necessity (in other words: filming with mobile phones). Hence this man and his team, called The Critics, made not only their dream come true, but luck favored the bold too.

Godwin Gaza Josiah (part of artist group The Critics)

script writer / director


Godwin Gaza Josiah
Godwin Gaza Josiah | © The Critics

The unlikely story of these over-talented, under-resourced, self-taught filmmakers is itself worthy to be turned into a movie! It started all in 2012, when a group of young cousins met at a family event for the first time. The teenagers discovered a common interest in hi-tech dystopian movies about superheroes. Victor and Godwin Gaza Josiah (* 25th October 2001 in Kaduna) as well as Richard, Ronald and Raymond J. Yusuff stayed in contact, met regularly to discuss new releases with the use of visual effects (VFX). 

Whenever the father of one of the teens sent his sons to their aunt’s house to recharge his mobile phone, the youngster watched film tutorials on YouTube and downloaded free access programs. Then they developed the idea of shooting a film of their own. A tripod was built out of wood (later replaced by a broken microphone stand). The boys saved school lunch- and birthday-money up until they had the $ 2.40 for purchasing a few yards of green cotton that became their chroma key. The fabric was very important for them, because they were particularly drawn to incorporating VFX in their films, and decided to make this a defining trait of their movies. 

In 2017 the artist group that later called itself (with a twink of an eye) The Critics released Stupid Arguments on their Facebook page. The following year the team’s science fiction film titled Chase was out. In 2019 Z: The Beginning, their post-apocalyptic film was completed. The media took notice of the creative collective that had to battle slow internet and power cuts got hold of a smartphone with a smashed screen and an old laptop. Despite all the internal production problems the ball started rolling, because the stories were sophisticated (telling of lookalikes, alien-persecutions et al). 

One of their short films made waves that reached J.J. Abrams, script writer/director of the Lost series and Star Wars: The Force Awakens as well as Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker. The US-American presented the Africans with some real filming equipment. Creatives as they are the group made a video instantly when the huge package of brand-new gadgets arrived in August 202: a girl with superpowers levitates the heavy wooden box. 

That wasn’t the only Hollywood connection: Revelations Entertainment, the production company of famous actor Morgan Freeman (Driving Miss Daisy, Seven, Amistad) produced one short film of the young Nigerians. Ogun Ola: War Is Coming (2022) tells within 18 minutes the story of a boy who discovers that he’s got the superhuman strength of Ogun, the god of iron and war in Nigeria’s mythology.

The fans of directors like Christopher Nolan (Tenet, Inception, The Dark Knight), David Fincher (The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button), Ari Aster (Hereditary) and Romain Gavras (Athena) have spread their artistic path they want to follow: “The more we talked, the more we came to the conclusion that the project was not just about us, about being very famous or making a lot of money; it was about making changes in our community, our country, perhaps the whole world,” Raymond Yusuff is quoted on english.elpais.com. Gradually, that “art without much sense, inspired by a child’s imagination, with characters that throw fire with their hands and things like that” became a thing of the past. After endless talks, a more genuine vision crystallized by consensus. This brought new goals for the team: to launch underlying messages that impact the public, creating films that address important issues in their context.“ A good example of that is their experimental video art Once Can Only Hope And Wonder. It focuses on the plundering of African art by the colonial powers.

Aside from The Critics redefining their own brand they offer free courses and workshops at an informal film school for young people of Kaduna to exploit their creative vein. They themselves have set up Clan Yujo, a production company for commissioned fiction, commercials and videos. So the collective whose speciality is in futurism and imagining possible realities created visual effects for King of Boys: Return of the King, Nigeria’s first Netflix Original series. 

Godwin Josiah and the rest of The Critics are based in Kaduna, Nigeria.


Interview November 2023

Over-talented, under-resourced: making something great out of nothing!


?: How does intuition present itself to you – in form of a suspicious impression, a spontaneous visualisation or whatever - maybe in dreams?

Intuition to me is like when it feels right. It doesn't come as a vision or a dream. It's more of a feeling. I am just always so certain about that idea or that process in real time. I just have a very good feeling about it. And when that happens, all I have to do is give it my full energy. At the end of the day it ends up most of the time becoming something really good.

?: Will any ideas be written down immediately and archived?

Most times you not archive immediately, but they are written down. I am terrible at sitting down to type stuff. I would rather just make a voice recording on my phone. I think I have a list of ideas on my voice recording memo app that I really do not believe I'll be able to complete before I leave the surface of the earth. I just immediately in the moment pick my phone up and record whatever it is in my head. It can be a storyline. It could be a hook for a song, whatever comes to mind, basically. So yeah, I record them in the moment and maybe archive them when the time is right.

?: How do you come up with good or extraordinary ideas?

I feel like any good idea was once just an idea. I have been able to craft really good products in the sense of content or art generally from a simple sentence.

The closest answer to my process would be to just be open. Recently I found myself being more open to things and to conversations. Normally you would not find me having a conversation with a stranger, but I have seen a lot of things recently just based on conversations with strangers. I have written storylines in other people's perspective. The other day I wrote about heartbreak from somebody else's perspective. So I think just being open, that's how you write really great and extraordinary ideas. If you bind yourself to what you know already, you might not be able to do more than you already have done. So recently I've just been open to other people's thoughts, and I've been able to steal from their thoughts and include it into my process. And it's just been really wonderful, extraordinary.

?: Do you feel that new creative ideas come as a whole or do you get like a little seed of inspiration that evolves into something else and has to be realized by endless trials and errors in form of constant developments until the final result?

It's always a miracle when I have an idea and it comes in full form. That has happened, but it has been in very rare cases.  Mostly it never comes fully. It comes in beats. Recently it was just the sentence. And then I did nothing with that sentence for months. But suddenly there was a lead to what I could link the process of that sentence to. It informed more stuff and it was like: oh, okay, this sentence leads to this. And I was able to do the whole artistic work of just that sentence.

?: What if there is a deadline, but no intuition? Does the first fuel the latter maybe?

No. These days it doesn't. If it doesn't feel right, I don't do it. Maybe Godwin a few years ago would work well with deadlines, but I'm so happy that at this phase of my life, of my creative career I have an option to do it or not doing it. Not a lot of artists, not a lot of creators are privileged enough to have that option. But personally I'm at a point where if it does not feel right, I would not do it.

I'm not saying I cannot create without feeling good about the creation. Of course I can end up creating something, but if it doesn't feel good, it means almost nothing to me. I have to have a personal connection to whatever I'm doing now. More than ever because of the feeling I've gotten so far from doing just that it feels really good. There's just a sense of accomplishment that comes with it, and it lasts for maybe just a few days and dies of. But these few days, those few hours of just feeling very, very confident about the work you have done - those are days to die for!


?: What inspires you and how do you stimulate this special form of imaginativeness?

Recently love inspires me. Everything I have done presently in relation to creating has revolved around the topic of love. I have been very curious. And love extends to platonic relationship, romantic relationship. It is not necessarily cloaked to just romance, you know, but love in general inspires me at the moment. And I found that recently it's better for me to be inspired by one particular thing in a particular phase, and then move to the next. It is more or less hard for me to concentrate on different inspirations at once.

?: How do you filter between ideas that are worthwhile pursuing and bad ones that you just let go of?

Like I said earlier, the ideas that I have a very, very good feeling about. Those are the ideas I follow in the moment. For ideas I don't feel so good about it is necessary that I give time. Time heals. It is necessary that I give the idea of time. Sometimes it is not just the right time to do something. And this tends to sound almost spiritual, right? But it's a basic rule of life. Sometimes you have good days and sometimes you have bad days. Sometimes, when you cannot just achieve a particular idea in a day doesn't mean you cannot do it tomorrow. So I do what feels good to do now, today, and leave what doesn't feel good for tomorrow. And that way there is work being done.

?: Does an idea need to appeal to you primarily or is its commercial potential an essential factor?

It has to appeal and it has to be good. But this is the thing here: because it's commercial doesn't mean it's bad! If I feel good about the idea, that's all that matters. It is for people to call something commercial.

I'm at this stage where I'm very open to just creating. I just want to feel really good about what I'm creating. It doesn't matter if someone has done it before. My job is to do it differently! That links me to something else about the fact that everything is really inspired by everything else. We are inspired by conversations we have every day. A painter is inspired by something he has seen somewhere. So basically the aim is to make it as original and as personal as possible.

?: Do you revisit old ideas or check what colleagues or competitors are up to at times?

Definitely, yes.

I've been watching a lot of especially critically acclaimed series lately, because my next project has to deal with being able to visually show that a character is feeling something or doing something without really telling.

I've been revisiting old ideas too.

I don’t reach out to people in the process of the work and don’t speak about it. I don't want anything in the present to influence it. So I like to hide my work. You might not really know I'm working on something unless I tell you I'm actively working on it. And then I show you the results and I want to know your opinion.  


?: What time or environment best suits your creative work process — for example, a time and place of tranquility or of pressure? Which path do you take from theory or idea to creation?

I create from 9 am to 7 pm. After seven I try my best to not do any work at all. I try to consume rather than create. I try to critique my work and see what I could do better.

?: What’s better in the realization process — for example, speed and forcing creativity by grasping the magic of the moment or a slow, ripening process for implementation and elaboration?

It wholly depends on the idea. There are certain ideas that demand you to do them in the moment; they demand that you don't waste any second because it flies so fast to the next person. Then you wake up the next day and someone else has done that particular idea. Like I’ve said earlier: I'm always gonna reference this idea with the sentence. It took me a while before I reference that sentence into an artistic work. So some ideas just need their time.

?: How important are self-doubt and criticism by others during such a process?

Because of how personal my works have been recently and how true they have been to me, I am able to tell myself if it works or not. I hope that this does not come across as arrogance, but anybody outside the process what I'm creating is a consumer! The definition of a consumer is somebody who is consuming your already created product or your already created artwork. Everybody is going to have an opinion and most likely very different opinions. So the criticism of a consumer is different from that of a creator. I never take it to heart if it comes as a bad critique. If it comes as a good critique, I take it and I love it. Most times I have just been able to keep it within the cycle.

Whatever anybody says is their opinion on it. It really would not affect the work because the work is done already.

I take criticism of people that are part of the process very warmly. They understand why this idea is existing and why it needs to be created.

?: Is it better to be creative on your own, to trust only your own instincts, or to work in a team?

I always say this: the guy with the team will always win. Two heads are better than one! It's a very common thing in Nigeria.

Film is a collaborative art form. If 15 crew members come together to create a film and they are to go head to head with another person creating by himself, the team should come up with the better result. So if there's an option to work with the team, it is always best to go with that.

?: In case of a creative block or, worse, a real failure, how do you get out of such a hole?

To be honest, there's never such a hole. It is not do or die. The best option is to walk away from that idea and do something else. That is what I found to be very healthy and helpful at the moment. You can come back when you have defeated the obstacle. You get so much courage to defeat this one.

?: Should a creative person always stay true to him- or herself, including taking risks and going against the flow, or must the person, for reasons of commercial survival, make concessions to the demands of the market, the wishes of clients and the audience’s expectations?

I am of the opinion that you can be true to yourself and create something commercial. It is always a point of contention to accept that something is either artistic or commercial. For me, if it feels good to do in the moment, to create, that is all that matters. And feeling good means everybody you are creating with has a good feeling about it, because that can do something to you.

?: How are innovation and improvement possible if you’ve established a distinctive style? Is it good to be ahead of your time, even if you hazard not being understood?

Yes, in a positive way. I think it is because people are going to always catch up. Maybe you don't get your flowers in the moment, but you are always going to probably get them because at some point people are going to realize “oh shit, this was good. We did not realize it at that time.” So I don't create for just now. I like to describe myself as someone who uses music and movies to create timeless art. I like to create something that generations after my generation are going to understand.

?: When does the time come to end the creative process, to be content and set the final result free? Or is it always a work-in-progress, with an endless possibility of improvement?

A great filmmaker once said: “you never finish your film, you abandon it.” I think that is where working with a team comes to play, because I don't think I'm a perfectionist. It's important to know when you have given a project enough. It doesn't mean you cannot give it more. You have given it enough for the message to be understood well enough.

?: How does artificial intelligence change human creativity? And do you? Would will you use it at all?

AI is always been regarded as something that leads to impending doom in the nearest future. And being a very big movie buff myself I cannot help but think of that possibility. AI does make people lazy. It's getting work done and there are certain people who need it in the sense of going about their daily lives. Not everybody can do things that everybody else can do. What I'm trying to say is: these tools play a very vital role for some people. And why not? Anybody that needs it should use it - in a very positive way of course. So I have done that in a good way.


?: “Success is the ability to go from one failure to another with no loss of enthusiasm.“ Do you agree with Winston Churchill’s quote?

Yeah, I think that is a part of success. Success is so many different things, but this is a good definition of it.

?: Should or can you resist the temptation to recycle a ‘formula’ you're successful with?

No. I never resist the urge to recycle a formula that has worked for me. Why stress? If it works, it works.

?: Is it desirable to create an ultimate or timeless work? Doesn’t “top of the ladder” bring up the question, “What’s next?” — that is, isn’t such a personal peak “the end”?

Yes, it is. For me personally it is number one on the chart of what to do whenever I want to create something. I want people who outlive me, people who live after me to be able to watch, hear and listen to stuff I have created and feel the sense of connection to it. That is primary for me. And I think it is possible to create a lot of timeless work. Not everything you create is going to be received by the greater public. Not everything you create is going to be positive. But if it can stand the test of time, whereas a kid 100 years from now can come across it and feel a sort of human connection, maybe not understand the language, maybe there's a barrier, but feel a sort of human connection, I feel like you have accomplished the aim of timelessness. I think that's the peak of creation to be able to create timeless work. You know Bill Wither’s “Ain’t No Sunshine” from 1971? When you hear that song today it feels like it was recorded yesterday. That is timeless art.


My most representative project is Ogun Ola: War Is Coming, a proof-of-concept short film I made with my team and collective, it was released in 2022. It’s a timeless project that I believe people of all generations can relate to.

'Ogun Ola: War Is Coming' (2022):
My favorite work: 'Ogun Ola: War Is Coming' (2022): "Follow Óla, a teenager who suddenly discovers that he is the reincarnation of a demigod, as he now needs to face his recently found destiny" (letterboxd.com).

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