Oct 2, 2010

The Paradox of Nigeria’s Nollywood

Posted by Yiro Abari, September 5, 2009

The global status of Nollywood, Nigeria’s movie industry oscillates between the second and the third most watched. During this year’s Africa Movie Academy Awards however, Kenyan, South African and Nigerian directors scooped most of the awards leaving many to wonder why then Nollywood is rated among the best three in the world, the others being American Hollywood and Indian Bollywood. The Sino movie industry is not even mentioned.

My understanding of Nigerian movies is that they tell the story but give little concentration towards making the scenes look very real. Some will also say that even the story lines are analogous and sometimes boring as result of compromise in creativity. On a whole these shortcomings comprise the quality of Nollywood movies.

When one considers that Nollywood movies take at most a fortnight to shoot compared to months or even years in Holly and Bolly woods, then the shortcomings are unavoidable. Further more, the industry appears to overlook the implication of the more than 140 million people in Nigeria by depending on just a few individuals as actors. This is better played up when a man of Zack Orji’s age has to constantly put on skimpy wears to play the role of a house boy or a school boy. One would have expected the directors of Nollywood to take advantage of our population which is comparable to the sand of the shores to fish out as many young talents as possible. When enough talents are discovered, complacency gives way and competition sets in, resulting in improved performance and high quality as far as the actor’s roles are concerned.

The financiers of Nollywood movies are largely conservative traders with modest education and who are found around the Onitsha axis. They consider themselves traders who are out for the money and nothing else. The money is coming and so damn your suggestions as to how to improve the industry. Their high-handedness is responsible for dump movie titles such as my private part, pay as you go, I need a husband, oil village and so on.

Against all these limitations however, Nollywood is generally and truly a successful industry. Shoot is an annual training course for film makers usually held at the Nigerian film institute in Jos Nigeria. The instructors are world class pros drawn from Europe and America. During this year’s edition of Shoot, a film expert from Europe noted that the workshop is one endeavour that will contribute to ending the exclusive watch of Nollywood movies by the Diaspora. It is true that the movies of Nollywood are watched mainly by Africans and people of African origin. In Africa we have the culture of people gathering under the moonlight to listen to stories told by the elderly. It might be the reason why Nollywood movies which hammer on story lines find favour among Africans. There is however, no doubt that the simplicity of Nollywood movies ensures movie lovers understand the theme of the movies easily unlike a situation where one watches for a long time without grabbing the story line. It makes little sense and you don’t want to watch again. The Diaspora, on the other hand, is driven by emotional attachment and the strong desire to understand adequately their roots.

What all these implies is that there is a huge room for improvement that can eventually help the industry to break the cultural barriers someday.

The options for Nollywood directors is either to continue to focus on just quick and relatively little revenues with perennial humiliations at AMAA or improve on quality and gain cross-cultural acceptability thereby boosting revenue and helping the movies to dominate AMAA awards and perhaps bigger global awards in the future.

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