Nollywood means different things to everyone in Nigeria. It is one of those very polarizing topics ,almost as polarizing as religion, politics and morality. There are those that LOVE it as one much as one could love a film. They buy all the dvds they can afford, praise the directors and worship the stars. Then there are those that have less than stellar opinions, and to them, all they can see is that , the emperor has no clothes on.
While they may have their valid objections with the technical, creative, story telling flaws that some of the films have( like Hollywood), id like to look at some reason we can and SHOULD be grateful for Nollywood.
*BIG & BLACK -Nollywood has managed to do what no other black populated nation has done. It’s created an industry for it’s self and by it’s self. Though it may not be perfect, or anywhere near it, it is a self-sustaining industry that has created superstars that are recognized all over the world. Many black film makers in North America and Europe would kill to have in their countries what Nollywood has created in Nigeria.
*INDUSTRY -Though a full structure is not in place, but the fact is, there is an industry. No country in Europe and not even Britain can boast of a film industry. With the death of UKFC which was the closest thing to a studio, it seems that things were set back several years. Though we don’t have a studio system, the independent spirit was embraced and the industry manages to release over 3000 films annually of varying quality(like Hollywood), but they all find an audience, which is what is important to theirproducers.
*WORKING AT HOME- Directors, are able to work at home. It may take sometime to get into the industry, but Nollywood has done for it’s directors what Britain has not been able to do; i.e they can work at home. Talented British directors from Alfred Hitchcock to Chris Nolan and Edgar Wright, after successful films, still had to go to the US to be fully appreciated and find the finance to make the kind of films they want to make. Nigerian directors don’t have to do tha. Now, not all get the funding they need , or the complete freedom( depending on their clout, and producer they work with), but the fact is, things are only getting better. With films like; Misfit , A Mile From Home, Confusion Na Wa and others coming out, you can see that , young film makers are beginning to do things , their way, and things can only get better.
* GOOD ROLES Depending on your prespective, this is subjective,but let me explain; with Nollywood the actors are not restricted to token or stereotypical roles, unlike their black colleagues in US and America, who are subjected to roles like : Gangster, Pimp, Robber, Prostitute etc. Many Black actors in the US and Europe find these are the only roles they get early in their careers, and even later on, unless you are Denzel or Will Smith, most roles are written with a Caucasian in the lead and cast that way.
Many black actors in Europe have to go to the US to really be appreciated; Chiwetal Ejifor, Idri Elba, Thandie Netwon and many others are British born, but despite stellar work at home, they eventually had to move across the pond to REALLY work The reverse is the case for Nollywood, where you have British Born Nigerians moving back to to Nigeria to work as actors. Within a few decades we could see African American Actors moving down here to either work or do their own productions. Render to Caesar already has Gbenga Akkinegbe who starred in HBO cult classic “The Wire” testing the waters.
STILL GROWING- Hollywood has many phases. It started with the silent, then to the talkies, then to the Golden age.
There was then the 70’s where names like Speilberg, Scorsese, Lucas, DePalma, Ron Howard, Francis Ford Coppola roared into the scenes, and
The 90’s brought Tarantino,Fincher, Rodriguez,Spike Jones, David O Russell, Wes Anderson etc .
There was an evolution, and each phase had it impact on what Hollywood is today. Hollywood has come to an almost standstill. People are getting tired of remakes, endless franchises that get worse with each new film, and movies that have no depth, style over substance.
Nollywood on the other hand, is just entering it’s second phase. The era of bad production is slowly coming to an end(slowly) Slowly new voices are entering the scene showing what they can do,films like Ije and Figurine paved the way for a new standard,showing that IT WAS possible to make films at that level, and others have come and surpassed what they did.
The only way is up(with continuos momentum and artistic integrity) and from what i have seen of short films, webseries and one hour tv movies that have been coming out in the last 18 months, i think we can all be excited that soon, some of the things that Nollywood has been mocked for, will slowly phase out in the next decade or so.
NEW NIGERIAN CINEMA- There is a movement called the New Nigerian Cinema. Similar to how Indie Film Makers and those that work outside the Hollywood system, do not regard themselves as part of Hollywood. But, the fact is, without Nollywood, they would not have a platform to appear on CNN and get international interviews. Nollywood, created a platform , that became a brand that the world recognized.
NB- Not all film makers from the U.S are Hollywood filmmakers, Not all film-makers in India are Bollywood film makers, and they usually make that distinction clear. So, not all film makers from Nigeria or of Nigerian Birth are Nollywood film-makers, this does not make them snobs. A film- Maker has a right to choose who or what he is identified with or as.
Nollywood put a spotlight on film making in Africa, and many filmmakers, are benefiting from that spotlight directly or indirectly. There are many great filmsdin other African countries, but none have the kind of attention that Nollywood gets, or the brand attachment. Just look at the film competition AfriNOLLY, though open to the whole continent, they took the NOLLY, which immediately made it a different playing field and opportunity for new and unknown (but working) film makers to showcase their talent
Now, am i saying that the industry is perfect? . NO, we still have a long way to go. A VERY long way in MANY areas. There are some mindsets we need to discard. There are some perspectives that need to be dumped and new ones accepted , and some excuses and victims mentality need to be destroyed.
But despite our objections, protests or reservations, i do think we need to acknowledge how far it’s come and the platform it has created; whatever your views on it may be, you can’t deny the impact that it has had both on the industry and the continent.
PS- What other reasons do you think insiders and those that work in the creative industry should be grateful. Please lets keep comments respectful. Cheers