Nollywood: The Good, The Bad And The Future Of The Nigerian Movie Industry

As a Nigerian millennial, this writer has many times been faced with tackles and subtle dissing for digesting Nollywood contents, especially home videos and the much more churned out via YouTube. Over the years, local contents have received criticisms and are usually put against Hollywood, using the American movie industry as a yardstick of standardisation. Just as the international communities is not reckoning with the Nigerian industry, Nigerians also do not have hope in the industry in bringing home international accolades like the Oscars.
Nollywood has grown so much – from dramas to stage plays, recorded videos using low and now, advanced technology and equipment. Its history dates back to as early as the late 19th century and into the colonial era in the early 20th century, reportedly starting with kinetoscope, a device which was designed for films to be viewed by one individual at a time through a peephole viewer window at the top of the device). These were soon replaced in early 20th century with improved motion picture exhibition.Mobile cinema vans played to at least 3.5 million people in Nigeria as at 1954, and films being produced by the Nigerian Film Unit were screened for free at the 44 available cinemas. After Nigeria’s independence in 1960, the cinema business rapidly expanded, with new cinema houses being established. As a result, Nigerian content in theatres increased into the 1970s, kudos to to late theatre practitioners such as Hubert Ogunde and Moses Olaiya transitioning into the big screen. In 1972, the Indigenization Decree was issued by Yakubu Gowon, which demands the transfer of ownership of about a total of 300 film theatres from their foreign owners to Nigerians, which resulted in more Nigerians playing active roles in the cinema and film. The industry saw a major boost in  1973 with the nation’s oil boom and Wale Adenuga’s Papa Ajasco became the first blockbuster, grossing approximately ₦21,552,673 in just 3 days.
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As of late 1980s, the cinema culture was beginning to face a major decline, and most Nigerian film producers had transitioned to television productions. This decline was attributed to several factors, including the reduction in the value of Naira, lack of finance and marketing support, lack of standard film studios and production equipment, frequent Government structural adjustment programmes due to military dictatorships, as well as inexperience on the part of practitioners.Nollywood: The Good, The Bad And The Future Of The Nigerian Movie IndustryTill date, all of these factors are still in one way or the other affecting the industry, except that military dictatorship has been replaced with censorship. Actors and actresses are rising on a daily basis and the lack of a somewhat centralised grooming structure as well as lack of standards is evident and affects the industry’s output.
Stereotyping individuals with roles is another canker worm that has eaten deep into the industry, thanks to growth and development that thespians can now show their versatility and range. Like stereotyping, commonness in and the predictability of their productions is another turn off about the industry. Terrorism is rarely examined in Nollywood and as it has bloomed more in the past decade, it favors slapstick comedies and glamorous movies that showcase the lives of Nigeria’s rich – big homes, big parties, flashy cars – over gritty, hard-hitting narratives that poke holes in that image. The past few years have, however, seen a tremendous improvement in the story lines, although some of the newly springing up thespians have not found their way there yet.Nollywood: The Good, The Bad And The Future Of The Nigerian Movie IndustryMore recently, thespians have condemned their colleagues publicly for churning out so many substandard movies, repetition of locations and fire brigade approach in producing movies within weeks. Truth be told, many great movies are not just produced in weeks, some take years to build with an infusion of developments in the story line here and there.
The National Film and Video Censors Board, charged with classifying and regulating films has been accused several times of employing a stricter approach to local films than to imported ones, and say nonconforming filmmakers must look elsewhere to launch. Although it struggled, the government, through this agency, has contained movie about terrorism.
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The few ones that fly are so screened and censored, same as many projects attempting to push conversation around challenging social topics, from conflict and sexuality to poverty. For months, the film board delayed the release of the 2013 movie Half of a Yellow Sun mirroring Nigeria’s Biafran War, which killed an estimated 2 million from the Igbo tribe. The makers of Ìfé, a 2020 film about female lovers, were forced to premiere the film online, as homosexuality can bring a 14-year prison sentence. The Director of The Milkmaid, Nigeria’s submission for the 63rd Oscars, revealed in an interview that the board had him cut out so many parts that totaled 30 minutes of the movie. Nigerian film critic Oris Aigbokhaevbolo said the consequence of this is the stagnation of art and the “shrinking of spaces for movies that will promote intellectual and cultural conversations.”Lack of enough funds restricted the thespians from employing sophisticated equipment in their production. It also saw talented actors being paid stipends and majority of them, especially those of the golden age were not financially successful in the industry. Too add salt upon the injury, piracy became yet another issue that destroyed the industry. Thespians would incur debts as a result of their movies being reproduced and then they are left with nothing to profit plus loads of debts. Eventually, they are hit with illnesses and cannot even cater for themselves. Many of the golden age actors and actresses have at one time or the other become a subject of solicitation for public funds.
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This has, however, been curbed to an extent, especially for the exterior thespians, who develop box office plots and production. Movies in cinemas have been on the rise and just like Yvonne Jegede said recently, we hope this doesn’t get abused.
Another issue this writer thinks is a problem to the Nigerian movie industry is the lack of centralisation which can help the industry achieve a standard it will be generally known for. In as much as groups and sects gives room for conquering monopoly, each exists based on its own standards and ideologies and not a generally acceptable. standard. This brings in too much diversity in the industry.Despite these cons and the many more this writer did not touch, the Nollywood industry is doing great for itself, seeing great contents being churned out, and will only get better. The industry has so much talents that need all the international recognition and feature they can get. Personally, this writer believes the Nigerian movie industry will bring home an Oscars, maybe not in 2 years but definitely someday, given the level of improvement the industry has seen. It will take longer for development to hit the grassroots of the industry but the exteriority will amass the globe’s attention.
The success of the Nigerian music industry in clinching Grammys did not just happen in a day, so will Nollywood’s. So far, two movies have been recommended for the prestigious international movie awards and with each mistake, the industry is hopefully learning how to do it better. This writer also thinks the infusion of not just Nigerian but African contents will make the industry richer in its production and this way, the international community just has no choice than reckon.Photos Credit: Getty
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