Hooked on Nollywood

Nigeria's film industry charts its own strange course

| Utne Reader January / February 2007


Nigeria's film industry, or Nollywood, as it's been dubbed, is the third most prolific in the world, behind the United States' Hollywood and India's Bollywood. For a nation seven years into democracy, recovering from corrupt military rule and a ruined economy, being third at most anything is not trivial. Since its rebirth in the early 1990s, the industry has generated $200 million in revenue, and, with 350,000 people employed, it generates more jobs than any other industry in Nigeria-and possibly all of Africa.

But what's really remarkable is that, until Nollywood, African filmmaking had been an overwhelmingly colonial enterprise, practiced by artists trained in Europe and subsidized by European capital to make sophisticated films, on celluloid, aimed at non-African audiences. By contrast, many Nollywood movies are made by Nigerians who have little formal training, with small budgets; they're shot on, and often go directly to, video; and their stories typically consist of homegrown pop-culture pulp. The enormity of the Nollywood phenomenon rattles our know-it-all pronouncements about cultural imperialism: Are we to congratulate or rue its market-driven ascendancy? Are we to consider it the truest index of contemporary Nigerian culture?

Better minds than mine can figure all of that out. While they do, I'll be busy with tonight's triple feature: He Goat, Smile of Destruction, and Not with My Daughter.

The Nollywood industry sprouted in an era of severe economic depression, with no help from the corrupt syndicates that controlled the nation's few movie houses, nor from the stingy Nigerian Television Authority. It emerged 'at a time when Nigeria had given up on [broadcast] television,' says Moradewun Adejunmobi, a Nigerian American and a professor at the University of California in Davis. 'Some people came from that industry, in which they felt like they weren't properly paid.' From there, it was home video and direct marketing to the rescue.



One problem with a lot of Nollywood movies is how frequently they suck. It doesn't take a film critic to recognize this. Many people liken them to B movies, but some could count as C's and D's. Bad acting and bad sound often render the dialogue unintelligible. Directing tends to consist of making sure the camera is on. Dramatization is poor and the subtext nonexistent. Sets look conspicuously bare and poorly lit. Nothing makes much sense.

The reason I can render such sweeping judgments about Nollywood movies is that I can't stop watching them. The industry can go right ahead and produce 50 a week, because, if I'm not careful, I can watch 50 a week. For dedicated procrastination, even pointless websites have nothing on Nollywood.

Whalemena clarke
3/28/2008 12:00:00 AM

hi i am whalemena clarke and i already auditioned but you guys i am so thank ful for the E_mail but can you E_mail you address to me so that i can sent my picture an my info to you guys at nollywood so please sent me the address please.