First of all, let me say here that I am a die-hard Nollywood enthusiast and I make no apologies for that. Why? Well, not only because Im a writer there but also because it is an industry wholly created, driven and sustained by the Nigerian youth. Anything like that certainly deserves my attention. Gone are the days when I was a Nollywood-basher.
This came about when I discovered during a working visit to Germany a couple of years ago, that the West was very behind in the way they viewed ‘Africa’ whether by omission or commission. They still think we live on trees, are dying of hunger and disease or whatever. Nollywood has unwittingly smashed that misconception to smithereens.
If we all live in grass huts or trees, then where do all those beautiful houses, flashy cars and fine people come from? Mars? Anyway that is not the reason for this write-up. I just want to comment on the recent paradigm shift in the industry.
To the careful observer one has to notice that things have shifted in the industry. In the last couple of months, some pretty exciting films have come on the cinema circuit, namely Stephanie Okereke’s ‘Through the Glass’ Kunle Afolayan’s ‘The Figurine’ and soon to hit the cinemas Emem Isong’s ‘Guilty Pleasures’. We also hear of ‘IJE;The Journey’ set to hit our screens early next year. I know there are more to follow.
A harbinger of what was to come, took place in February this year, when a documentary “Nollywood Babylon’ produced by two Canadian film makers was premiered at the Sundance Film Festival to rave reviews. Later in the year, Genevieve Nnaji was mentioned on
Oprah as one of the 20 most famous people in the world.
Nollywood has come a long way from days of ‘Living in Bondage’ when the films treated themes of blood money/rituals etc. I believe it was because ‘Living in Bondage’ was such a hit, that the usual bandwagon Naija syndrome of ‘that’s where it must be happening so let do it’ took over. So what followed were films with a similar theme.
After that we had the ‘Special Effects’ era when a person’s face morphed into a cat, pig, goat or whatever tickled the fancy of the producer/scriptwriter. Then came the era of the Great Epics! Those were films where the actors wore some sort of sack cloth material and had their lips and bodies painted black. Movies like ‘Igodo’, ‘Ijele’, ‘Vuga’ etc come to mind. Next came ‘Cult Boy/Issakaba stories. Those are stories of cult boys/vigilantes wielding cutlasses and dangerous weapons and engaging in a free for all fight. Someone once asked me if Nollywood is imitating life or if life is imitating Nollywood and I would have to go with the former.
There was certainly a period in our history as a nation when self-styled vigilantes like OPC, Bakassi Boys, Egbesu Boys etc unleashed mayhem on hapless citizens. Then came the era of the Love stories… I think we are still there now. Rich-boy-meets-poor-girl, poor-boy-meets-rich-girl-and-falls-in-love kind of stories. This has continued to be the general theme to date. Mind you there are some producers that have consistently stuck to their themes come rain or shine. Teco Benson and Tarila Thompson are known for action/detective films and Emem Isong is known for her love stories to name a few.
Right now, the paradigm shift has come in the area of film going the cinema circuit. With the relative success of ‘Through the Glass’ and “The Figurine’, Cinema complexes in Nigeria have opened their doors to Nollywood and this has forced serious minded producers to up their game. Now scripts will be better written, more time and effort will be taken in producing, costuming etc. This is because everything is now on the big screen so one had better not mess up. It was because of the medium through which films were sold first vhs now vcd and more important WHO were selling and distributing the films, that’s why films were they way they were.
The general belief was ‘no matter how much time and care, cranes, jibs and lenses you use in producing a film, it will still be sold in the market ANYWAY, with the other crappy ones, for N250 so why bother?’ It made sense to sell at the lowest cost possible so as to make maximum profit. It was all a matter of economics. That was the general premise and not necessarily my view. Like I said films are the way they are because of who is financing and selling them. However, now that cinemas have opened their doors to producers, surreptitiously the scepter has been handed back to the true professionals.
As a producer friend of mine said, ‘Now we know we are doing film!’ When I hear people say ‘films were better in those days’ I shake my head, because I know why. It was because then they(films) were being handled by the professionals but along the line, the scepter was hijacked and held in a strangle hold by a cabal who determined who should be seen and who should not be. That stranglehold was only broken when AT LAST the Nigerian Government through the auspices of the Emeka Mba-led Nigerian Film and Video Censors Board insisted that there be a new frame work for marketing and distribution of films in the country.
Ha! Glory Halleluyah! This singular act equivocably and effectually broke the yoke that had been strangulating the industry for so many years. On the surface it looks as if nothing has changed and it’s still business as usual. But something has happened. Yeah, there will still be films released on vcd but there will also be some that will go the cinema circuit before being released on cinema. What that means is more variety and quality for the consumers. Producers, the ball in your court! Let’s hold on to that sceptre that was sacrificed on the altar of mediocrity, greed and avarice and go back to doing good, solid productions. So are things looking up for Nollywood? I will say a resounding, YES! They most certainly are!