Nigeria’s burgeoning film industry is an unsung hero among African moviegoers. The aptly named Nollywood produces approximately 50 films a week, second only to India’s Bollywood and well ahead of Hollywood. Although its revenues trail the likes of the above, Nigeria’s film industry still generates an impressive US$600 million on average annually towards Africa’s biggest economy; with most of this coming directly from the continent’s diaspora and representing 1.4 percent of the country’s US$307 billion GDP.
Most notably, it is estimated that more than one million people are currently employed in the industry, making it one of Nigeria’s largest employers, second only to agriculture. Moreover, if the industry is properly managed and regulated, the Nigerian government is confident that the sector has the potential to double in size, an aspiration that is supported by the World Bank, who is currently working closely with the authorities to generate growth and local employment in projects that support the entertainment industry.
The stars of Nollywood cinema are natives who appear within familiar settings that depict situations that the indigenous population understand and confront on a daily basis, consisting of popular genres and social issues including; romance, comedy, the occult, crooked cops and HIV/AIDS. Bond Emeruwa, a Nigerian director well-versed in the country’s film practices, describes the industry as one where “we can tell our own stories in our own way. That is the appeal both for the filmmakers and for the audience”.
This appeal now stretches far beyond Nigeria as Nollywood has begun to disseminate across the English-speaking Africa, even becoming a staple on M-NET, a South African-based satellite television network. Furthermore, Nigerian stars are becoming household names across the continent from the far west, east, south and beyond; with the likes of the UK and US also recognising Nollywood as a vast and varied industry. For example, London’s Film Africa festival, Bristol’s Afrika Eye and Scotland’s Africa in Motion are the United Kingdom’s three major annual showcases for African cinema formed in the past decade that shine a welcome light on regional African movies that might otherwise have a tough time.
In the late 1980s and early 1990s, like many African countries, Lagos faced epidemics of crime and insecurity; with movie theatres and other entertainment facilities opting to close as citizens withdrew from the streets after dark. This led to the growing popularity of film viewings at home, with movies often imported from the west and neighbouring India; and from here, Nollywood was formed as an enabler to produce local content.
Coinciding with the advent of 35mm film cameras and digital systems in the 1990s, Nollywood was able to rapidly grow its low-cost production and distribution capabilities, with budding directors adopting new technologies as soon as they became affordable.
Thanks to the evolution of technology, Nigerian films have been welcomed into the 21st century, gaining a large following in not just Africa, but among 30 million African emigrants around the world and counting. The main difference between Nollywood and its namesakes’ Hollywood and Bollywood is that the majority of films go straight to DVD and VCD disks, in an attempt to curb piracy and appeal to the home market. Approximately 30 new titles are delivered to Nigerian shops and market stalls every week, where the average title will sell around 50,000 copies. Disks typically sell for two dollars each, making them affordable for most Nigerians, while providing significant returns for the film producers.
However, legitimate purchasing of these disks is something the filmmakers continue to battle with.
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Source : Africa Outlook, September 3rd, 2015