Comic Book Curious

The Nigerian Film Industry: Nollywood

February 10, 2023

By: Camelita Esene

Nollywood, also known as the Nigerian film industry, is rapidly growing and becoming an influential player in the global film industry. It is also the largest film industry in Africa. The term "Nollywood" is derived from the words "Nigeria" and "Hollywood." It refers to the Nigerian film industry based in Lagos, Nigeria.

The Nollywood film industry began in the early 1990s, with the first Nigerian home video, "Living in Bondage," in 1992. The film was produced by Kenneth Nnebue and was a commercial success, selling over 50,000 copies in its first week of release. Historical filmmakers like Ola Balogun, Hubert Ogunde, Jab Adu, Moses Olayia, and Eddie Ugboma produced Nollywood films. They are known as the pioneering group of Nigerian filmmakers. This success inspired other Nigerian filmmakers to create their home videos, leading to the industry's growth.

two people in a field

Credit: Nigerian Film Industry

Nollywood films are primarily produced in the English language. However, many films are also made in Yoruba, Hausa, and Igbo languages(the three primary ethnic languages spoken in Nigeria). The movies are known for using melodramatic and moralistic themes. They often depict the struggles of everyday Nigerians and the importance of family, tradition, and religion. Nollywood films also often address social issues such as poverty, corruption, and HIV/AIDS.

One of the critical factors that have contributed to the success of the Nollywood film industry is its low-budget production model. Unlike Hollywood or Bollywood, Nollywood films are typically produced on a budget of less than ₦10,000,000 (approximately $20,000), making them accessible to a broader audience. This low-budget production model has also allowed a greater diversity of stories, as filmmakers are open to the need to recoup significant production costs.

The Nollywood film industry is also known for using non-professional actors and actresses. Many of the actors and actresses in Nollywood films are not trained in the craft but rather are selected for their good looks or ability to play a particular role. This has led to criticism from some quarters, who argue that the industry does not place enough emphasis on talent and skill.

Despite this, the Nollywood film industry continues to grow in popularity and influence. In recent years, Nollywood films have been shown at international film festivals and nominated for major awards such as the Toronto International Film Festival and the Cannes Film Festival. This is helping to raise the profile of Nollywood and bring attention to the unique stories and perspectives the industry offers. In addition, the industry has also begun to expand its reach beyond Nigeria, with Nollywood films being distributed to other African countries and the African diaspora in Europe and North America.

African school students by lockers

Credit: Nigerian Film Industry

As of 2021, the industry has grown to be worth over $5 billion, employs more than 1.5 million people, and continues to grow. However, notwithstanding the industry's success, there are still challenges that must be addressed. One of the significant challenges facing the Nollywood film industry is piracy. The widespread availability of pirated copies of Nollywood films has had a negative impact on the industry, with filmmakers losing significant revenue as a result. This has led to calls for stricter copyright laws and more tremendous efforts to combat piracy.

Another challenge facing the Nollywood film industry is the Nigerian government's need for more funding and support. The film industry has largely been built on the efforts of independent filmmakers, and there needs to be more government funding or permission for the industry. This has led to a need for more infrastructure and resources, making it difficult for filmmakers to produce high-quality films.

Irrespective of these challenges, the Nollywood film industry continues to thrive and evolve. The industry has become a significant player in the entertainment industry in Nigeria and West Africa. Its low-budget production model and focus on local stories and themes have made it a unique and essential player in the global film industry.

There has been an effort to bring more development to the industry and tackle some of its challenges. One of the ways this is being done is through the development of film schools and training programs for aspiring filmmakers. This is helping to increase the level of professionalism and technical expertise within the industry, which will, in turn, lead to the production of higher-quality films.

Film Cover

Credit: Nigerian Film Industry

In Nollywood, a trend known as "new Nigerian cinema" has gained momentum. One of the movement's leading proponents, Chika Anadu, developed the phrase "New Nigerian Cinema" to represent the current generation of filmmakers active in making movies set in and produced in Africa. This trend raises the bar for filmmaking in Nigeria and shows how much African cinema has advanced. Actor Wale Ojo, a leading advocate of the New Nigerian Cinema movement and one of its pioneers, describes it as "an advancement in Nigerian cinema, with better production qualities, compelling tales that capture the essence of who we are as Africans and as Nigerians It's an exciting new trend, renaissance, or revival if you will, perhaps even a flashback to the 1970s with a very, very contemporary tint or sheen to it." Victor Okhai, a filmmaker, says: "It is anticipated that film quality will rise. We have reached a level where we can't perform the average."

Another way the industry is evolving is through new technologies such as digital filmmaking and online distribution. This allows filmmakers to reach a wider audience and bypass traditional distribution channels that can be expensive and difficult to navigate. It also opens up new opportunities for the monetization of films.

One of the most promising developments for the industry is the increasing interest of investors and companies in the Nollywood film industry, e.g., Netflix. This is helping to bring more resources and expertise to the industry, which will lead to the production of higher-quality films that help develop the sector and build the capacity of the industry players.

In conclusion, Nollywood is a rapidly growing and influential player in the global film industry. With its low-budget production model, which focuses on local stories and themes, the industry has become a unique player in the entertainment industry in Nigeria and West Africa. While the industry still faces several challenges, efforts are underway to address these and bring about more development in the industry. With the increasing recognition and interest from international investors, the future of Nollywood looks bright.

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