There’s way much more cinema of quality than the one produced by Hollywood.
Hollywood is the industry that dominates the world in terms of film production. Regardless of the products other countries release, there’s always a priority space for the American offerings at our local movie theaters. But does that make it the largest film industry in the world? Well, apparently it doesn’t. If we look at the number of films produced each year, Hollywood occupies only the third place worldwide, being Bollywood the largest and Nollywood the second one. The latter is the Nigerian film industry that, year by year, has managed to produce around 1,500 movies, but apparently the world doesn’t really know much about them, and they haven't had enough exposure in an international market. So, if you’re into discovering new films and alternative types of storytelling, you'll love Nollywood.
93 Days (2016) Dir. Steve Gukas: Set in Lagos, this thriller deals with the sacrifices doctors and other civilians had to make to stop an Ebola outbreak and prevent a terrible pandemic.
The term was coined by the Japanese Canadian journalist Norimitsu Onishi in 2002. However, the Nigerian film industry can be traced back many years ago, but the format and essence of Nollywood dates at least a decade back. By the late eighties and early nineties, the film industry in Nigeria faced a tremendous difficulty. During the seventies and nineties, the Nigerian Television Authority (NTA) dominated all media content created in the country. However, they decided to put an end to their domination. Many of the creatives that had worked for the NTA started looking for alternatives to produce and create contents, and the home video technology became the best medium to distribute their creations.
'76 (2016) Dir. Izu Ojukwu: Six years after the Civil War, the movie tells the difficult and tormented love story between a young officer and a student. It all gets complicated when the officer is accused of being part of the military coup that assassinated Murtala Muhammed, head of state of the country.
At first, of course, they didn’t have many funds to produce their movies, so they would have to face endless obstacles to actually release their stories. We’re talking about cheap equipment that would fail while they were filming a scene, free sets where they had to deal with people passing by, or even having to shoot at their homes. However, the audience was hungry for new visions and contents to enjoy. Soon, this home video format became the core of these productions, and it was just a matter of time before the industry started growing dramatically, pushing new creators to make more stories for their audience. The first Nollywood films were a strange combination between known movie genres with a hint of soap opera patterns, but as the industry grew, they started increasing the quality and quantity of their films.
Living in Bondage (1992) Dir. Chris Obi Rapu: Considered the first Nollywood movie, it tells the story of a couple going through a rough path. Desperate to improve his life, Andy decides to join a Satanic cult that asks its followers to murder those they love as a sacrifice to get what they desire the most.
In just a decade, they started focusing on other types of content besides popular stories that were, let’s say, "more universal." They started telling local stories for an audience that wanted to feel represented in this form of art. Thus many adaptations of Nigeria's best literary texts started to appear, as well as historical films that, for the first time in their history, depicted their side of the story. Hollywood films were widely seen up to that day, especially those starring black actors. This was mainly due to a cultural need to feel at least a bit represented in important media products. So, Nollywood came to give voice to a cultural background that had been tainted by colonialist oppressive attitudes for centuries. It was time to start creating a voice for and by themselves.
Maami (2011) Dir. Tundee Kelani: Based on the novel by Femi Osofisa, the movie tells the story of a successful international soccer player that starts meditating on the role his mother had in his path from being a young boy living in miserable conditions to a wealthy professional player.
Perhaps this is the key to the success and the main reason why Nollywood grew so fast in just two decades. For the first time in their history, they were portrayed as a society rich in culture and traditions. They were no longer the poor characters or just the colonized country. These films portrayed diverse characters with professional, romantic, and even economical aspirations. They all had a relatable story and, more importantly, more freedom to explore their concerns and worries about the world.
Here are other films you might like: