Nowadays, most people, including me, have watched Hollywood and Bollywood – the two largest film industries in the world – or heard of them. But never before have I ever heard of Nollywood and it surprised me more to know that it is one of the largest film industry in the world!
Nollywood is the colloquial name given to the Nigerian film industry. The first Nigerian film was made in the 1960’s but it wasn’t until the 1990’s when the industry proliferated as producers took advantage of digital technology and internet distribution. What contributes to the success of Nollywood is that most films are produced in low quality but well-written stories. It takes 7-10 days with a budget between $7,500-13000 on average to make a film (Amos 2015). One of Nollywood’s characteristics is that films are produced directly to video – that is, they’ve never been screened in a movie theater.
A scene in a Nigerian film
Nollywood produced 1,687 feature films in 2007, making it the third largest film industry in the world. “That’s more movies than were made in India and the United States combined” (Andrews 2009). The question then arises: Why haven’t most of us heard of Nollywood before?
The origin of Nigerian cinema stems from the huge number of audiences of popular Yoruba travelling theatres tropes in the western parts of Nigeria of the 1970s thanks to the use of VHS cassettes as a recording and retailing device of local theatre performances and productions. Most Nigerian producers focused on the street culture in Nigeria and many popular movies relate to the society of “its less than elite majority clientele” (Okome 2007, p. 4). Therefore, the films were made for the entertaining purpose of Nigerian people rather than money, which help to promote the number of subscribers and viewers.
Nonetheless, Nollywood is still largely a curiosity outside of Nigeria and Africa. In fact, it has gone to many international Film Festivals since 2000 such as Berlinale Film Festival and Montreal Film Festival. However, Nollywood cinema seems to look inward and not outward (Okome 2007, p. 1). Looking back at the 34th Berlinale Film Festival, a Nollywood video film named “Hollywood in Nigeria or: How to Get Rich Quick.” mislead the originality of African culture. This eventually results in “the undisputed difference that Nollywood has made to African cinematic life and discourse” (Okome 2007, p. 2). However, this did not discourage local audience or distort video filmmakers’ perspectives towards the critical notion of locality of Nollywood cinema.
Despite the nature of Nollywood cinema as anti-globalization, I believe that in the future Nollywood will reach out to other parts outside of Africa as movies are made to be seen everywhere. With the globalizing process, there is an increasing diaspora community of Nigerians around the world and the speed of ‘curiosity” about Nollywood would promote these video films.
This is one of the most viral Nollywood movies on social media at the moment: Mark Angel Comedy. It is also my favorite Nollywood movie. Only with low-quality filming devices but greatly written stories, Mark Angel Comedy has become a widespread phenomenon on the Internet as a great source of entertainment.
Amos, F 2015, Five Things You Probably Didn’t Know About Nollywood, image, One, viewed 20 August 2017, <https://www.one.org/us/2015/06/15/first-hollywood-then-bollywood-now-nollywood/>.
Andrews, D 2009, What is Nollywood?, Yale Insights, Yale School of Management, 28 April, viewed 20 August 2017, <http://insights.som.yale.edu/insights/what-is-nollywood>
Articolo, S, UNESCO, Martin Scorsese and Cineteca Bologna: a partnership to restore 50 African films, image, OnuItalia News, viewed 20 August 2017, <http://www.onuitalia.com/2017/03/03/unesco-martin-scorsese-cineteca-bologna-partnership-restore-50-african-films/>
Mark Angel Comedy 2017, LUNATIC (Mark Angel Comedy) (Episode 122), online video, 11 August, MarkAngelComedy, viewed 20 August 2017, <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9hY2GC2VrxY>
Okome, O 2007, ‘Nollywood: spectatorship, audience and the sites of consumption’, Postcolonial text, University of Alberta, vol. 3, no. 2, pp. 1-21.