Nollywood: Old Stars, New Roles

13 Dec 2015

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Twenty-three years after Nollywood came into being, there are still a few things many don’t agree on; chief of which is the moniker Nollywood itself. The simple question: ‘How did the name come about?’ throws up at least three names. So, who should take credit for the coinage and first usage of Nollywood? Jonathan Haynes who in a 2005 article cited an earlier mention of Nollywood by New York Times reporter Matt Steinglass in 2002? Or Norimitsu Onishi who others also believe coined Nollywood in 2002?
   More than the name, some stakeholders don’t like that Nigeria’s film making history pre-Nollywood has been subsumed into Nollywood as if no film had been made before Kenneth Nnebue shot his film ‘Living in Bondage’ in 1992.

   There are of course, those who think they are simply too good to be put in the same category as “traders” in Nollywood which according to them is merely a video industry. And while all that dust swirls, a few people decided they needed their own ‘woods’: Kannywood, Yoruwood. I suppose Igbowood with versions like Gbowood and Bowood will soon be vying for attention with the successful launch of AMIgbo (Africa Magic Igbo).

   However, the one thing everyone can be agreed on is the need for constant improvement of quality. As far as quantity is concerned, Nollywood is either the 2nd or 3rd largest film industry in the world, depending on which list you’re perusing. Now in a leaner world, even in the absence of current figures, we can safely assume that the days when over 50 films were released weekly may be over for Nollywood. Which brings to mind what’s now seen as New Nollywood with award winning filmmaker Kunle Afolayan as poster boy. There are also ventures like the Africa Magic Original Films which have also helped new and even older filmmakers raise their game.

    When one door closes…
With declining economy, number of films worsening not to mention viewer apathy, there is a need for old and not so old Nollywood stars to proactively think up new ideas for survival. So some Nollywood stars have branched out into other genres of drama, etc. Whoever knew Ramsey Nouah could do comedy `a la ’30 Days in Atlanta’?

   Advertising, Modelling, music all fall under entertainment. I haven’t talked about music at all. These were the natural alternatives for actors and actresses. So you could say Nollywood hadn’t strayed too far.

A year ago however, politics was the in thing. Stars like Kate Henshaw, Desmond Elliot,  (or Olusola Desmond Elliot as he preferred to be called during his Lagos State House of Assembly race), Julius Agwu, Yemi Solade,Abba Al-Mustapha were actively involved in politics.

Of these aspirants, the only certainty is that Hon Desmond Elliot won a seat in the Lagos House of Assembly. Earlier, there were the political appointees like Richard Mofe-Damijo, Okey Bakassi. Bob-Manuel Udoukwu who in addition to being an appointee in Anambra State had wanted to contest for a seat to represent Idemili North in the Anambra State House of Assembly.

   Call it good old hustle, fact is Nollywood and its stars are learning to roll with the times. There’s also some good news: These stars haven’t abandoned acting. 2016 looks set to be a massive comeback year for many a ‘retired’ Nollywood star.

Tags: Entertainment

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