Scene from Nollywood movie Nkem Owoh (L)
Nollywood has run a rather successful race for 20 years on the rocky roads and murky waters of well-deserved criticisms mostly from patriotic Nigerian fans. For the fans, the limitations that beset the industry are synonymous with any other industry in Nigeria and should not be a roadblock to the collective creativity of these professionals. Instead, the limitations have proved to an extent that film makers in Nigeria are innovative, using scarce resources even at the risk of poor financial turnover.
Believe it or not, Nollywood has a very rich reserve of talented actors who, although untrained like their foreign counterparts, put up good performances and manage to interpret their roles in the way the audience can easily grasp the stories being told. Many of the criticisms that are directed at Nollywood today are also relevant to the bigger fish, Hollywood where the bar has been highly lifted. For instance, Nollywood has been accused, so to speak, of not telling original stories. Watch a couple of Hollywood movies too and discover that they are repeatedly telling stories such as kidnap of an only child of a couple on the verge of divorce, a poor athlete who rises to fame or a mob that steals and gets away with it, amongst others.
Surprisingly too is the idea that Hollywood is beginning to beat Nollywood at a game it is notorious for, namely sequel film making. Box office blasting movies are produced up to 7 sequels. Iron Man, Shrek, Fast and Furious, The Lord of the Rings and The Transporter are few of the examples of high-grossing sequel movies. But one debatable fact is that an average Nollywood movie will beat a low-budget Hollywood movie. As a matter of fact, low-budget Hollywood movies are quite nauseating because the storylines are devoid of logic, the characters may not be developed along with the plot and the faceless actors tend to be so boring that one cannot but let out a yawn to survive a view.
Until recently, all Nigerian movies are low-budget and when compared to any other foreign film industry, they are still low budget productions. That is why when anyone ventures into criticising Nollywood film producers for their effort, the criticisms often meet unreceptive hearts. Some movie producers just want the drums to be rolled out: Nollywood is 20, yay! That’s everyone’s wish by the way. But how can we drum when corpses still sweat in our movies? And a single man wears a wedding band? And the nurses still run in panic to deliver pregnant women? And the average female character is still portrayed as a prostitute? And the cameraman still does not read the script, if any, ahead of the shoot so that he can use his discretion in panning around actors in a scene where an argument ensues between two? And we still mount our cameras on frail motorcycles to shoot fast motion parts? And we still notice that the hairs on the head and the beard of an aged actor are grey but the moustache remains stubbornly black?
Come to think of it, the television series are doing well except for one thing. The soundtracks are not as hot as the episodes. For example, if a TV series is titled, The Bachelors, you can be rest assured that a shrill voice will sing, “The Ba-che-lors, The Ba-che-lors”. Since when has it become a norm that the soundtrack must echo the theme? It won’t make it any popular by the way. We should have learnt from the classic examples of Checkmate, The Village Headmaster and The Masquerade. There’s no way you will hear the soundtracks that you will not quickly associate them with the series. Even Cock Crow at Dawn’s soundtrack was not particularly a nagging echo like what we see in Palace, Supple Blues, All That Glitters, Every Day People and other series with theme-repetition motif.
To the issue of Nollywood village that is proposed to be launched to mark Nollywood 20th anniversary. Nollywood has been dwelling in the hearts of Nigerians for a long time. Asides from the lack of funding, there are other fundamental issues that have slowed down the project. We don’t have a one-house yet in Nollywood. We have factions and divisions in the name of Gollywood, Kanywood and NANTAP variants. Nobel Laureate and Dramatist, Professor Wole Soyinka had once cautioned against using the term Nollywood as it borrows from Hollywood. Albeit warning against sheepish and needless copycatism, the Professor’s view may be unpopular.
Securing landed property to house Nollywood is a tough call without government’s intervention and Nollywood village is such a desirable concept. By this bid, Nollywood aims at owning a community that would be run by its own regulations. We hope that that community includes a library where the works of the likes of Pa Ogunde, Pa Afolayan, Moses Olaiya and Zack Amata are archived. We also expect that equipments such as cameras and lighting equipments are available at reduced prices for rental purposes. We also hope that Nollywood village will only parade original copies of works for sales and distribution and not become another engine room for facilitating piracy.