Nollywood Calling

Nollywood, Nigeria’s booming film industry, is the world’s third largest producer of feature films. Unlike Hollywood and Bollywood, however, Nollywood movies are made on shoe-string budgets of time and money. An average production takes just 10 days and costs approximately $15,000. –

Every now and then I stumble across something completely surprising on the internet, and today’s surprise was the scope and size of Nigera’s film industry. When we North Americans think of Africa, one of the things we don’t think about is the obvious- what do they do for entertainment? (Although, given the media’s portrayal of Africans as savages, I think most people would answer “hunt and drink”.) In reality of course, Africa is not a country, it’s a continent, and is filled with both a large diversity of cultures and economies. Some African countries are actually doing quite well, and one of these is Nigeria.

Now a friend once commented to me that with video equipment becoming so cheap and plentiful, and video editing software also so easy to access, one of the natural results was going to be a natural democratization of filmmaking. If everyone can make films and then get them out there into the world- why wouldn’t they? For a lot of people, this means Youtube and “Guerrilla” filmmaking, but for the people of the developing nations of the world, this can mean a birth of new national film industries. The Nigerians saw a niche market not being covered, their lives and their stories, and they’ve leapt into it headfirst! Sure, the films are cheaply made, and rushed out direct to DVD as fast as the editors finish with them, but they’re a lot more relevant to the hopes and dreams of the Nigerian (and African) people than most Hollywood films ever will be.

That said, you can find Nollywood films on Youtube and I tried watching some since they’re made in English. The first thing I noticed (as someone who does audio engineering for a hobby) was the poor sound quality (lots of spiking) and the second thing I noticed was the really stiff acting (reminds me of American Soap Opera acting), but overall they remind me a lot of 1980’s American made-for-TV movies.

If you’re more curious about the actual industry itself, there’s three documentaries out there, the above Nollywood Bablylon, another called Nollywood- Nigera is available for free on Youtube, and the other, following an actual Nollywood film through it’s production cycle, is called This is Nollywood. A photographer named Pieter Hugo has also done a photo series about Nollywood, and more information about it can be found here.

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