As the Nollywood industry clocked 20 years, Doyin Adeoye and RUTH OLUROUNBI X-rayed the knocks and kudos on the industry.
The Nigerian film industry, dubbed Nollywood by The New York Times, was recently described as the third largest producer of films in the world after Hollywood and Bollywood. For this, Nollywood, had been celebrated by many people throughout the world for having attained such great heights in film production.
However, social critics have asked if there was any need for celebrations yet, even the three billion naira empowerment fund courtesy, the nation’s President Goodluck Jonathan. The fund, analysts have said may bring some much expected transformation into the Nollywood industry.
The president, at a dinner with top Nollywood dignitaries, in celebration of the industry’s 20th anniversary, said that the Federal Government was “encouraged by the feedback we have received from you on our administration’s support for Nollywood, we have further designed a programme known as Project Nollywood to support the key components of the industry’s value chain through a dedicated grant totalling N3bn.” The fund will include capacity development fund and funds to support the industry’s infrastructure. The scheme, which will be launched in the first week of April, will be managed by the Ministry of Finance in collaboration with the Ministry of Culture and Tourism, according to the president. He assured of his administration’s commitment to give “Nollywood every support and assistance to take the Nigerian movie industry to greater heights of success.”
While complaints have trailed the conditions attached to accessing the fund, which is another topic entirely, social analysts have wondered about the messages the industry aimed to pass across in its movies, below-the-standards production, repetitive storylines and a knack for presenting Nigerians in eerie lights.
Still, some have said a lot of credit must be given the industry, especially for its doggedness in “its dominance of African satellite television stations” which has consequently “sent Nigerian cultural messages, even if unintended, to many audiences.”
In the face of the seeming negative comments from the public, some pundits are of the school of thought that celebrating Nollywood at 20 is indeed a step in the right direction, despite the negative criticism in an environment where there was little or no support from the government and the high level of piracy experienced by the industry.
They argued that the advantages from the Nigerian entertainment industry cannot be over emphasized; judging by the rapid improvement in the last two decades as it became the second largest producing film industry in the world, in terms of the number of annual film productions, leaving Hollywood behind and coming only behind Bollywood.
Adedeji Joseph, a corps member said, “Over the years, Nollywood’s service as a tool for national mobilization towards nation building has been enormous. It serves as a means of communicating, informing, enlightening, educating the masses and as a vehicle for projecting the richness of the nation’s art to the world. It is not only an art business but also an industry, serving as a source of wealth creation and employment generation”.
According to Hala Gorani and Jeff Koinange formerly of CNN, “Nigeria has a US$250 million movie industry, creating some 200 videos for the home video market every month.” This, they argued, had generated abundant revenue for the nation’s coffers.
The digital revolution in filmmaking over the last two decades has also given birth to an African success story for Nollywood looking at the recent blockbuster movies, some people have argued. In the outgoing year, movies like ‘Last Flight To Abuja’, ‘Tango With Me’, ‘Phone Swap’, ‘Mr and Mrs’ , ‘The Return of Jenifa’, ‘Maami’, and ‘Figurine’, among others have made it big at the cinemas, grossing millions of naira.
Also, most Nigerian artiste now smile to the bank as some of them have been rumoured to be among the highest earning actresses and actors in Africa. The list includes the likes of Genevieve Nnaji, Omotola Jalade-Ekeinde, and others, unlike the old days when the artiste works very hard without much to show for it. The improved production has also encouraged and thus motivated people to go to the cinema and watch films of their choice.
While some are not so hesitant to credits to improved casting in Nollywood and some have commended film producers as it seem apparent that they now audition characters before any production and not based on who knows who or what the artiste had done before.
According to Jide Adegbite, an actor, the marketing of the Nollywood products is not what it used to be since practitioners recently took a bold step by their plans to work with the Filmmakers of Nigeria and USA (FAN USA), to organise their marketing and distribution strategy internationally in USA and Europe and to cut out piracy and to repatriate their money and efforts back to the Nigerian economy.
He also added that there were so many movie awards in the Nigeria Film industry that appreciate and commend good works, which has become one of the major reasons filmmakers are striving to make “good” films, stressing that Nollywood now has very wide coverage and global compliance which could be seen in their intonation which they have improved on.
But some people have argued that there are still many areas needing improvement. Ayodele Makinde, a corps member, while speaking to the Nigerian Tribune said, “Taking a review of Nollywood films and their story lines, a large percentage of their stories are baseless and watery. They are not well written, no consistency, no harmony and no suspense. There is nothing that helps retain the attention of the audience to the film being watched.
Movies should be produced with the intent of educating, entertaining and informing its audience as part of its essential functions to the nation at large but in Nollywood, it is mostly not the case. However, there are a few numbers of films that are exceptionally different”, he said.
Another area that needs to be worked on is subtitling. Nigerian Tribune observed that subtitling in most of the movies is flawed, therefore, nullifying the essence of subtitling in Nigerian movies. According to Henry Aderibigbe, a social commentator, many Nigerian films are guilty of copyright infringement laws binding the foreign films as the producers in the country copy Hollywood films out rightly, without daring to change even the language.
“Most Nigerian films are centred on a particular story line, revolving around love, especially the English genre movies. There are many facets to life and films should project thus. The world waits to have Nollywood produce intelligence gathering movies and not the routine.
Another critic, Temitope Bakare said “Nollywood needs to put expertise in their film production; the language of the film should be such that the audience understand. Most of the stories lack consistency; there are no professional touches, make- up is another area of concern, for example, in some Nigerian films, you would see a woman who is mourning a dead child wearing heavy make-up, earrings and the likes. The picture hardly tallies with the message. Sometimes, you see a woman serve her husband food in the house putting on high heels, it doesn’t make sense at all.”
Mrs Ariyo, a hair stylist, when interviewed, said the way the Nigerian actors and actresses dress have a negative effect on the youths of today.
She said that most Nollywood actors/actresses, especially in the English genre, exposed their bodies in movies, thereby inciting the youths to follow suit. She wondered what morals such movies teach the audience.
But the players in the industry have said one could not place the burden of blame entirely on their shoulders. While some have cited lack of cooperation between the actors and the marketers, some have blamed the marketers for substandard movies they chunk out every other week.
Ibrahim Chatta said that marketers force producers to make substandard movies by denying them funds. Eniola Olaniyan also complained that marketers have a way of frustrating their efforts. He cited the Kutanle movie he said he used N4 million of his money to produce, saying he has not recovered his money, let alone some profit. Damola Olatunji has also lent his voice to the funding and piracy issue in the industry. Olatunji said most producers have been forced to source for funding for the movies because if marketers were to fund their projects, they (marketers) dictate what goes into the movies.
Some of them have also blamed the seeming lack of progress on lack of professionalism in the industry. Dele Odule is known as an arbiter on this issue. He has been heard saying that the bane of Nollywood, especially the Yoruba speaking ones, is lack of professionalism.
Also speaking was Kelvin Ikeduba, who said “I would say that the major problem with the movie industry at the moment is professionalism, but since the new president has been in office, she has been able to put a lot in place to promote that in the industry.”
Giving kudos to the industry, Joseph Benjamin, said few years back, the movie industry used to lack the support of the government and private sectors, but with the recent development, especially with the president hosting Nollywood actors at 20, it shows that Nollywood is now able to take its stand, because asides the government, private sectors were also dully represented. Nollywood is a major source of employment for Nigerians and it is good it is now been supported by all.
Ikeduba also said that he didn’t think the term Nollywood at 20 “is properly defined, because prior to 1993, the likes of Hubert Ogunde and other prominent names in the industry have been producing movies and airing it, as far back as when celluloid was the only thing in vogue. So, saying Nollywood at 20, I wonder if it means 20 years of movie making or the date or year the industry was given a name, because as a little boy, I used to visit the theatre to watch movies, so saying Nollywood at 20 is not being specific.”
What may seem the worse in the industry is the nudity which many stakeholders are complaining about. One of the veteran actors in the industry, Larry Koldsweat, have lamented that nudity is ruining the industry. In an interview he granted allafrica.com, when asked how he would rate the current movie industry as compared to what was obtainable in his time, he “when we were there, it was not as bad as it is today. In today’s paper, one actress was saying that her boobs give her roles. Who is looking at her boobs to give her roles? Immorality has eaten deep into Nollywood; people don’t fear God anymore; lesbianism is now the order of the day. When we were there, if you plan to be a Nollywood star, people will appreciate you but these days it is not so again.”
If what was said by some elderly people was to be believed, it would seem that the industry is in a spiral toward decadence. As Koldsweat puts it, Nollywood is no longer fulfilling the role of informing and educating people. According to him, “during my time, we had the fear of God. This was when the likes of Liz Benson, Victoria Inyama, Sandra Achums were there. When you see them, you will appreciate them but these days, what do you see? Half naked girls? Have you seen Genevieve dressing the way these young girls dress? Or have you seen Omotola dressing the way these girls now dress by exposing their bodies? New artistes think exposing their boobs get them roles but that’s not true.”
However one slices it, Nollywood has shown itself to be a veritable tool toward the development of the nation. For it to maximally function in this role, stakeholders would do well if it would borrow from Nollywood Centre at the School of Media and Communication of the Pan-African University, Lagos, to help it gather intellectual bearings, collaborate with various schools offering courses in the performing arts, put in place a purposeful administration of the fund which seeks to “improve professionalism, good taste, socio-cultural correctness, scripting, quality, creativeness and depth in issues Nigerian movies treat” as Vanguard Editorial puts it. Not only that, if the artistes would ditch its infighting, laziness and working for the wrong reasons, the industry would no doubt play leading roles in job creation and the positioning of Nigeria as the cultural gateway to Africa and the Black World at large, just as the Hollywood and Bollywood.