By Ojonugwa Felix Ugboja
If dealing with the facts, Nigeria’s movie industry, Nollywood, is the second largest movie industry in the world, production wise. It is a remarkably huge industry with great reach in Africa and in other parts of the world.
Many might be surprised about NETFLIX’s recent acquisition of Genevieve Nnaji’s produced Lionheart – a first in the history of Nollywood – but it has been a long time coming if you may.
Though the industry’s history was unplanned, and ‘’it,’’ according to veteran producer, Charles Igwe, ‘’sprang from the interplay of a few unique coincidences and circumstances,’’ one can at least attest to how much effort it has taken, how many it has inspired and developed, and how much socio-economic impact it can boast of with a worth over $5 billion.
Nigerian films serve as a reference material for those seeking some connection or understanding of Black African cultures and development, and even though it has been more famous for its low budget outputs and sometimes unprofessional storytelling, it has inspired and continue to inspire a lot of people to ‘claim their own.’
Africans, who have always been heavy consumers of western movies, have through Nollywood found themselves suddenly in a reality that implies that they can create and watch their own stories. With over a thousand films every year, it was only a matter of time before an international media company like NETFLIX looked in.
Lionheart premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival, and was immediately followed with the Grolsch People’s Choice Awards nomination. Everything seems right and it is a feeling that can get being used to if the challenges that come with producing quality movies like that can be surmounted. There have been previous Nollywood premieres in the world, but none has attracted as much interest.
In her words, while speaking with CNN’s Richard Quest, Genevieve Nnaji, who doubled as a producer and actor in the movie, said that they had to financially task themselves to make the movie.
‘’We had to self-fund unfortunately for movies. We don’t have adequate funding for movies that we actually intend to go global. There isn’t that provision yet,’’ she said, reverberating Charles Igwe’s definition of Nollywood as the process of film-making in Nigeria, where the films are produced using any and all tools available, adequate or otherwise.
Nollywood has and is surviving in spite of its very tough environment, but the great writer Albert Camus said that ‘’there is no more dreadful punishment than futile and hopeless labour.’’
A lot of people have laboured for the industry on their own personal costs. The road is still far ahead, but the progress being made by Lionheart is definitely an indication of what to come, and a lesson on what price there is to pay as the journey unfolds.
There are other producers in Nollywood who are just as hardworking and ambitious, and would be excited about any technical support for their works. The problem is not about the absence of will or talent as much as it is about that of environment, poor advertising and promotion.
The movies are going to be cheaply priced, and even at their standard, Netflix or anybody else will need some extra promotion to convince their subscribers to try something different. But that is already a glorious place to be for Nollywood.
India’s own Wood is also struggling to break into American blockbuster levels, but there is no dream too daunting. That at least is being proven by Genevieve Nnaji.