By Anita Eboigbe
Nollywood and music had remained the country’s biggest creative exports. While Afrobeat is currently influencing global sounds, it is through movies that the world is provided a window into Nigeria’s diversity.
With Nollywood, Nigerians have interacted with cultures within the country as well as explain cultural nuances to foreigners.
The movie industry has remained one of Nigeria’s biggest branding resource, and a huge contributor to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
Available statistics showed that between January and August 2019, Nigerian cinemas recorded revenue of over five billion naira, with a large percentage spent on Nollywood films.
In the last couple of years, films like ‘The Wedding Party,’ ‘King of Boys,’ and ‘October 1’ have successfully crossed the 100 million naira gross, and served as posters of quality content from Africa.
Since Nigeria’s independence in 1960, Nollywood had grown in leaps and bounds, in terms of technology used; market base, foreign exposure and acceptance as well as quality of stories told.
Since the 1960s, painstaking efforts were made by historical filmmakers like Ola Balogun, Hubert Ogunde, Jab Adu, Moses Olayia and Eddie Ugboma to set up the industry.
They are considered the first generation of Nigerian filmmakers.
The paths they created have been expanded to ensure that the industry meets world class standards and generate more revenue.
Adekunle ‘Nodash’ Adejuyigbe, stands at the centre of this upward drive. The producer, director and cinematographer, made headlines in August, when his film, ‘The Delivery Boy,’ snagged twelve nominations, out of the 27 categories in the Africa Movie Academy Awards (AMAA).
Speaking on the state of the industry and the amount of work to be done, Adejuiyigbe noted that Nollywood has grown immensely and the cinema numbers prove it.
He said: “We are not at that time when you cannot get 30 million naira to make a film; there are people willing to invest that now. We are not at that point when if you write something spectacular, nobody would write about it, people are there but they are waiting.
“What we really need is to prove ourselves. This is the time we need to make films for ourselves. There is always a time, in every industry when people start to listen to you. That is where we are. People are paying attention, and it’s time for us to make a case for ourselves.
“I believe that in the next three years, we should use the resources available to do something spectacular. We would open the doors to bigger resources and bigger investments. At this point, we can’t ask somebody to bring two billion dollars,” Adejuyigbe said.
Adejuiyigbe’s film is an example of the kind of stories the new Nigerian filmmakers tell with filmmaking.
‘The Delivery Boy’ explores the backstory of terrorists with other sub themes that resonate with a global audience. He is not alone.
Filmmakers in Nollywood, have moved from softer, family themes to telling stories that create more global conversations and promote Nigeria in the process.
Even comedy now has to represent a higher message, using production techniques that receive applause from the international community.
Genevieve Nnaji’s ‘Lion Heart,’ with a six-figure deal from streaming giant, Netflix, is a classic film that shows the growth of Nollywood’s filmmaking.
That Netflix acquired the film at a price worth global standards is another approval feather to Nollywood’s cap.
It implies that not only are the stories more encompassing, production has improved greatly.
Production, in this sense is technical- camera quality, cinematography, directing and lighting.
Nollywood can stand shoulder-to-shoulder with films from around the world.
Again, filmmakers like Adejuiyigbe and Imoh Umoren are at the forefront.
For Umoren, who recently released the Herbert Macaulay biopic, believes that filmmaking has to resonate with the audience and that filmmakers have to improve as the taste of the audience improves.
He said: “Our viewers are very sophisticated now. I am glad there are lots of good filmmakers in Nollywood now, so, though we had envisioned a quick revolution, I guess we will settle for slow and steady, but the business is moving. Better films are coming out daily.”
Explaining the concept of better films, Adejuiyigbe said that the need for better pictures have been one of the catalysts for the fast-paced growth the industry has experienced in recent times.
His team – The Elite Film Team (TEFT) has worked on almost every blockbuster churned out from the industry.
“When I say we need technical expertise, I don’t just mean in terms of camera and lights. We have the above the line crew who are the people who create the vision.
“We also have the people who make it happen – technical guys and the production guys.
“Since 2015, I can confidently say when it comes to sound and picture, we have done great work recognisable on a global level,” Adejuiyigbe said.
Away from the work done in the making of films, Nollywood has done well in curating global audiences and showcasing these films.
In August, about three hit movies became available to watch on Netflix, including all films by Kunle Afolayan and Kemi Adetiba’s ‘King of Boys.’
Asides from streaming, Nigerian films have become active participants in film festivals across the world- Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF), New York African Film Festival, and Nollywood Week Paris.
Other festivals that have hosted Nollywood films include: Jagran International Film Festival, Lake International Pan African Film Festival, Real Time International Film Festival.
Nollywood won Best Nigerian Film prize at the 2018 AFRIFF Globe Awards.
While these festivals have provided global access to Nollywood films, the best representatives come from Nigerian-owned film festivals.
One of the most prominent is Nigeria’s first travel festival – Nollywood Travel Film Festival (NTFF), which takes Nollywood films across major cities in the world.
Speaking with NAN, Mykel Parish, the festival’s director, revealed that he founded the festival to showcase Nigerian films in cities where new audiences need to be curated and to reveal the beauty of Nigerian cinema.
“NTFF is an initiative that seeks to promote films by Nigerians living all over the world to new and existing global audiences with the aim of creating new market places for Nigerian cinema.
“There will be lots of interesting conversations on ways to improve the standard of Nollywood and expose its products to bigger audiences,” Parish said.
While all these structures have enriched the industry, stakeholders agree that there is more to be done.
As the country reflects on its journey since independence on Oct. 1, 1960, Nollywood only calls for more support to enable the industry wax stronger. (NANFeatures)