Nollywood: Light, camera, and many action!

Tholds first place in its ranking in the number of movies launched and the third highest in invoicing in the world, Nollywood, is the name given to the Nigerian cinematographic industry. It employs over 1 million people and it ranks second place and it is just behind agriculture regarding the number of people employed in the country. It is responsible for 5% of the GDP in the country, and the 4th most important economic sector. Even though, it boasts the title as the most important cinema industry in Africa, the Nigerian production is still not well-known in Brazil. However, it attracts the attention of anyone who works in the audiovisual field and those who study this subject.

Nollywood attracts attention, not just due to the number of movies it produces — an average of around 1,500 movies per year, about 15 times more than the Brazilian industry — but also because of the content being produced. This is because the Nigerian cinema seeks to express diverse traditions and existing styles of life in the country, as there are over 180 million inhabitants divided into 389 ethnic groups and who speak about 250 different languages. The movies portray such aspects ranging from religion to social issues, including such subjects as rape, domestic violence, and cancer. In fact, Nollywood has told the history of Nigeria through its movies and the audience has enjoyed what it has seen.

Maria Pereira, a social scientist, is the cultural project administrator and founding partner of Praga Conexões, a Brazilian company conceiving and implementing projects in the audiovisual and educational fields. One of these projects was the “Mostra Nollywood” (Nollywood Cinema Show), held in 2012 and sponsor by the “Caixa Econômica Federal” Bank, one of the main government banks in Brazil, and it introduced Nigerian movies for the first time showing these movies from different time periods to the local audience, as well as bringing its main filmmakers and producers to Brazil.

“The audience was not so big”, she reported.”However, those who were present were really impressed. Partially, this was due to the fact of the unfamiliarity of Nigeria in the presentation of some of its cinema productions. When leaving the Nigerian movie I remember, when a spectator said that I would never have imagined that there were middle-class people in Africa”.

The event had a big repercussion in the Brazilian media. Nigerian cinema is practically unknown to the general public in Brazil. However, the production methods and distribution used in Nollywood have attracted increasing attention of Brazilian researchers and filmmakers. “They have a notion on the coherence of the movie budget and its potential for communication and box office sales. Regarding the Nigerian distribution methods, they have invested in alternative forms, affordable to the majority of the society, related to economic terms, as well as geographic aspects”, Maria Pereira exemplifies.

Another interesting point in Nigerian cinema, according to her, is the approach the filmmakers apply to the imagination of the average spectators in terms of language and themes of interests. For her, there is a cultural approach between what the cinema does and what is consumed in the country. “The majority of the filmmakers in Nollywood are from popular social classes. They have given up their professions as bricklayers or mechanics, for example, and when there is a boom in the industry, they launch into the universe of audiovisual filmmaking. They were/are their own target public. Therefore, they understand like nobody else, their subjects of interest and the type of narrative involved in those subjects”.

Maria Pereira speaks about her favorite Nigerian movies, ideal for those who intend to be inserted in this universe. “The movies by Tunde Kelani and Kunle Afoloyan are really great. Tunde is one of the most respected in Nigeria, who has been producing movies for a long time, and Kunle, who is a young filmmaker who is producing a great number of high quality movies”, she states. “An important classic is the Ousofia in London, a comic work, filmed in London that was designed in the Nollywood cinema for the world. Issakaba is another filmmaker, who has produced a series of movies — who was rated as even up to the eight best — action and violence movie production “.

Sources of inspiration

Philipe Ribeiro moviemaker and audiovisual researcher discovered the Nigerian cinema right after doing research studies on alternative methods on the distribution and exhibition of movies in underdeveloped countries. The attention focused on the Nigerian productions made Philipe speak with other people who were interested in the same concept. Then, he decided to create the ‘Cinema Nigeriano’ (Nigerian Cinema) blog. “I needed to collect and organize the research material so that afterwards I could speak to other scholars on the subject and that way this study would become more dynamic and collaborative through this blog”, he remembers.

Nowadays, Philipe produces movies in fishing and rural laborer communities and he has sought to emphasize the live style of the countryside people blended with the arid climate in northeastern Brazil. All that inspiration, according to him, has been derived from his passionate love for the achievements of the Nigerian cinema.

“Nollywood made me see how I could make the movies I wanted, distribute, and exhibit them throughout the entire country, as long as I understood that this work had to profoundly communicate with the place where it originally came from, employing the available resources I had and jointly with that, deploy the actual distribution possibilities and the exhibition in my country and this included alternative means, such as movie clubs and DVD street venders throughout Brazilian streets”, he explained.

For Philipe, the production model used in Nigeria also could help in strengthening the national content for paid TV in Brazil, and comply with law number 12,485 that defines quotas for national movies.

On the crest of a wave

In Nigeria, the habit of going to the movies started to decline in the 1080s, thus, it was necessary to make investments in direct-to-video. Thereby, the movies were launched directly on VHS, without any need to be first viewed in movie theaters. It is worthwhile to remember, at that time, the radio-fusion television of Nigerian movies was still quite scarce. However, several companies have taken advantage of the Nollywood boom to become established in this market in the last decades.

Africa magic

This TV network was created in 2003; it has 8 channel and broadcasts Nigerian movies in 53 countries. Broadly speaking, it would be a type of HBO featuring Nollywood movies.

Silverbird cinemas

This company was created in 2004, and it is the owner of various movie theaters in Nigeria and it has focused a great deal on the movies made in Nollywood. IROKOTV It was launched in 2011, this digital platform is used for broadcasting movies on the Internet and there is a catalog with over 5000 Nigerian movies and this is the same as Netflix for the North American cinema as Nollywood is for Nigerians.

Challenges and opportunities

Based on the estimates from the World Bank, 90% of all DVDs circulating in Nigeria are illegal copies. The producers estimate that 50% of the profits are lost due to piracy. The pirates put 20 movies on the market as compared to one single DVD sold for an equivalent of 4 US dollars. A legitimate movie costs 7 US dollars. The Internet penetration in Nigeria is still less than 40%, which interferes with the expansion of streaming services. Besides that, the opening of multiplex rooms in the Country has brought Hollywood to the country, through such great international launches as, “”The Avengers” and “Fast and Furious”.

Law 12,485 — What law the law states

Channels that exhibit predominately movies, series, animation, documentaries are obliged to show 3 hours and 30 minutes weekly in their prime time, linked to Brazilian audiovisual contents, and at least half of that must be produced by independent Brazilian productions.

More tips on movies

“Living in Bondage” (1992), by Chris Obi Rapu,

“Tango with me” (2011), by Mahmood Ali-Balogun,

“Aki na Ukwa” (2002), by Amayo Uzo Phullips,

On the crest of a wave “The figurine: Araromire” (2009), by Kunle Afolayan.