Nigeria’s Nollywood has grown more prolific than Hollywood or Bollywood

Published: April 3, 2014
Bollywood-Hollywood

Most Nollywood movies are made in less than 10 days and cost about $25,000. AP Photo/ Sunday Alamba

HEATHER MURDOCK
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

LAGOS, Nigeria — A 15-second drum roll and the title of the film, “Deceptive Heart,” comes crashing onto the screen in a groovy 1970s font.

Less than 10 minutes into the Nollywood movie, the heart of plot is revealed: A woman has two boyfriends and doesn’t know what to do.

The story moves as quickly as the film appears to have been shot. Some scenes are shaky, with cameras clearly in need of a tripod, and musical montages are often filled with pans of the same building.

Most Nollywood movies are made in less than 10 days and cost about $25,000.

Fueled by low budgets and whirlwind production schedules, Nigeria’s film industry has grown by some estimates over the past 20-plus years into the most prolific on Earth, pushing out more movies a year than Hollywood in California or Bollywood in Mumbai, India.

Hollywood tends to portray Africa as an exotic land of deserts and giraffes, populated by huddling masses, according to Samuel Olatunje, a Nollywood publicist known in the business as “Big Sam.”

Nigerian movies are popular because they portray African people more accurately, Big Sam explains outside his single-room Lagos office. They explore African issues rarely touched on in Hollywood — magic, tribal loyalties, the struggle to modernize.

“Stories that you can relate to,” he says.

Ventures Africa business magazine says Nollywood knocks out 2,000 titles a year and is the third-largest earner in the movie world, after Bollywood and Hollywood. The $250-million industry employs more than a million people.

Artists say Nigeria’s bad infrastructure and chaotic legal system prevent them from making films that are as impressive in their quality as they are in quantity.

“You’ll find that we’re having to make do,” legendary Nollywood actor Olu Jacobs explains at an exclusive country club in Lagos.

Trained at Britain’s Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts, Jacobs says Nigerian artists often have the same artistic capacity as their Western counterparts, but not the same financial capacity. “We’re not happy because the finished product doesn’t have the finish that it should have,” he says.

Later that day, Jacob’s driver inches his car through grinding traffic in Lagos, the African megalopolis as chaotic and bustling as any Nollywood production scene. A young businessman in an SUV nearly cuts him off. The SUV driver’s eyes grow wide when he recognizes Jacobs, and he smiles like a child meeting Santa Claus. He lets the actor’s car pass in front.

Nollywood was born, so the story goes, when Kenneth Nnebue, a video storeowner, had too many blank tapes in the early 1990s. To find a use for them, he shot “Living in Bondage” with a single camera for video. The protagonist joins a secret cult and kills his wife in a ritual sacrifice that wins him enormous wealth but leaves him haunted. The movie was an instant hit, selling 500,000 copies.

But at the country club, Jacobs says modern Nollywood is no accident. When he returned to Nigeria from the London stage in the early 1980s, he, like many other artists, knew he could make successful movies at home.

“We all knew that we had a market,” he says. “When I grew up, cinemas were always filled up. Stage performances were all ways full. Why shouldn’t there be?”

The main problem for movie-makers, Jacobs says, is also the top complaint of almost every industry in Nigeria: not enough power. Less than half the population of Africa’s most populous country has access to government electricity, and even the wealthiest families deal with daily power cuts. Nigerian film producers pay a premium for fuel to run generators to keep the lights on and the equipment going.

Piracy also cuts into profits, Jacobs says. After a film is released, producers have only a few weeks before illegally burned copies undercut their sales. Pirated Nigerian DVDs cost no more than a dollar or two and are available at markets in even the farthest corners of Africa.

But these cheap DVDs have also helped the industry grow, making Nigerian movies wildly popular in Africa and among Africans overseas.

Last year, Nollywood ventured off the continent entirely to screen “Half of a Yellow Sun,” a movie about Nigeria’s 1960s civil war based on an award-winning novel by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, at film festivals Toronto, London and Los Angeles.

While it didn’t get rave reviews, the Hollywood Reporter called it an “epic-on-a-budget” that will continue to draw audiences. “Half of a Yellow Sun” had a budget of about $8 million, the largest in Nollywood history.

By comparison, “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire,” based on a book by Suzanne Collins, had a budget of about $130 million and was one of the highest grossing Hollywood movies in 2013.

A week after the Los Angeles premiere of “Half of a Yellow Sun,” the cast and crew of a Nollywood soap opera, “Remember Me,” pack into a hot, borrowed apartment in Lagos. Director F. Olu Michaels secures a red film over a harsh white light with masking tape before calling out “Action!”

Then he silently drops to his hands and knees and crawls behind the cameraman to avoid casting shadows on the set.

After the shoot, as a generator rumbles just far enough away from the set to avoid being picked up by microphones, Michaels says Nollywood films are improving rapidly because of intense competition.

“The quality of what we bring out now is not what we brought out, even five years ago,” he says.

Still, he says, the industry has a long way to go before its actors and directors have a chance to make millions of dollars.

07:36ET 03-04-14

[+]

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,



Readers Comments (0)

Comments are closed.

Featured

Abbotsford

Jag Khosa: Families pay the ultimate price of gang wars

DET. JAG KHOSA SPECIAL TO VANCOUVER DESI Late into the night, the parents of a young man struggled to sleep. The mother kept tossing and…
Continue Reading »

linda-hepnerdesi

Linda Hepner, Doug McCallum top two latest Surrey civic election polls

Candidates trade lead spot in polls released this week CHRISTOPHER POON SURREY NOW SURREY — Two new polls released this week show candidates Linda Hepner…
Continue Reading »

DIWALI

Vancouver’s ‘Spice Goddess’ Bal Arneson loves celebrating Diwali with friends and family

LOIS ABRAHAM THE CANADIAN PRESS TORONTO – Ever since she was a little girl in India, “Spice Goddess” host Bal Arneson has loved celebrating the…
Continue Reading »

LOCAL NEWS

Abbotsford

Jag Khosa: Families pay the ultimate price of gang wars

DET. JAG KHOSA SPECIAL TO VANCOUVER DESI Late into the night, the parents of a young man struggled to sleep. The mother kept tossing and…
Continue Reading »

Facebook photo showing Martin Rouleau

Canada is Losing the Values War!

UJJAL DOSANJH SPECIAL TO VANCOUVER DESI The dreaded happened in St-Jean-sur-Richelieu, a quiet historic town in Quebec. Many years ago I stayed there for a…
Continue Reading »

Butter Chicken

Light up Diwali with this delicious dinner: Butter Chicken, Basmati Rice with Peas, Chickpea Masala and Gulab Jamun

Indian festival is a fine reason for a feast BAL ARNESON POSTMEDIA NEWS Diwali is India’s biggest festival. People light candles and divas (small Indian…
Continue Reading »

Don't Miss...

Facebook photo showing Martin Rouleau

Canada is Losing the Values War!

UJJAL DOSANJH SPECIAL TO VANCOUVER DESI The dreaded happened in St-Jean-sur-Richelieu, a quiet historic town in Quebec. Many years ago I stayed there for a…
Continue Reading »

Vancouver school students

Gallery: Dalai Lama in Vancouver

VANCOUVER DESI Check out photos of the Dalai Lama meeting students and some staff of John Oliver Secondary prior to attending the Heart-Mind Youth Dialogue…
Continue Reading »

INDIA-WILDLIFE-ELEPHANT

Heartbreaking photos of two elephants electrocuted in India

IANS Siliguri – Two elephants, including a female, were electrocuted in West Bengal’s Darjeeling district Saturday, an official said. The tuskers were found in a…
Continue Reading »

Aman Grewal

Gallery: Army officer’s wife wins Mrs. India Worldwide pageant

IANS New Delhi – Aman Grewal, wife of an army officer, was declared the winner of Haut.Monde Mrs.India Worldwide 2014 here. Grewal, who hails from…
Continue Reading »

varsha

Ontario teen fighting superbugs with an assist from Indian home cooking

TOM SPEARS OTTAWA CITIZEN Like a lot of great discoveries, Varsha Jayasankar’s foray into how to kill superbugs with an extract from Indian food started…
Continue Reading »


Bollywood Latest

Bollywood

Saif Ali Khan poses with pants down

IANS New Delhi – Actor-producer Saif Ali Khan was caught and clicked with his pants down while shooting for his new film “Happy Ending”. As…
Continue Reading »

Bollywood

Bollywood actress Alia Bhatt says ‘Going Home’ a special short film

IANS Mumbai – If the masses loved her in movies like “Highway” and “Humpty Sharma Ki Dulhania”, Alia Bhatt has again won many a heart….
Continue Reading »

Priyanka Chopra

Why is Priyanka Chopra upset?

IANS Mumbai – Actress Priyanka Chopra had to cancel her pre-Diwali plans as she is down with an eye infection. And now she is fuming….
Continue Reading »