Nollywood At 20

•Adesanya… Film making started before 1992

•Adesanya... Film making started before 1992

As Nollywood celebrates two decades, questions are raised about when the movie industry really started

Nollywood is not only the second largest film industry in the world in terms of the number of annual film productions. It is ahead of the United States abut behind India. It is also the most watched in Africa. The movie industry has grown year after year, churning out films in English, Yoruba, Igbo, Hausa and other languages.

This November, the industry is celebrating two decades of movie production. Although that fact is debatable, the industry has earned a right to celebrate and is doing so big time. The month long celebration, tagged ‘Two Billion Eyes On Nigeria’ is designed to rebrand, lift the image and fortunes of the entertainment industry.

On 2 November, the Association of Movie Practitioners kicked off the celebration with ‘Nollywood Celebrity Glam Night’. The event graced by A-list celebrities like Joke Silva, Richard Mofe-Damijo, Fred Amata and others also had Chief Edem Duke, Minister of Culture, Tourism and National Orientation, representing President Goodluck Jonathan. The Glam night was held at InterContinental Hotel, Victoria Island, Lagos and it was followed by other programmes including 20 Grand Awards Night.

•Adesanya... Film making started before 1992
•Adesanya… Film making started before 1992

There was a charity novelty football match, special master class sessions for practitioners, coaching clinics for Nigerian youth and upcoming motion picture practitioners, special charity-support activities, an anniversary Jumat service as well as a thanksgiving service at the Rock Cathedral, Lekki, Lagos.

Backed by the federal government, Lagos State and Akwa Ibom State governments and supported by Intercontinental Hotel, Lagos, Mnet Africa, NTA, AIT and BrandPower magazine, the 20-year celebration is expected to add more professionalism to the industry. President Jonathan has promised the industry, N3billion war chest that will be channelled through NEXIM and Bank of Industry, BoI. With the fund, he believes the resilient film industry will be able to create more jobs and promote the country’s cultural heritage.

While everyone is happy with the progress in Nollywood, not everyone agrees that the industry is 20. Deji Adesanya, a seasoned cinematographer, director and produce argues that film making in Nigeria dates beyond 1992. “The first Nigerian films were made by Ola Balogun, Hubert Ogunde, Ade Love, Baba Sala, Eddie Ugboma and the Adesanya brothers,” he said.

He added that in the 1960s, Nigerian film producers were frustrated by the high cost of film production but had produced films that were exported abroad. “Oga Bello had been making films even before Nollywood was born and these films were taken abroad although not expansive as it is now.”

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Abbey Lanre, actor and producer said there is need for clarity when people address the movie industry in Nigeria. “Now let’s put the record straight because of those that want to rewrite the history of Nollywood, if you are talking about the birth of video films in Nigeria, if that is what you mean by Nollywood, then the first video film was shot by late Prince Muyideen Alade Aromire in Ishinigbo town in Akure north Local government, Ondo State in October 1988,” he explained.

He further stated that public viewing started at National Theartre in November 1988. “Credit must be given to whom its due. Alade Aromire and othert veterans deserve to be respected because they laid the foundation of what is Nollywood today.”

Biodun Kupoluyi, publisher E24/7, believes that the quality of films produced in Nigeria are still below standard despite the volume. “Celebrating what at 20? Nollywood? That is a word used to describe mediocrity, incompetence, lack of knowledge and skill to make a good film. Nollywood is the new name for bad films,” he said.

Living in Bondage, produced by Kenneth Nnebue in 1992 is popularly credited as the first box-office movie in Nigeria. The success of the film paved the way for producers in the industry. The influx of more producers led to an expansion in film making. Aggressive marketing such as the use of posters, trailers, and television advertising also played a role in Nollywood’s success.

Although the quality of directing and subtitling of Nigerian movie is poor, its export continues to swell. Chico Ejiro, popularly known as Mr. Prolific, said that it takes as little as three days to shoot a home video. According to the United Nations Educational, Science and cultural Organisation, UNESCO, report, Nollywood makes about 2,400 films per year, putting it ahead of the US, but behind India. Another report by the Cable News Network, CNN, says that Nigeria has a US$250 million movie industry, producing 200 videos for the home video market every month.

As Nollywood’s month long celebration continues, Zik Zulu Okafor, President of the Association of Movie Practitioners, believes that the industry will improve. “This is a platform for us to discuss the destiny and destination of the industry and to look into this industry and invest in it to move it forward after 20 years

—Seun Bisuga