Teaching Comparative Government and Politics

Friday, June 18, 2010

World's third largest movie industry

After Hollywood and Bollywood comes Nollywood. Thanks to Jeremy Weate, blogging at Naijablog for pointing out this article.

Imperfect Cinemas
The speed with which Nollywood has grown since 1992 has bewildered many outside observers. So has its spread beyond Nigeria's borders into the continent at large and its success at challenging the Latin American telenovela as the dominant form of popular entertainment in Africa. Exact figures are impossible to compile, but Nollywood's audience is presumed to be in the millions. Crammed seven or eight to a video CD, sold in markets alongside bootlegs of the worst that Hollywood, Bollywood and Hong Kong can churn out, the 1,500-plus movies birthed by Nigeria's video movie industry in a typical year dominate the television screens of sub-Saharan Africa… An estimated 600,000 video CDs are printed each day in Lagos alone…

As Kenneth Harrow explains in Postcolonial African Cinema, first-wave African cinema had an agenda, which he identifies as the following:
1. African film is important in the communication of history, in the correction of past misrepresentation of history.
2. African film is important in writing back to Hollywood and back to misrepresentations of Africa in the mainstream media.
3. African film represents African society, African people, African culture.
4. African film should be the site for truth.
5. African film is African…

Academics and critics have scrambled to explain how a profitable indigenous movie industry mushroomed organically in Nigeria, just like that, and became wildly popular despite a cable-access aesthetic and interminably repetitious plots… The movies are produced on a small scale and often shot in houses and on side streets. They can cost as little as $10,000 to make. Shooting is completed in as few as five days, and footage is typically edited on home computers with Adobe Premier or other amateur editing programs. The channels of distribution are those of piracy: video CDs and VHS tapes are copied and distributed through kiosks, booths and sellers on motorbike or foot. Speed in distribution is imperative; plagiarism is so commonplace, and the pace of production and distribution so fast, that a popular movie will face competition from knockoffs, frequently starring the same actors, within weeks of its release…

Their home-video aesthetic isn't just tolerated but relished by viewers, and there is evidently some consternation in certain circles that the postcolonial African tradition of lush, 35-millimeter, French Embassy–funded allegorical films and centralized-government-sponsored Marxist epics has been eclipsed by films like Baby Police, a popular franchise starring a dwarf who harasses unsuspecting citizens at roadblocks…

Fifty years after the first wave of independence, Nollywood might end up killing off a lingering overestimation of independence's potential to effect lasting social change. Without being nihilistic, Nollywood videos address the experience of globalized, urbanized Africa as it actually exists… Nollywood conveys the quotidian texture of Nigerian urban life, and it does not exclude as inauthentic the realities of consumerism, the multinational corporation or multiculturalism, which is why it might hold so much more appeal to Nigerians and people across the continent than auteurist Francophone African cinema. Nollywood's movies are grounded in the present and are popular because they meld timeless themes with contemporary desires.

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Reuters report on Nollywood:

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