Teaching Comparative Government and Politics

Thursday, February 18, 2016

“We can tell our own stories now.”

Hollywood is a name known all over the world. But do you know about Bollywood?




And then there's Nollywood.

Does the sense of cultural efficacy created by the film industry translate into political efficacy?

With a Boom Before the Cameras, Nigeria Redefines African Life
Sitting on a blue plastic stool in the sweltering heat, Ugezu J. Ugezu, one of Nigeria’s top filmmakers, was furiously rewriting his script as the cameras prepared to roll. “Cut!” he shouted after wrapping up a key scene…

This was the seventh — and last — day of shooting… for “Beyond the Dance,” Mr. Ugezu’s story of an African prince’s choice of a bride, and the production had been conducted at a breakneck pace.

“In Nollywood, you don’t waste time,” he said. “It’s not the technical depth that has made our films so popular. It’s because of the story. We tell African stories.”

The stories told by Nigeria’s booming film industry, known as Nollywood, have emerged as a cultural phenomenon across Africa, the vanguard of the country’s growing influence across the continent in music, comedy, fashion and even religion.

Nollywood … is an expression of boundless Nigerian entrepreneurialism and the nation’s self-perception as the natural leader of Africa, the one destined to speak on the continent’s behalf.

“The Nigerian movies are very, very popular in Tanzania, and, culturally, they’ve affected a lot of people,” said Songa wa Songa, a Tanzanian journalist “A lot of people now speak with a Nigerian accent here very well thanks to Nollywood. Nigerians have succeeded through Nollywood to export who they are, their culture, their lifestyle, everything.”… its films have displaced American, Indian and Chinese ones on the televisions that are ubiquitous in bars, hair salons, airport lounges and homes across Africa.

The industry employs a million people — second only to farming — in Nigeria, pumping $600 million annually into the national economy…

Nollywood resonates across Africa with its stories of a precolonial past and of a present caught between village life and urban modernity. The movies explore the tensions between the individual and extended families, between the draw of urban life and the pull of the village, between Christianity and traditional beliefs. For countless people, in a place long shaped by outsiders, Nollywood is redefining the African experience…

Once completed… the movies find their way to every corner of Africa, released in the original English, dubbed into French or African languages, and sometimes readapted, repackaged and often pirated for local audiences…

Nollywood has also created a model for movie production in other African nations, said Matthias Krings, a German expert on African popular culture at Johannes Gutenberg University.

In Kitwe, Zambia, local filmmakers were recently making their latest movie in true Nollywood style: a family melodrama shot over 10 days, in a private home, on a $7,000 budget. Burned onto DVD, the movie will be sold in Zambia and neighboring countries.

Acknowledging the influence of Nigerian cinema, the movie’s producer, Morgan Mbulo, 36, said, “We can tell our own stories now.”

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