Talking Nollywood at film corporation lecture

Talking Nollywood at film corporation lecture

The fourth annual
film lecture of the Nigerian Film Corporation (NFC), titled ‘Nollywood:
Reconstructing the Historical and Socio-cultural Contexts of the
Nigerian Video Film Industry’, was delivered by the scholar and author
of ‘Modernity and African Cinema’, Femi Shaka, at the Silverbird
Galleria in Victoria Island, Lagos, on May 5.

The lecture
afforded filmmakers and others interested in the country’s movie
industry the opportunity to discuss issues pertinent to its development.

The managing
director of the NFC, Afolabi Adesanya, reiterated the importance of the
event in his welcome address, saying, “Today’s lecture provides another
opportunity to rub minds and project a formidable vision that will
enable the film industry to be second to none.” Adesanya added that
Nollywood has grown so powerful over the years, that it is now used to
reach out to people. He noted that political parties had to “woo
Nollywood” during the recently concluded 2011 general elections to
highlight how Nollywood has been used as political and social tools.

Creative dialogue

The former managing
director of the Daily Times and chair of the occasion, Onukaba
Adinoyi-Ojo, reiterated the importance of this lecture and previous
ones. He explained that each was a platform for enlightened discussions
about Nigeria’s film industry and its contributions to society.

Adinoyi-Ojo also
noted the popularity of Nollywood across the world and its power,
adding that the industry has to portray Nigeria positively. “Power
comes with responsibilities,” he said, adding that there should be “a
more rounded and balanced portrayal of Nigeria,” rather than the
distorted image given to viewers to feed on. The writer further advised
that Nollywood should “engage other cultures in creative dialogue” and
be “a true representation of our cultural heritage.”

Avenue of escape

The high point of
the day was Shaka’s lecture, which focused on the conditions that led
to the emergence of Nollywood. “There is need to reconstruct this
social history so that we don’t fall into the trap of misjudging
harshly the popular film culture,” he said.

He, however, noted
that Nollywood arose from the need to provide relief to people from the
mass poverty associated with the political instability of the 1990s.
“The people also needed some form of escape entertainment that will
make them forget, even if momentarily, the mass poverty and sufferings
in the land.”

He noted that
movies produced then reflected prevalent social ills including
prostitution, ritual killings, violence and armed robbery. “Movies that
sold during the early years of Nollywood were tales exploiting the
themes of transgressive sex and violence.”

He added, “The
genres which helped to project Nigerian culture globally include the
ritual film, the epic genre, the Christian evangelical film and the
comic genre.”

The pioneers

Shaka, who is a
professor of film at the University of Port Harcourt, also recalled
that Nollywood took off commercially in 1992 when actors like Richard
Mofe-Damijo, Pete Edochie, Clarion Chukwura and Enebeli Enebuwa from
popular television dramas like ‘Ripples’, ‘Behind The Clouds’ and
‘Fortune’ began to play roles in movies. “It’s a transfer of television
actors to movie that helped to kick-start the movie industry,” he
reiterated. Shaka added that these set of actors were instrumental to
laying a solid foundation for Nollywood and that “stars are very
important in the film industry.”

He didn’t fail to
highlight institutions instrumental to Nollywood’s growth. “This
lecture will be incomplete without mentioning MultiChoice,” he said,
while highlighting the role of the African Movie Academy Awards.

The theatre arts
graduate of the University of Benin also acknowledged the role played
by Nobel laureate, Wole Soyinka, in the emergence of filmmaking in
Nigeria. He noted that the drama club Soyinka established at the
University of Ibadan in 1960 has been a major contribution to theatre
arts and filmmaking in Nigeria.

The lecturer also
offered an insight into one of the major problems facing Nollywood.
“Part of the problems obstructing the growth of Nollywood is
distribution,” he said.

Imitation of life

Three panelists, Ezindu Idimah, Vivien Torbunde, and filmmaker Victor Okhai, later discussed issues raised by Shaka.

There was also an
interactive session during which Adinoyi-Ojo suggested that Nollywood
should pay attention to animation. “Our children grow up on ‘Snow
White’, ‘Cinderella’, ‘Mickey Mouse’, ‘Hannah Montanna’ and ‘High
School Musical’.”

Fielding questions
from the audience, Shaka iterated that Nollywood is “a commercial
industry,” where movies are sold based on the featured stars.

On the dominant
portrayal of black magic, superstition and ritual killings that give
Nigeria a bad image, Shaka contended that filmmakers reflect what
happens in the society, hence such themes cannot be completely erased.

“It is not good
but people should not make the mistake that art is a replacement of
reality but [rather an] imitation of life,” he insisted. “It is a dream
factory. We manufacture dream, not what you are but what you want to

Shaka also allayed
fears expressed by some people in the audience that there seems to be a
clash of interests in Nollywood following the emergence of Kannywood,
the burgeoning movie industry in Kano. “Kannywood is a sub-culture of
Nollywood. As a matter of fact, all other film cultures are subdued
under Nollywood,” he said citing Ghana and, more recently, Kenya, as

“Kannywood isn’t a distraction, it is highlighting Hausa culture. which is hybrid and borrows from everywhere.”

Award winners

It wasn’t all talk
at the event, however, as two veterans of the movie industry, Ita
Isuaudono Okon and Aliyu Garba Kankara, were presented with lifetime
achievement awards.

The awards,
Adesanya noted, “Affirms that line in our national anthem that the
labours of heroes past shall never be in vain.” He added of all the
prize winners, “All these awards are in recognition of tremendous
contributions of veterans, essayists and corporate entities to the
movie industry.”

Anuli Agina, Vivien Torbunde and Jonathan Eze, the winners of the
2010/2011 NFC film essay competition, also received cash prizes and
certificates. Silverbird Distribution was given an award as Best
Nigerian Distribution Company while the Highest Box Office award was
presented to Chineze Anyaene for her movie, ‘Ije’.

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