Nigeria: Talking Nollywood at film corporation lecture

(“Nigeria Movie Network“) — 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.

Nigeria Movie Network is a a free online networking community where movie fans can learn more about the industry, the celebrities, and enjoy limited Nollywood films and trailers.

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 be.”

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 examples.

“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‘.

Source: Nigeria Movie Network

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