Re: The Evil of Nollywood

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On 27th October, 2014, Dr. Biodun Ogungbo, a Consultant Neurosurgeon, who maintains a column (Healthwise) in The Punch on Mondays, wrote a piece titled: The Evil of Nollywood ( Amarachukwu Iwuala sent him this piece as a rejoinder, but he did not publish it. Following the huge success of the 2015 Africa Magic Viewers’ Choice Awards (AMVCAs) and the iREPRESENT International Documentary Film Festival (iREP) plus the fact that Iwuala continues to see Nollywood films, which challenge Dr. Ogungbo’s jaundiced stance on Nollywood, the reply to the Evil of Nollywood is herein published.

The problem with blanket statements is that they are cynical. No known research methods are employed by those who make them; rather they rely on bits and pieces of information, which can be disproved even through random sampling. This is the fate of The Evil of Nollywood where Dr. Ogungbo argues that ‘Nollywood is a cancer … an ephemeral collection of crude, unimaginative, ‘juju-loving’ businesses that have contributed nothing to the social conscience of Nigeria.’

The piece starts off very well as Dr. Ogungbo condemns the unseemly situation where mobs kill and maim individuals for reasons that are not verifiable, especially claims that those who are killed or brutally harmed are witches and wizards, who turn into humans from animals or vice versa. Why indeed should there be jungle justice in a lawful society?

Ogungbo heaps all the blame for such reprehensible behaviour on Nollywood, insisting that the film industry is surrounded by big money and supported by government. He further describes the artistes as ugly and the producers as shameless.

Granted that a majority of the films produced in Nollywood are pedestrian; from inception several producers/directors and production companies have distinguished themselves through the quality of films they produce. Tuned Kelani’s Mainframe Productions is responsible for such compelling films as Oleku, Saworoide and Thunderbolt. The late Amaka Igwe’s Violated, Forever and Rattlesnake remain classics just as Tade Ogidan’s Family on Fire (Wahala Kunle), Diamond Ring and Owo Blow are thought-provoking and entertaining flicks. There are numerous other films produced in the 1990s and early 2000s that are at par with the aforementioned.

In recent times, The Meeting, October 1, A Mile from Home, Black Silhouette, Gone Too Far and When Love Happens plus scores of other movies are riveting, raising the bar in Nollywood and ‘speaking to the social conscience of Nigeria’ and the universe in some cases.

These films are products of critical thinking that will stand the test of time and so it is caustic to label them ‘crude, and unimaginative’ like Ogungbo did. How could anyone describe the producers of The Truth, The Untold, Borderline, Jealous Lovers, Without Love, Sergeant Okoro, Emotional Crack, etc. as shameless?

In the documentary genre, the iREPRESENT International Documentary Film Festival (iREP) continues to challenge Nigerians and Africans to tell the stories of personalities and ideas/issues, which colour their existence. In the recently concluded 5th edition of the festival, compelling films like The Supreme Price, Thru’ the Eyes of an African: The Gift of the Nile, Unbroken – The John Sunmonu Story, Onunekwuluora, Olu Amoda – The Metallic Journey and several other films were screened to critical acclaim. It is noteworthy that these are Nigerian stories and/or stories by Nigerian film-makers.

I do not know what the writer means when he calls Nollywood artistes ‘ugly’, but it goes without saying that many of those thespians are among the most beautiful people in Nigeria.

There are countless producers who have never made films that have mystical elements. Even then, it is not every one of those films that debases human beings.

Nollywood would have achieved so much more if the industry was better funded. Yes, it is a multi-million naira industry because a lot of people are involved in the business, but many of the practitioners, especially those who make good quality films, go through ‘hell’; trying to raise funds for their projects.

Film production was revived in 1992 with the production of Living in Bondage, but it was not up until 2010 that Nollywood received a major institutional support in the form of a $200 million (two hundred million-dollar) loan by the Federal Government and an additional three billion naira (N3b) grant less than two years after. Dr. Ogungbo should have also tried to find out how easy it is for film-makers to access the loan before drawing prejudiced conclusions.

Sir, for your information, there is a board set up by the government and tasked with classifying and censoring films before they are screened in the cinemas or releases on DVDs.

You made a profound statement when you called on the public not to place advertisements, support or watch horrible and ‘juju-laced’ films from Nollywood. Of course, there are horrible films from Nollywood as acknowledged before. Yet, your call for people to concentrate on the sports and educational channels is a losing battle! You need to discover the percentage of the populace that is almost solely dependent on Nollywood for their entertainment; a reason I believe producers should not feed the public with ridiculous films.

You should have rather urged the ‘juju’ film-makers to emulate their colleagues, who produce quality films, but you could not do that since you, sadly, do not believe that there is a single quality film in Nollywood.

I assume that you solely depend on the TV stations for the little you know about the film industry. Again, it is not all producers that sell the TV rights of their films to TV stations.

Sir, please inquire from the informed, then go and see a good film in the cinemas or buy an interesting film from a video shop. You could start with When Love Happens, Black Silhouette, Gone Too Far and The Department, which are recent films.

Amarachukwu Iwuala

Amarachukwu Iwuala

A writer ... in pursuit of excellence

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