Abba Makama, the director of Directoh, the Best Documentary film at the first In-Short International Film Festival in 2011 is the brain behind Nollywood, a documentary on Nigeria’s developing film industry, where practitioners – actors, journalists, film-makers and festival founders – discuss the art and business of Film-making in Nigeria.
Interestingly, quality videotapes are sourced for this film; displaying to viewers what some of their favourite actors looked like several years ago. Apparently, the most insightful footage comes from Aropin N’Tenta, a 1982 film produced by Herbert Ogunde of blessed memory. This is because the films by Nigeria’s first generation film-makers are almost nowhere to be found.
An attempt is made to trace the history of Nollywood and as Shaibu Husseni – film critic and journalist – emphasizes, “Living in Bondage, sparked the interest in video film production in Nigeria, but it was not the first Nollywood film”. According to him, it was owing to the fact that the producers packaged the VHS tapes in picturesque wrappers. That is a point well-made because before Living in Bondage, there were Yoruba films like Aje ni Iya Mi and late Alade Aromire’s Ekun, which is widely believed to be Nigeria’s first video film.
It is then a toast to Ken Nnebue and Chris Obi-Rapu, the producer and director of Living in Bondage respectively that the cutting edge drama about a man, who murders his wife to consummate a money-making ritual, became a hit. Sadly, a group of movie-makers in Nigeria are still trapped by that narrative given the fact that voodoo and ritual killings are the bases of several thousand films!
There are a few startling claims in Nollywood. Oladimeji Ajibola (Hoodrush) erroneously states that the cinema culture is new in Nigeria! Obi Emelonye (The Mirror Boy; Last Flight to Abuja; Onye Ozi,Thy Will Be Done) envisages a situation where foreign studios will bankroll projects that are half-baked, but are likely to yield returns.
Unquestionably, excellence is indispensable if the business of Film-making in Nigeria anticipates resounding foreign support and recognition.
Kunle Afolayan makes an ambiguous statement, something to the effect that October 1 is the most successful film in Nigeria in terms of result. It is said that, up until now, 30 Days in Atlanta is the highest grossing Nollywood film. Granted that it is one of the best films in Nigeria in terms of technical quality, it may not however be right to say that October 1 has the most interesting story/screenplay in Nollywood.
One suspects that the result, to which he refers, is financial. Yet, the amount grossed by the film has not been declared publicly save that Afolayan himself has mentioned that a number of organizations bankrolled October 1. Could that then be the success and result he speaks about?
Despite these shortcomings, Nollywood just like Jimmy Goes to Nollywood is quite engaging, but not well researched.