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The Rise of the Nigerian Film Industry: Nollywood

Would you believe us if we told you that the Nigerian Film Industry called Nollywood is the second biggest film industry in the world? It only comes second to Hollywood!

What’s more? Nollywood generates $600M yearly while also creating employment for more than one million people! The development of the local film industry is considered wonderful news by the government as it continues to contribute to the nation’s economy. It’s about time we talk about the industry in detail.

If you’re surprised you didn’t know that Nollywood was topping the charts, don’t worry. The typical Nollywood film's production numbers weren't even close to matching those of its third-place American rivals until lately. But this is starting to change as the new generation of Nigerian filmmakers is ready to take over the world.

For instance, The Wedding Party, a romantic comedy directed by Kemi Adetiba that appealed to a wide audience and set a record for a Nigerian movie in 2016, demonstrated the significance of cinema in Nigeria.

The Wedding Party, 2016 (Image Courtesy: Premium Times Nigeria)

But hold up! What exactly is Nollywood?

Norimitsu Onishi, a journalist for the New York Times, first used the term "Nollywood" in 2002 after observing film production in Lagos, Nigeria. The phrase refers to Hollywood in the US and Bollywood in Bombay, India, two of the most well-known centres of motion picture production.

We also witness two different opinions here. Some might refer to Nollywood as a collection of the thousands of films that have been produced there, while for others it may refer to the diverse cast of actors and actresses emerging from the Nigerian film industry.

It's important to highlight what distinguishes Nollywood. The early producers in Nollywood wrote stories and scripts that complemented the existing media while promoting a profitable business strategy. It's challenging to break free from traditional filmmaking methods. Therefore, common themes like love, marriage, and disputes with mothers-in-law bound the early tales together. Until the trend peaked and a new one took its place, filmmakers developed clusters of films based on those topics.

While staying faithful to authentic, credible storytelling, early Nollywood films depict the vibrant culture, architecture, and, in many cases, relative affluence in our Nigerian civilizations. Target audiences had to connect with the stories.

Half of a Yellow Sun (Image Courtesy: Variety)

In the current status quo, times are changing, and Nollywood is growing. More recently, productions have become more mainstream and have larger budgets thanks to institutional financing. For instance, the Half of a Yellow Sun film's creators received most of its projected GBP 4.2 million budget from Nigerian financiers.

Movies like 30 Days in Atlanta, October 1, Ije, and The Meeting have received praise from critics and honours. There are complaints of widespread piracy, therefore the verdict is yet out on the commercial success of these films. But as they say, it's always a "you win some, you lose some" scenario.

Technology plays a significant part in the evolution of Nollywood. A high-spending civilian administration was the reason for the widespread popularity of video cassettes and video cassette recorders in Nigeria. Parallel to these developments, audio and video tape were quickly replaced by digital technology in the global film and music industries. This led to massive collections of abandoned VHS cassettes in large warehouses throughout Lagos and the southeast of Nigeria.

Image Courtesy: Nairaland Forum

Another significant change in Nollywood occurred when its movies began to gain new audiences outside of Africa. Africans and those of African descent had only had access to European or American-produced film and video prior to the mass production of movies in Nigeria.

As a result of the popularity of video films, Nigeria's film industry was transformed into "Nollywood," a significant player in the worldwide film business and one of the biggest employers in the nation. Four to five films were produced daily by Nigerian film studios for an estimated fifteen million viewers in Nigeria and five million viewers in other African nations.

Thanks to distribution agreements with Western streaming sites, the most recent Nigerian Nollywood films and TV shows have attracted fans worldwide. We’re so excited to see what the future of Nollywood holds!

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