Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Movie Industry in Nigeria

In an article from the July 29th issue of The Economist, the author discusses the emerging film industry in Nigeria (no link because a password is needed to access it). The article discusses how the industry started with one low-budget film in 1992 and ballooned ever since.

"Nollywood, as Nigeria's film industry is known, now makes over 2,000 low-budget films a year, about two-thirds of them in English. That is more than either Hollywood or India's Bollywood.

Today, filmmaking employs about a million people in Nigeria, making it the country's biggest employer after agriculture."

Apparently, the films are mostly straight-to-VHS films, and are watched all over Africa. Furthermore, the industry thrives with little to no help from the Nigerian government.

Nigeria strikes me as an interesting place to develop a thriving film industry. Any ideas on why Nigeria would develop such an industry (what resources it has that would allow them to develop the industry)? Or how it would grow so large so quickly?


Anonymous said...

This question is very interesting. Maybe the film industry began blossoming when the Nigerian economy was falling behind, and people wanted to see lost-cost movies to relieve them of their present situation. Maybe the movies are so unique to Nigerian culture, or even offer a glimpse into the lives of other countries--maybe a typified simplification of the United States. People want to know that other people are experiencing pain and suffering, too. In an article I read from the Washington Post, during the 1970s when the Industry began, "public funding of movies and original television programming vanished, and crime made cinemas too dangerous to visit." This would definatly be a reason for a blossoming film industry. Maybe, also, American and European television and movies were disliked by Nigerians, so they wanted a unique experience to watch on tv/video.
-Alena Reich

Anonymous said...

also, many people want entertainment no matter how they can get it--the cheaper the better. Does Nigeria have sports teams? Would buying low-cost movies be the opportunity cost of going to a sporting event or concert? Not sure, I am not that acquainted with Nigerian society. People might just be looking for a way to entertain themselves and their families.
-Alena (again)

Anonymous said...

I like Alena's point that Nigerians want movies about their own unique experience; they can probably hardly relate to western films. The industry is obviously very profitable, and opens up lots of jobs. As Alena said, Nigerians need ways to entertain themselves, and these cheap straight-to-VHS movies would be widely available, especially in the poorer rural areas. Now that it is started, the industry must need very little investment, as producers can fund the next film with the profits from the film before. Africa, with its unique culture, needs a native film industry, just like those in America and Europe, and those developing in Asia and Latin America. The next step is to move films to cinemas, which I'm sure is not far off. I think I actually read this article over the summer, because I remember a discussion on whether government involvement would help or harm the industry. They could certainly allocate funds to help it develop, but they have also been discouraging certain themes that they see as reflecting badly on the country, like black magic. This could slow the industry's growth.


Anonymous said...

Found it. Is this legal? Oh well...

Nigeria's film industry

Nollywood dreams

Jul 27th 2006
From The Economist print edition

Nigerian films are so successful that the government wants to get involved

IT ALL started by accident in 1992, when Kenneth Nnebue, a Nigerian trader based in Onitsha, was trying to sell a large stock of blank videocassettes he had bought from Taiwan. He decided that they would sell better with something recorded on them, so he shot a film called “Living in Bondage” about a man who achieves power and wealth by killing his wife in a ritualistic murder, only to repent later when she haunts him. The film sold more than 750,000 copies, and prompted legions of imitators. Nollywood, as Nigeria's film industry is known, now makes over 2,000 low-budget films a year, about two-thirds of them in English. That is more than either Hollywood or India's Bollywood.


Who needs Hollywood?

Today, filmmaking employs about a million people in Nigeria, split equally between production and distribution, making it the country's biggest employer after agriculture, according to the National Film and Video Censors Board (NFVCB). The industry has sales of $200m-300m a year. There are lots of spin-off jobs on a film set, such as make-up, props and printing, as well as acting and producing, says Chike Maduekwe of Gemafrique, a film-promotion business in Lagos, and young people without a formal education can find a place. Nigerian films are still sold mainly on videocassette, not in cinemas, and are so cheap and widely available that even the poor in rural areas can watch.

Nollywood's appeal has reached far beyond Nigeria: its films are watched all over Africa, and beyond. In South Africa MultiChoice, a satellite-television business, offers a channel devoted to Nigerian films, and last week Zenithfilms, a British company which distributes Nigerian programming to airlines, said it would launch a new channel, called Nollywood Movies, on BSkyB, a British pay-television operator controlled by Rupert Murdoch.

So far, the industry has grown with little or no help from Nigeria's government. The films cost anywhere between $15,000 and $100,000 to make, and the money comes directly from the market. Producers, or “marketers”, as they are known, use some of the profits from one film to pay for the next. Banks do not lend to Nollywood, as there are no statistics from which they could estimate likely returns. But Nigeria's president, Olusegun Obasanjo, has now appointed a panel to devise ways to intervene in the industry to help it grow further.

Oddly enough, the government worries that Nigeria's film industry reflects badly on the country. “When I travel abroad, people complain to me about the voodoo themes and the poor technical quality compared to Western movies,” says Emeka Mba, director-general of the NFVCB. He wants to try to show filmmakers that the themes they choose can have a negative impact on Nigeria's image. Many Nigerian films involve witchcraft, or “juju”, because marketers have found that it sells especially well. Plots often use black magic as a way to explain why a man has gone from being poor to a millionaire overnight, says Onookome Okome, associate professor of African literature and cinema at the University of Alberta. Such a theme resonates in a society with great inequality of wealth. And although Nigerian films usually do have low production values, their popularity shows that they make up for it with story telling.

Nollywood is divided over whether it wants help from the government. Some filmmakers fear that the industry's growth could slow if the authorities discourage popular voodoo storylines. But many filmmakers would like the authorities to start a fund to offer cheap loans for films. It should provide access to credit, but go no further, says Mr Maduekwe. Teco Benson, a well-known Nollywood director whose recent work includes “Six Demons”, a horror film, also wants the government to organise a proper distribution system. The industry today sells its wares in three big cities—Lagos, Onitsha and Aba. Money from films sold in the rest of Nigeria mostly goes to pirates. About half of the industry's revenue is lost because of its poor distribution network, according to Emmanuel Ugo, a marketer in Onitsha.

The next stage is to try to show films in cinemas, as well as on videocassettes. By next year, says Mr Mba, there will be up to 50 modern new cinemas in Nigeria. He plans to give them financial incentives to show Nigerian films as well as foreign blockbusters. Government officials talk hopefully of Oscar awards, and a group of expatriate Nigerians set up the Nollywood Foundation in Los Angeles in February to try to establish links with Hollywood. Even if the government does more harm than good to the industry, it is unlikely to dent Nollywood's energy for long.

Copyright © 2006 The Economist Newspaper and The Economist Group. All rights reserved.

Anonymous said...

I think a big part of the staggering size of the Nigerian Movie Industry is that the movies are cheap to produce. Offering many jobs for people who have little or no education, a movie industry would be likey to pop up in a country like Nigeria. And, like andrew said, the population would be able to afford these readily availabe films.
While government intervention in nollywood would in my opinion, in the long run, help the industry, i think it would be a shame. The films would no doubt lose some of their cultural integrity, and in time become pricey.

Nigerian Film Fund said...

Nollywood is a force to reckon with but there is a long thorny way ahead to achieve the recognition it rightfully deserves.

We have set up the Nigerian Film Fund (NiFiFu) to raise production standards and look into new distribution models. It is out declared intention to penetrate the international film market.

Your are all invited to register your interest on our web site if you would like to invest in the Nigerian film industry better known as Nollywood. We are also looking for co-operation with producers/directors and writers and distributors.


Anonymous said...

i need to know if you have stuff bout nigeria and whats there entertainment! plz i need help!!!:)

Anonymous said...

I need help for all things about nigeria!!!!!! PLEASE HELP! im doing a school project:):(:):(:):(