Nollywood gets its due at the Toronto Black Film Festival

| February 14, 2013 | 0 Comments

We all know Hollywood, and most people have a passing knowledge of Bollywood. But what about Nollywood?

The nickname for Nigeria’s burgeoning film industry — it’s the third largest in the world — Nollywood gets an overdue showcase at the Toronto Black Film Festival this weekend.

“It’s more than the size,” says Jude Idada, one the fest’s co-ordinators and programmer of its Nollywood triple bill. “It’s a momentum and a consciousness. It’s cinematic storytelling by people who have been socio-economically maligned.”

Nigeria’s cinema thrived in the 1970s, but the well dried up when the Western African country’s economy tanked in the ’80s. “If you can’t eat you wouldn’t think about watching a film,” says Idada. Movie theatres quickly went bankrupt.

But the 1992 film Living in Bondage changed everything, becoming a national hit.

“It was very badly shot, but the people really embraced it.”

The movie set the template for hundreds of films to come.

Made on shoestring budgets, Nollywood directors can wrap a feature length flick in a manner of days, says Idada. The actors, who often receive the script the day before shooting, regularly film several movies at the same time.

“They don’t obey western forms of filmmaking and storytelling,” he says. “Very personal, very dramatic, very raw and very engaging: this was the Nigerian way of telling stories.”

There are currently about a dozen theatres in Nigeria where it’s not uncommon for Nollywood films to outperform their Hollywood counterparts. But, says Idada, only a couple dozen of the more than 500 films produced annually end up in the cinema; the rest are burned straight to DVDs, which are sold in markets and shops.

And Nollywood’s success isn’t going unnoticed; recognizing the half-a-billion dollars the industry generates annually, the Nigerian government recently created a $200 million film fund.

“It’s become that platform of celebration, of the culture, of the belief system,” says Idada, “and of the issues that affect a particular group of people.”
Toronto Black Film Festival ­runs until Sunday.

Ghana follows suit

Nollywood’s success has spawned similar industries in neighbouring Ghana. “They decided to tell their own stories using the Nollywood formula,” says Jude Idada. Producers often cast actors from other African countries in order to crack new markets. Meanwhile, a growing number of filmmakers are attending film schools abroad, bringing a new level of technical ability and refinement to the pictures. This new Nollywood was given an added boost when the New York Film Academy set up a satellite campus in the country.

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Category: Entertainment