Nollywood is huge — and there’s never been a better time to check it out

| November 11, 2019 | 0 Comments

How many Nigerian films or TV shows have you watched?

Chances are, if most of what you watch is what’s available in cinemas and on Australian broadcast TV, you haven’t seen any — despite the fact Nigeria is the second largest producer of film in the world after Hollywood.

But that could be about to change as Nollywood — as the Nigerian film industry is colloquially known — films hit our small screens as streaming services tune in to the appetite for more diverse stories.

While films have been made in Nigeria for as long as people have been making films, the term Nollywood started to be used in the early 2000s as Nigeria began to really ramp-up its film production.

In the early 2000s, Nollywood made a name for itself with quickly made films with often low-production values, which were distributed on burned DVDs to be more affordable and accessible than the country’s few movie theatres.

These days Nollywood is still pumping out an impressive volume of films with more than 1,000 titles released each year, and is also producing films with high production values and strong storylines that have captured Netflix’s attention.

The global streaming service has had some Nollywood and other African-made films in its offering for a few years now, but more people started to take notice last year when it announced it had acquired the worldwide exclusive rights to the film Lionheart.

Melbourne-based journalist and filmmaker Santilla Chingaipe says the advertising put behind Lionheart shows there’s an awareness of a global audience ready and waiting for this Nollywood content.

“There’s an appetite for African stories told by Africans and that led to the rise of Nigerian cinema and now Netflix has cottoned on to it,” she says.

‘I know that woman’: The value of seeing yourself reflected on screen

The huge success of Black Panther, which has become one of the top grossing films of all time, gives some indication of the appetite for diversity in films and the desire for people to see themselves reflected on screen.

But while Black Panther was groundbreaking for a Hollywood superhero film due it its black director and almost entirely black cast, Nollywood has been demonstrating the importance of representation for decades.

Producer, writer and filmmaker Dorcas Utkovic grew up in South Africa and says she remembers Nollywood films being part of the popular culture with friends often hanging out to watch the latest release on a pirated DVD.

“[It] was just low budget, really funny, super expressive. Somehow we all just loved it,” she says.

“The fact that these are [now] available with just the click of a button, it’s wonderful.”

Dorcas Utkovic is happy to have more African-made content being included in mainstream media streaming services.(Supplied: Dorcas Utkovic)

Dorcas says when she watches Nollywood films, it reflects part of her experience and life in a way that Western films don’t quite match.

“When I watched [Lionheart], I thought, ‘Oh yeah, I know that woman, or I’ve heard that uncle, I’ve got a Nigerian friend who speaks like that’, so it was a lovely thing to watch,” Dorcas says.

Sydney-based actor and playwright Moreblessing Maturure didn’t grow up watching Nollywood films, but is excited about having easier access to stories from the African continent.

Moreblessing says part of the reason the American and British African experience has dominated popular culture is because “things that come from the West are perceived as being ‘better'”, but she hopes this changes with more money being invested in the film industries of African nations.

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Risk of Nollywood being seen as ‘Africa’

While Moreblessing is happy to see Nollywood content sitting alongside Western-made cinema, she says it’s important to remember Nollywood isn’t the only place making African cinema.

“[Nollywood] inhabits much of the space around narratives and depictions of African life and cultures,” she says.

“That can be seen as reflective of all experiences within the continent and the diaspora.”

Moreblessing Maturure hopes to see TV and films exploring the Australian black experience.(Supplied: Moreblessing Maturure)

Both Dorcas and Santilla also want people to remember that Nollywood is not the beginning and end of African experiences and stories.

“I’m worried that it might become a singular story of what the African continent is,” Santilla says.

But if you’re yet to discover any African cinema, Santilla says there’s nothing wrong starting with the curated offering on Netflix.

“In many ways it gets people who have had no experience or interaction with the continent to learn more about what contemporary Africa looks like and see stories in a way that African stories are generally represented.”

How to find more African stories, including Australian ones

Santilla Chingaipe says film festivals, streaming services and the internet are great sources for finding content from all over Africa.(Supplied: Santilla Chingaipe)

While the Netflix juggernaut leads other streaming services in terms of African content, it’s not the only place you can find African shows and films.

Santilla recommends checking out the offering of free films on SBS On Demand.

“One of my favourite films that was made last year … it’s called I’m Not A Witch, and that’s streaming on SBS On Demand for free,” she says.

She also recommends looking out for African film festivals, if there’s any near you, as a great way to be exposed to a range of stories and genres from various African countries.

For stories exploring the Australian African experience, Oz African TV offers episodes online and you can watch a series called Afro Sistahs on YouTube to give you a small taste of our Australian African stories.

Culled from :Here

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Category: Entertainment