EFFORTS by Nigerians to tell their stories through the video medium have reverberated in the United States where the Nigerian film industry, popularly called Nollywood, has been picked by JWT, US largest advertising agency, as one of the 80 things to watch in 2008.
Nollywood is number 49 on the list, a few notches above Mobile Technology explosion which stands at 44. Some others on the list include: Africa — foreign investment and development, Antibiotic backlash, Assisted marriage, Brain exercises, Higher education online, and French President Nicholas Nicolas Sarkozy, just to name a few.
“These people, products, places, services and shifts will help define 2008,” according to Ann Mack, director of Trendspotting at JWT.
“By examining what will resonate with people or drive their thinking and behaviour, we can identify larger patterns that will shape all of our lives in the years to come. Love it or hate it, technology continues to be a common trend on our list. It drives the serendipitous randomness that throws up chance connections, ground breaking discoveries and great business ideas,” Mack added.
Since the cult film, Living in Bondage, in 1992, the country’s movie industry has steadily risen to become the third largest in the world after America’s Hollywood and Bollywood of India. But while the latter rely on heavy budget and cinematic technology, the Nigerian producers work on shoe-string budget, sometimes about N1 million although some have recently hit about N5 million, using the handheld video recorder to knock out films within 10 days.
Technology has also been on the side of the industry. The advent of the digital video and high definition (HD) cameras has impacted heavily on the industry making it possible for the teeming producers to churn out high quality products, defying time and cost.
According to an agency report, “the films go straight to DVD and VCD. At least 50 new titles are delivered to Nigerian shops and market stalls every week, where an average film sells 50, 000 copies.
A hit may sell several hundred thousand. Disks sell for around N200 each, making them affordable for most Nigerians and providing astounding returns for the producers.”
The report which credits what it calls the Nigerian phenomenon to two main ingredients — Nigerian entrepreneurship and digital technology— values the industry at $500 million a year.
However, this report is coming at a time the Nigerian government remains undecided on what to do with the film industry. While most voices have suggested that no film industry anywhere in the world, including Hollywood, Bollywood and the UK film industry grows without government intervention, the Nigerian government has refused to do anything in the nature of endowment or a fund that could impact on the sector.
In the past decade, Nigerians films have become major hits in international film festival across the world including Europe and the Americas. This year they staged a major entry into the famous Cannes Film Festival in France. The films have also remained the major thrust of most of the festivals focussing on the African film industry.
“Nollywood films are proving popular in all English-speaking Africa and have become a staple on M-NET, the South African-based satellite television network. Nigeria satellite equivalent of M-NET, Hi-TV has followed suit. Nigerian stars have become household names from Ghana to Zambia and beyond. The last few years have seen the growing popularity of Nollywood films among African Diaspora in both Europe and America,” the report said.