Early this month precisely on the 2nd, Nollywood – the Nigerian movie industry– celebrated its 20th anniversary, in one of the genteel halls of the State House, Marina Lagos. In attendance was President Jonathan, serenaded by the PDP Governors’ Forum Chairman, Governor Godswill Akpabio, and the cream of Hollywood’s guild. In this occasion, the heads of the actors and actresses was puffed up almost to the point of explosion due to the numerous encomiums and donations it received from different quarters, for their efforts in building not only the movie industry but also in using the industry to portray a good image of Nigeria in diaspora.
NOLLYWOOD AT CHILDHOOD
Our movie industry has been endowed with greatly talented persons; Patience Ozokwor, Stella Damasus, Ngozi Ezeonu, Osita Iheme, Chinedu Ikedieze, Liz Benson and a host of others. While at their prime they glued us to our screens and sometimes made their fans row on the floor.
The success of the industry could be traced to the first ever Nigerian made movie -“Living in Bondage” this opened the possibilities of the huge appetite and market for home produced movies.
This film and subsequent ones were successful. Even though they lacked technological and pictorial quality when compared to that of Hollywood, they still attracted a lot of fans because of their originality. They portrayed the world bank of Nigerian values, the value of hard work, large families, honesty, chastity, communal parenting, decency, good family name. They were truly Nigerian.
NOLLYWOOD AND MODERN TIMES
In the name of being modern, our movie industry has changed for the worse, it seems like our script writers and producers are running out of ideas, to the extent that they are losing many fans. Many fans no longer purchase or patronise Nigerian films because many claim to know the outcome of the film, when they see either the poster or the advent.
Secondly our films have become a production hub of pornography. It is very difficult to pick up a Nigeria film that it is not infected with innuendoes and jam-packed with vulgarity. What seems to count the commercial dimension? Porn is the new handmaid of the profit driven video industry in Nigeria. They also seem to encourage vices, such as laziness and corruption.
Adeleke (2003) laments the dearth of seasoned film makers like Hubert Ogunde, etc – who diligently researched into the culture of the Yoruba before churning out their film productions[i]. Thus, they were able to present the “authentic” cultural values of the people. In these days of “African Magic” the productions of inexperienced filmmakers lack authenticity due to poor or absolute lack of research into the society they which to portray on the screens. As such most “mediocre” videos over-emphasize murder, pornography, love and horror, excessive sorcery, witchcraft and caustic expressions like incessant use of juju.
In as much as I encourage Nollywood to be modern so as to compete with its contemporaries. I do not think that modernity is envisaged to portray amoral, liberal, materialistic, consumerist and relative themes; rather it is targeted towards utilizing the rich technology available to improve the quality of the films. Bollywood for example is producing very beautiful and modern films which are adding value to the society, films like, 3 idiots, like stars on earth, my name is khan, or the BBC series on Charles Dickson Books. These films are devoid of immorality and they are not only entertaining but also enriching and educative.
CORPORATE SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY
I think Nollywood like corporations have a corporate responsibility towards the society, unlike the corporations who have to spend a lot of money building infrastructures. Nollywood has to focus on adopting a more socially responsible approach to entertainment.
Films produced should be healthy to be viewed by the general audience with no exception. In the wave of corruption, immorality and a fast decline of our values. They should use the influence they wield to help transform Nigeria.
The governments should apply stricter film rating systems through its agency to force Nollywood to clean up its act.
[i] Adeleke, D. A (2003) “Culture, art and film in an African society: an evaluation” Nordic Journal of African Studies 12(1): 49-56