Did you know that Nigeria has a booming movie industry? Niether did I. Apparently, Nollywood is kind of a big deal. Times have changed. When I was growing up in Togo, the only movies you could buy in the market were pirated copies of actions movies from the 80’s (Rambo was popular, and of course, Chuck Norris and his beard is something that transcends all borders and boundaries). Then again, when I was growing up in Togo, there was no internet or cell phones, and now I see people at the hospital checking their facebook profile on their portable every day.
Change is inevitable, and I think it is pretty cool that these locally produced films are getting some attention. A few days ago I had never heard of it, but now I am seeing Nollywood everywhere, and this week it came into my life from two different sources.
First, a pastor came to visit us from the town of Maradi, about 700 km from Niamey, but only a few km away from the Nigerian border. He brought a few “Christian” Nigerian movies and offered to sell them to us. We are trying to build up a video library here for the patients, so we went ahead and bought them. They were very cheap.
The titles alone are worth paying for. They have a (rare) combination of both grittiness and gravitas. Here is a small sampling:
The Haunting Shadows
Free But Costly
The Prodigal Ones
Busy But Guilty
Destiny For Sale
The Gods Are Dead
I wish I could say I was making these up. I am not.
Then I read a really interesting article about the Nigeria movie industry in the New York Times Magazine. You can read it here. And you should. It is really interesting, and it has a bit of everything: A postcolonial take on the portrayal of Africa in film, Black-market economics, Chinese influence in Africa, Hollywood history, Danny Glover, etc.
I haven’t seen much of these movies yet, but based on the little I have seen I can confirm what is said in this article. I would hate to generalize, but it seems true that, typically, the subject matter consists of “marital discord, greed, a conflict between Christianity and juju”
Is it mindless drivel? Or Things Fall Apart for the touchscreen generation? Has the advancement in technology opened up doors previously closed? Can Africans now tell their own story in an authenic way, and distribute it cheaply, or are they simply contextualizing bad Hollywood tendencies? Does the world need an African Chuck Norris?
One thing is for sure, with all the violence going on in Nigeria right now, they could probably use some entertainment. Their President’s name is Goodluck, but things seem to be on a downward trend. Political turmoil, terrorism, rising gas prices, and a booming movie industry – when life is so crazy, can you really be blamed for making movies that are over the top?