The Nigerian film industry Nollywood is Africa’s most prevalent film industry. It has survived on quantity rather than quality, and this has affected its global competition.
Apart from the infrastructural and financial barriers that hinder the industry from self-improving, there is a worrying habit of a backlash from film producers when criticisms of their films are made.
There is also an unhealthy habit of belonging to cliques and therefore, good actors may not be cast in films or nominated for an award if they don’t belong to a particular clique.
I have been a loyal fan of Nollywood since the 90s when films were released as video cassettes, to the CD era, and now the Cinema era. I have watched my favourite film veterans improve their craft; seen producers improve in the quality of their films and I’ve even seen Nollywood films screen at theatres abroad yet, something is missing, and that, for me, is the content (storyline) of the films.
Nollywood is not at the stage where the films being produced have the range to compete globally in conversations about the quality, purpose, and vision of film.
I believe that if a film producer decides to show their film in the cinema, they must be ready to receive constructive criticism from film critics. Moreover, it is not every film that should have a cinema release; there are films that should have a DVD, TV, or Youtube release.
Earlier this year, actress Yvonne Jegede expressed her concern about the low-quality film being churned out for cinema release. She tweeted ‘’today they are on set shooting, and next minute they have a cinema date, next tomorrow the movie don enter cinema. Them go soon turn Nigerian cinema to Youtube.’’
Charles Novia, a filmmaker, and critic once said: “I’m a filmmaker and then I’m a critique but it is good for one within the system to be a critique.
We need to be speaking for ourselves and for my colleagues in the system to realise that I’m one who….. say things the way they are. I think there are more of the critiques in Nollywood like me but they don’t have the liver as it were to come out.”
I want a Nollywood whose films will be nominated for the Oscars, Golden Globe, screened at Cannes. Genevieve Nnaji’s Lionheart is the first and only Nigerian film to be nominated for the Oscars; although it was later disqualified under the ‘best international film category.
On the issue of cliques aforementioned, belonging to a clique in the industry is not a bad thing; the problem is when the film producers (who are actors in most cases) decide not to cast outside their cliques. There are film roles that must absolutely be auditioned for.
In Hollywood, for instance, Will Smith and Jamie Foxx auditioned for “Django”, Scarlett Johansson and Anne Hathaway auditioned for “Les Miserables”, and these are big names in Hollywood, yet they audition for certain roles in order to select the best.
When Wilfred Okiche expressed her displeasure about Omoni Oboli’s “Wives on Strike” and described it as ‘’a huge let down”, Oboli reacted by saying, ‘’Nigerians and the crab mentality again! I am an amazing writer and a great producer and director, deal with it.’’This is an example of how some Nollywood filmmakers respond to criticism of their films.
If someone says your film is bad, it is an opinion, and opinions are subjective. I mean, I think “Dolittle? (2020) is a terrible film with an ungodly mess of a story, but you will certainly find other people that think it was a wonderful film.
If someone goes to the cinema and decides to spend money on a Nollywood film, they reserve the right to criticise the film the way they would criticise any other film. Nollywood has grown, and it is time for the industry to accept that it will be criticised more often than it is used to.
In the words of Alithnayn Abdulkareem, ‘’the industry has turned itself into a kind of toxic environment for filmmakers who would like to place a priority on craft and offer some alternatives to the loud drama and crass comedy, not that those are necessarily bad things themselves.
Somehow Nollywood has imbued that character, believing that an increase in the number of subpar content equals the development of the industry.’’
In summary, we can learn a thing or two from our Hollywood counterparts who take their time to make films with great content. PR (Public Relations) is good, but it is not enough in the long term to create global competition for Nollywood.