Traditionally, when we visit, we sit around and gist. Catching up on old times, sharing the latest about ourselves and others. We love to talk! The Whiteman may suggest going to the movies as an evening out or dinner somewhere. We would not come visiting with a bottle of wine like they would, instead we would bring along the latest Nollywood movie or ask if our host or the neighbourhood rental club has the latest title featuring our favourite Nollywood star.
As we gist while watching, the issues arising from the movie would set the agenda for our discussion for the rest of the visit. This is at the very heart of the success and secret of Nollywood. It is a socio-cultural thing.
What we need to do is recognise this socio-cultural dimension to the phenomenon and see how we can package these products like Coca-Cola and put it in the hands of as many people all over the globe as possible, and not attempt to borrow a distribution strategy that is alien to our socio-cultural realities. That is not to say that other distribution strategies will not work, but we know that we have great competition in the churches that needs the same space.
So successful is Nollywood as a phenomenon that the rest of Africa and indeed the world is beginning to consider digital video as an alternative for indigent but gifted film makers with a compelling story to tell. Companies like Kodak, who are traditionally dominant players in the celluloid format are becoming worried and for good reasons too.
Last year, they were in Nigeria for Shoot 2007. They came with a message – “Nollywood is not among the top 50 countries in movie production.” Our media bought the lie and magnified it. Our colleagues were worried at the statistics. For once, it seemed like we had been living a lie. What they did not realise was that Kodak was telling Nollywood that it was not among its top 50 customers. Of course, they are right, but if we stop being who we are and attempt to be Hollywood we shall lose our very essence. We obviously will not be able to compete.
The emerging talents and the future of African cinema in the light of the Nollywood phenomenon.
The concept of Nollywood, as a generic term, has come to symbolise the New Wave African Cinema. It has thrown up and unleashed on the rest of the continent a whole new set of movie talents and entrepreneurs. It represents freedom and economic emancipation. It puts back power into the hands of the African film maker who knows it only takes a digital camcorder and possibly a laptop with the relevant software for him to tell his story. And… if he dares believe he can live, no longer the American dream but the Nollywood dream.
The convergence of platforms from digital to celluloid is bridging the divide that once existed. This is making access to theatres in the West and bigger film festivals easier for African film makers. More and more festivals are accepting films shot on digital video as they have come to find out that great stories are coming from the continent through this medium.