Lagos. In 1992 the debut of Kenneth Nnebue’s movie ‘Living in Bondage’ brought a new twist to the infant motion picture industry in Nigeria.  Shot straight-to-video, it was Nollywood’s first blockbuster movie which kicked off the Nigerian cinema industry. By the following year, more film makers tapped into this eye opening trend and so Nollywood was born.

Today Nollywood’s growth has been stunt by lack of professionalism and piracy by some practitioners.  It has become an all comers’ affair and an avenue for cheap fame and making a quick buck.

From Ghana, Zimbabwe, South Africa, Botswana, Tanzania, Kenya to Egypt, most of what is known of Nigeria as a country today has been disseminated through Nollywood.Yet, little or no attention has been paid to the potentially money spinning industry that would have been a good source of revenue for the country. Efforts by current investors in the industry have been bedevilled by piracy.

Taiwo Ajai-Lycette, a veteran actress who featured in many productions in Nigeria including a TV series in the 1970s, ‘Winds Against My Soul’ expresses her angst with the quality of production of works churned by directors whom she thinks are not in tune with times. “We don’t have to be at the state we are now when it comes to film making in this 21st century,” she says.

“There are new technologies which some film makers are not conversant with. I am knocking at the quality, veteran directors are those who travelled on stage. The basic knowledge that you acquire as an actor is on stage which many actors today don’t have.” “These days, people want to be a part of Nollywood because of the fame. This kind of bankrupt mentality has led Nollywood to the stagnant position it is currently. You can’t make money without making an incredible art,” adds Ajai-Lycette.

According to her, most Nigerian films are characterised by poorly written scripts which lack depth, which film critics trace to the lack of reading culture among script writers. She argues that if an artiste is not educated there is no way he can interpret works of  great writers like Wole Soyinka.

Nollywood actress, Kate Henshaw-Nuttal agrees with the poor quality of work and the fact that Ajai-Lycett has quite often rejected scripts sent to her. “It’s almost three years now; I have not starred in any Nollywood movie. I believe I am at this level because of good work. If the prop guys pay attention to detail and the directors do their work, ours would be one of the best.”

While some practitioners decry poor quality of production, others like Dejumo Lewis, have issues with the name of the industry itself, Nollywood, which is a derivative of America’s Hollywood. “Nollywood is not original. The name Naija Movies would be more suitable,” he says.

In addition, he has problems with the way Nigerian culture is portrayed. “Art is about stating the reality and the ideals of a given society,” he adds. “It must mirror and give what should be. We should ask ourselves what kind of message  we communicate through our work.”

However, in a positive development, in November  2010, President Goodluck Jonathan announced  government support of $200 million (N30 billion) for the entertainment industry. This was followed by the single digit interest loans announced by the finance minister Olusegun Aganga  through the Special Entertainment Fund.

Mahmoud Alli Balogun, a film producer and director, observes that a proper framework must be put in place for the survival of the industry for investors to get returns on their money. “This is an industry that survives on the ordinary marketing strategy used by traders in selling their wares,” he says.

“Anybody can be a filmmaker in today’s Nollywood. The survival of this industry can be possible if proper structures are put in place. Our services are currently informal,” he adds

And Desmond Elliot an actor who has featured in some films produced in Ghana decries how piracy has destroyed Nollywood such that Ghana, a new entrant, has a stronger industry.

“We hardly sell more than 1, 000 copies of our films,” he says. “Our works are pirated on a daily basis as video clubs make the money more than us. We invest so much and we get little. We still sell our movies in VCDs and instead of DVDs..”

Even as it is, it is crucial that Nollywood practitioners put their house in order. It is an industry that is currently riddled by factions created by longstanding feud, malice, petty jealousies, fight for superiority and discrimination against who belongs to what genre.

Regardless of its current challenges, Nollywood has taught the rest of Africa how film can be a powerful socio-cultural and economic export to the rest of the world such that Ghana is fast developing its movie industry and its collaborating with some filmmakers in Nigeria.

Hence there is a new crop of filmmakers who are combining intelligent story line with great film techniques. Among these new crop of filmmakers is Kunle Afolayan, the producer of The Figure which won in five categories in last year’s Africa Movie Academy Awards (AMAA). Their works show the emergence of a new Nollywood..

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