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SESAN, Azeez Akinwumi & SHITTU, Toyin: Nollywood and Cultural Re-Orientation: Prospects and Problems

Nollywood and Cultural Re-Orientation: Prospects and Problems

Azeez Akinwumi SESAN

Department of English

University of Ibadan




Department of Languages (English Unit)

Al-Hikmah University

Ilorin, Kwara State



The movie industry in Nigeria is thriving like its counterparts in America (Hollywood) and India (Bollywood). This development might inform the naming of the thriving movie industry in Nigeria as Nollywood. The name, Nollywood, however, has been subjected to series of arguments and counter-arguments considering its etymology, sociology of the movies produced by the industry, cultural diversities of the movie producers and practitioners as well as the cultural relevance of movies produced in Nollywood on regular basis. The concern of this paper, therefore, is to examine varied views on Nollywood and the cultural essence of the movies produced in the country for cultural nationalism and re-orientation. This position is necessary because of the high potential of the screen to influence behaviour. As a cultural product, a film is expected to represent the culture that informs it and the practitioners are expected to be cultural ambassadors. What is observed in Nollywood, however, is that most of the films have been influenced by Western and Asian cultures in content and thematic pre-occupation. The paper, therefore, recommends that all the stakeholders in the industry should re-assess the activities of the industry through viable policy statement with a view to re-energising our socio-cultural milieu through the movie industry.

Key words: Nollywood, Nigerian films, culture and tradition, Nigeria Film and Video Censor Board


Culture is human because every human society is expected to demonstrate a specific cultural identity as evident in dressing, human relationship, eating, literature and art. It is all these that determine the cultural identity of a group. The form and content of literature serve as pointers to the way a people can be studied and understood. Hence, it can be argued that literature is a potent tool of cultural identity of a people. In most of literary texts produced across cultures of the world, the thematic pre-occupations of such texts reflect and comment on the common cultural paradigms that are peculiar to such group. It is on this note that it is argued that any consideration of the cultural identity of a people should include their literary and performing arts.

In the context of this paper, literature is extended to include film texts because it is known and it has been argued by Ekwuazi that film is a cultural encyclopaedia (page?). What can be deduced as the kernel of Ekwuazi's argument is that a film text is expected to project the culture of its origin and that any film that fails to achieve this should be re-assessed and re-evaluated to perform this expected role. It is in the light of this that this paper examines the cultural role and relevance of Nigerian film industry, otherwise referred to as Nollywood.

In the argument of this paper, cultural diffusion and assimilation are not overlooked in the interrelationship of culture and cultural groups. The phases and faces of films produced in Nigeria have revealed different external variables that have influenced the form, content and thematic thrusts of such films. One of the important factors that have influenced and still influence the content and quality of films produced in Nigeria is the Western etymology of the medium on the African soil. We do not ignore the fact that different ethnic groups of Nigeria had performance culture in festival and ritual observances before the inauguration of the medium of film in Africa and Nigeria specifically. These festivals and ritual observances culminated in the folk theatre that later metamorphosed to the contemporary home videos. The kernel of this argument is that there is a close affinity between theatre and movie production in Nigeria, particularly among the Yoruba ethnic group, owing to the fact that most of the theatre practitioners move from stage to screen.

The movement of theatre practitioners from stage to screen imposes some expectations on them, particularly on the cultural significance of their products (films). The films produced by the industry are expected to address the socio-cultural needs of a people. The film industry in Nigeria should go beyond naming but attention should be more focused on the means of improving the quality of films produced in the country. This paper, thus, interrogates the etymological, technical and ideological issues in Nollywood as the name for Nigeria's film industry.

Nollywood: The Name and its Controversies

Nollywood is a name of convenience invented to identify the film industry in Nigeria among the global film industries such as Hollywood in America and Bollywood in India. The concern of this paper is to interrogate the adequacy of the name in describing the ethics and aesthetics of film produced in Nigeria. Since the invention of the name Nollywood to describe Nigerian film industry, there have been series of arguments and counter-arguments about the appropriateness of the name to identify the industry. Some of these arguments are in support of the name while others are not in its support to describe Nigerian film industry. Those arguments that oppose the name Nollywood in the description Nigerian film industry base their arguments on the process of the name. The view of Oni is representative of the aggregate of the opinions of those that oppose the appropriateness of the name Nollywood to describe the film industry in Nigeria. He posits:

Among the major issues in Nollywood is strangely the name with which the industry is now known, which was apparently first used in 2002 by Matt Steinglass in the New York Times (Haynes 2005) who for want of a name for the emerging Nigerian video film industry simply used N-to connote Nigeria and called it Nollywood after the American Hollywood and India’s Bollywood (19-20).

The core issue in the position of Oni is that the name Nollywood is not indigenous to Nigeria and thus, it cannot be adequate to describe the industry with multiple ethnicities. Nigeria is a country with over 400 ethnic groups and this situation has affected the evolvement of homogeneous film industry in the country. Besides, the involvement of the ethnic groups in the country in film production began with different sociological variables and motivations. These differences have informed various readings of Nigerian films. The deductions from the position of Oni can therefore be summarised that the name Nollywood has a foreign etymology and that it is imposed on Nigerians to describe the film industry in Nigeria.

Since the conceptualisation of the name Nollywood by Steinglass, there have been quest for relevance of the name in addressing the nature, content and form of films produced in the country. Theatre and film critics have assessed the relevance and adequacy of the name Nollywood. In the pro-Nollywood argument, the view of Haynes is prominent. He is of the view that the name Nollywood is apt and adequate to describe the film industry of the country. He bases his argument on the convenience of the name for the journalists and the close affinity of the name with video film production. In his argument, he avers:

"Nollywood" is here to stay because the term is irresistible to journalists and, more importantly because it neatly expresses powerful aspirations by people in the video film industry and by their fans to have a big, glamorous entertainment industry that can take its place on the world scene and appeal to international audiences (20).

This paper takes up the view of Haynes for the simple fact it fails to acknowledge the difference between cinema and video film. What is obtainable in Nigeria is the video film culture and not the culture of cinema. The best practices that are used to measure the quality of a country's film industry is the cinematic culture. What is present in American Hollywood and Indian Bollywood is the culture of cinema. The association of the video film culture with Nollywood in Nigeria is inappropriate because the medium of cinema (film) is different from video film and both of them can be read with different critical and aesthetic standards.

Other critics, particularly in the anti-Nollywood school of thought, consider the facilities that are perquisite to the Christening of the name as Nollywood. In this regard, the views and opinions of Balogun (53) and Fosudo (18) on the inadequacy of the name Nollywood to describe the Nigerian film industry are considered. Balogun posits:

The word is meaningless because when the Americans say Bollywood that is their description of the industry in India because it is from Bombay. It is a derogatory term, it is an attempt to put down the Indian film industry. But the Americans have not been successful because Indian films are very popular all over the world. Now, Nigerians are great imitators, they are never able to think of original ideas by themselves. They had to go and clone this name and make it into something relevant to themselves. But are they so dumb that they cannot think of anything of their own to call whatever they want to call? (53).

The position of Balogun is not in support of Nollywood as a name to describe the film industry in Nigeria. In his opinion, the name is derogatory in describing the film industry in the country as Bollywood did in describing the film industry in India. The name Nollywood indicates that Nigerians are not creative and innovative in creating a name to delineate the country's film industry from their American and Indian counterparts. Fosudo shares similar view with Balogun. He avers:

I think we are confusing the concept. In America, there is a place called Hollywood where actors and producers meet for the purpose of making movies. In India, there is Bollywood where the business of movie making also takes place. Here, we talk about Nollywood, yet if an America visits the country and requests to be taken to Nollywood, where do we take such a person to? (18).

The position of Fosudo can be summarised that the inadequacy and inappropriateness of the name Nollywood in describing the Nigerian film industry is seen in the absence of physical location or setting where film makers meet for the purpose of making film in the country. The film industry in Nigeria is fragmented with individuals and groups pursuing personal agenda in the making of the movies.

In a related argument, Ogunleye is of the opinion that "Nollywood" is nothing but a name calling. The basic point of her argument is that the name is a continual resonate of Nigeria's colonial past and the inability of the country to create a genuine name for its film industry. In her argument on the adequacy and appropriateness of the concept Nollywood to describe Nigerian films, she posits:

For a proper re-imaging of the industry, we will be using the terminology 'Naijafilms' to denote the Nigerian video film. 'Naija' is a slang word derived from the name 'Nigeria'. It could either mean the nation, Nigeria, or the people, Nigerians. It is proudly and lovingly used by Nigerians from all walks of life to denote a sense of oneness and pride for the Nigerian heritage. The word, Naija, is now synonymous with the expression – Proudly Nigerian.... This new nomenclature is very apt because a name is a term used for identification and names are usually given by parents or relatives, not by outsiders who possess less than honourable intentions. A Yoruba proverb states: Oruko omo ni ijanu omo, which loosely translated means that a name is a means of checks and balances for the bearer of the name. A name is different from name-calling and the term Nollywood smacks more of name-calling than a name. The name, 'Naijafilms' reveal the Nigerian-ness of the video films and it is designed as a revolution to reclaim the video film universe and its aesthetics in a way that will position Nigeria and its people at the epicentre of the art form (50-51).

With the suggestion of Naijafilms for video films produced in Nigeria, Ogunleye is making a proposition for a parallel name with which the industry can be known. This parallel name may spark off series of arguments and controversies owing to the complexity and dynamism of Nigerian film industry.

Historical and sociological variables that condition the emergence of the film making process in Nigeria inform different critical perspectives on the adequacy of the name Nollywood in identifying the industry. This paper has argued that the concept of Nollywood came with the video film format. Various researches and scholarly articles have posited that there was commercial motive behind the popularisation and the eventual popularity of the video film with the pioneering efforts of Kenneth Nnebue. The venture in video film making began with the attempt of Kenneth Nnebue in the late 1980s to dispose some VHS he had in stock. To attract patronage of customers, he recorded some events and actions on the film and the initiative yielded a positive result. Since the initial initiative of Kenneth Nnebue, there have been series of innovation in the production of video film in Nigeria. This paper, therefore, argues that video film has come to stay as a medium of entertainment and information "because nearly every home in major towns and cities has electronic facilities for watching video films" (Ojeyemi & Sesan 208).

The caveat here is that we should not equate the video film with the name Nollywood. The reason, as reiterated here, is that video film and celluloid have different critical and aesthetic standards that can be used in reading them. What Nigeria has is video film and not the film in the proper sense of the word. The country has not come out of the economic and social malaise that occasioned the death of cinema and the birth of the video film format as an alternative of film making. In the light of this position, this paper argues that Nollywood is not an industry or a name but rather it is a name-calling (as posited by Ogunleye (page?).

Some of the problems of 'Nollywood' films in the reconstruction and re-presentation of national identity are identified and discussed here. These problems centre on the ethical and aesthetic qualities of movies produced in the country, the administrative and managerial strategies of the industry as well as the communion of Nigerian movies with films produced across other nationalities of the globe.

The basic problem of Nollywood as an industry is the lack of well organised body that will control the activities of the patrons and practitioners in the film making process. Several attempts that were made to have guilds and associations of practitioners had not yielded positive results. These guilds and associations are rocked with leadership problems and power play among the key players in the industry. The recent event in the Yoruba axis of the industry is illustrative of this position. Owing to the power play among some factions of Association of Nigerian Theatre Practitioners (ANTP), there is a breakup of the association. One of the factions is uncomfortable with the association and formed a parallel association with the name, Theatre Artists and Movie Producers Association of Nigeria (TAMPAN). The overall result of this is that there will not be uniform standard to regulate the activities of practitioners in the two associations. Besides, the guild system in the industry has not recorded a considerable success considering the quality of films produced in the industry. There is an average of fifty films produced in the country on weekly basis and the quantity of these films has not met up with their quality. The view of this paper, therefore, is consistent with the opinion of Ojeyemi and Sesan that:

The quality of films (in content and technicality) does not reflect the presence of different guilds in Nigerian film industry. The angle of shots and mode of transition that are seen in Nigerian movies betray the high level of professionalism expected from the Nigerian society of cinematographers.... Nigerian film industry is for all comers. Anybody with access to capital and with story (either camera compliant or not) goes to location to shoot a film. Little wonder there is proliferation of film marketers at Idumota, Alaba, Aba and Onitsha. Consequently, the audience is assaulted morally, technically, visually and psychologically. That high profile professionals sometimes feature in these movies with poor story line and defective technicalities is a further source of concern (212).

The above situation reveals that Nollywood is not organised and coordinated. Thus, Nollywood is not an industry or a name for an industry because it lacks rules and regulations to manage the practice of film making and the practitioners.

Another problem is that Nollywood operates within the framework of informal economic structure. It is not easy to determine the contribution of Nollywood to the gross domestic product (GDP) of the country. This is because the actors and other practitioners do not have a stable and formalised salary structure. The wages of actors and actresses depend on their experience and level of popularity/stardom. This phenomenon makes some upcoming actors/actresses go for any role in order to break even in the industry. Thus, it is not uncommon to have some artistes, complaining about low remuneration for an appearance or lamenting an unpaid balance of artiste fee for a film recorded several years ago (Adeoti 27).

Nigerian government is not actively involved in the administration and management of Nollywood as an industry. What Nigerian government only does is to give some ineffectual regulations to control and manage the industry. Owing to the fact that the government is not actively involved in the activities of the country's film industry, there are varieties of recklessness and sub-standard production that exploit the sensibilities of the audience. With the quality of films produced in the country, one will be tempted to question the presence of National Film and Video Censors Board (NFVCB) as a regulatory body for all the films produced in the country. With the unbridled and unregulated production of video films in the country, it is very hard to rely on the classification of films by NFVCB. By critical standard, NFVCB classifies Nigerian films under ten (10) headings:

"G" to indicate for general exhibition;

"C" to indicate intended particularly for children;

"NC 12" to indicate not recommended for children below 12;

"PG" to indicate for parental guidance;

"18" to indicate for mature audiences;

"18" to indicate violence;

"18" to indicate rituals;

"RE" to indicate for restricted exhibition;

"NTBB" to indicate not to be broadcast;

"SFB" to indicate safe for broadcast (Censors Board Decree 20).

Despite the classification of films by NFVCB, there are series of faults in the production process of movies produced in the country. Most of the films released to the market for the consumption of the audience do feature violence and obscenity. For NFVCB to be awake to its responsibility, "the films to be released for general exhibition must be properly screened to remove the violent, immoral and amoral contents" (Ojeyemi & Sesan 213).

Apart from the problems discussed earlier, Nollywood does not produce films that actually reflect the indigenous cultural episteme. This problem persists in Nollywood because the industry in Nigeria does not have a specific film idiom as obtainable in American Hollywood and Indian Bollywood. Most of the films produced in Nigeria are imitative of foreign films particularly from America, India and China. In his discourse on the reflection of Yoruba cultural episteme in Yoruba films, Jimoh gives three areas where Yoruba films have failed to project the identity of the ethnic group. He posits that:

  1. The movie industry has tremendous power to influence, shape and condition people's outlook with regard to a particular perspective on the world. This contrasts sharply with the silly defence often offered by many Nollywood filmmakers that they give what society asks for.
  2. A lot of the Nollywood producers, directors and scriptwriters who present Yoruba tradition and world view to the world actually lack the competence and authority to accurately portray the Yoruba thought system, mainly because: (a) they are really not sufficiently schooled in that culture, but are short of humility to admit it; and (b) the vast majority of them are adherents of foreign religion and so deliberately present the Yoruba traditional world with negative and pejorative bias.
  3. In the light of the above, therefore, significant portions of their representation of the Yoruba tradition are very inaccurate, illogical and in many instances very wrong (79-80).

These             also would seem to contradict the assertion by the moviemakers that they are simply portraying what is happening in our society, a claim that rings hollow in the face of the evident logic that you cannot accurately depict or represent a culture of which you have little grasp or understanding.

The above deficiencies identified by Jimoh are not peculiar to the Yoruba chapter of Nigerian film industry. Similar problems are found in the Igbo chapter of the industry. This, thus, establishes the fact that Nigerian film industry suffers from the same ideological problems. This paper, thus, focuses attention on two of the basic identifiable motifs that are common in Nollywood: pornography and fetishism. These motifs constitute misrepresentation of Nigerian culture.

Pornography and Fetishism in Nollywood

For the cultural enthusiasts, Nollywood is expected to preserve the people's value and at the same time nourish their tradition. This has been the underlining target set for the most vibrant film industry in the African continent at its evolution, but recent developments have impinged on the hope of its admirers. Hence, people are left with no option than to question the drive of the practitioners of the movie industry, such that one begins to wander if it is really a representation of the African culture or a promotion of the Western nuances.

The African society cherishes womenfolk and places respect on their being. So any practice under the guise of civilisation which demeans the worth of women through wanton exposure of their nudity cannot be said to be African. It would have been grudgingly tolerable, if the Nollywood stars had limited themselves to just assaulting the psyche of the viewers by subjecting them to watching partial nakedness of women but it is quite absurd that our screens have in recent times been besmeared with all sorts of pornographic movies from the Igbo and Yoruba chapters of the industry. Among the catalogue of movies produced from the Igbo chapter of the industry that project pornography and obscenity are The Benjamins, Greedy Sex, Room 027, Another Game of Men, Bold 5 Babes, and Bed Room Assassins produced by Uche 10 Nigeria Limited. Others include All my Ladies, My Pretty Angel and I Slept with my Bosses' Wife.

A cursory look at these films will undoubtedly reveal that the actors and actresses involved in them have thrown caution to the wind and at best wreck the cultural ethos of our society. The question that readily comes to mind after watching these films is, what education are these actors and actresses giving to their viewers? If the cardinal aims of any literary enterprises are to educate, inform and entertain, one, therefore, posits that Nollywood practitioners involved in these obscenity and obscurity have been misinforming and disorientating their audience which incidentally may include the underage. Though, the films are restricted to the viewing realm of the adults but there is no way these young ones will not have access to them. So, the society is befuddled with multifaceted juvenile delinquent acts like rape, sex labour and prostitution which might apparently have been learnt from these movies. There are hardly any day that cases of rape involving underage are not reported on the pages of Nigerian newspapers. What then do these actors and actresses give back to the society in relation to the training they have acquired over the years? Even if these films are solely watched by their target viewers, what moral ethics are they bequeathing to the society? Since, whatever one watches has telling effects on one’s psychological state of mind, it may not be farfetched to posit that the preponderance of pornographic films is responsible for the near collapse of moral ethics in the society. There are always gory tales of societal misdemeanour involving adults and underage which are nonetheless traceable to desecration of our values by the ignoble pornographic films that have now become the vogue in our movie industry.

It is apparent that pornographic films put the female folk at the receiving end of moral upbraid in our society as ladies who partake in it are quickly stigmatized as whores, harlots and social renegades while the society keeps mum about the men. So, Nollywood which should project our values need not be the vanguard for deepening the castigation of women. Ogunleye asserts that the portrayal of women in Nigerian films is more often than not, negative. She notes:

Many studies have shown that images of women on films are negative, disparaging and stereotypical. This is in direct contravention of the principles of the Declaration of the Elimination of Discrimination Against women, which was adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations on 27 November 1976… (11).

The descent into pornography by the actors and actresses in Nollywood is an attribution that the women folk are cheap, of little value and that men can easily have their way with them. Though, the society sees both men and women involved in uncouth and open sexual escapades as denigrates, yet the swing of the pendulum favours the men because the stigma is less pronounced on them. Men in the pornographic movies are more often than not seen as conquerors while the females are treated with disdain. So, it will be easy for the male to get public sympathy than the females who may be eternally stigmatised. Besides, production of pornographic films negates the norms and moral ethos of Nigerian society. In the normative standard of behaviour in Nigeria, an open discourse of sex or sexual behaviour is not encouraged – it is a socio-cultural taboo to discuss taboo in public. Any attempt to do this attracts sanction.

Fetishism constitutes another sphere of deluge of criticism of Nollywood film in Nigeria. This is hinged on the fact that the supposed projection of the traditional norm in most Nigerian films emphasises bewitchment and other untoward practices which disorientate the corpus of our existence. Instead of making people appreciates the essence of our tradition, Nollywood practitioners make people abhor traditional practices because it instils fear in them. It is a known fact that our traditional society engages in fetish practices like offering sacrifices to the gods, consultation of the supernatural powers through the priests and such other ones which may not necessarily be diabolical and sinister. But the aspect of bewitchments which portray the Nigerian traditional society as barbaric is not and cannot be said to be a true reflection of our ethos. These practitioners overplay folkloric elements of their films to the point of negative portrayal of Nigeria's cultural episteme. Adedeji and Ekwuazi condemn the improper use of folkloric materials in Nigerian films. They complain:

The most trenchant criticism levelled against these films in their use of folklore is their tendency towards the veneration of tradition and towards the glamorization of the past. Witches, wizards and other manifestations of the forces of darkness do not, in any conceivable way, equip the audience with the requisite consciousness for human intercourse in this technological age: no wonder the films have been tagged Pagan art (170).

The veneration of tradition has negatively affected the reception of Nigerian films among the local and foreign audience. Parents do not want their children or ward to be indoctrinated into the culture and norms portrayed in folkloric films.

Sacrifices (that are aimed at maintaining and sustaining harmony in the cosmos) are believed to be an avenue in which the traditional society commune with their forebears, ancestors and gods and goddesses. If Nollywood practitioners project these aspects of heathen practice to the world, they may not owe anyone any apology for showcasing our Africanness, even if Westerners call them savagery. They can unequivocally say that that is our culture as replicated in the works of Nigerian writers like Chinua Achebe, Wole Soyinka, Amos Tutuola, Femi Osofisan, Gracy Osifo and Elechi Amadi. There is no justification for indulging the viewers with callousness because it is alien to our culture and Nollywood should be the anchorage of our values, Odia Ofeimun gives his assessment of the Nollywood thus:

Nollywood films are as undeveloped as Nigerian society, and when you watch them, you see all the forms of underdevelopment, both technically and socially. If you really want to know what is going wrong with Africa, Nollywood shows it…. So, it is a case of the mirror that is itself problematic. What it tells us is not exactly what you ought to know, but without the mirror you would probably see nothing. And that’s where the relevance of Nollywood comes in, we manage to see something, even if it’s not what we should be seeing… (URL? – web address?).

Perhaps, one of these things we should be seeing is the portrayal of the Nigerian traditional society as a society that is elegant in tradition as Wole Soyinka exemplifies in Death and the King’s Horseman, where he brings out the metaphysical orientation of the Yoruba people. In the play, Elesin Oba, according to tradition is expected to commit suicide on the death of the Alaafin. The former is believed to accompany the king in the transition (not to die as conceived by the Europeans). It is this metaphysical idea of death (transition) which the Europeans referred to as barbarism because of their poor understanding. On the misrepresentation of African cultural episteme by the Europeans, Adeoti observes:

… Soyinka ridicules the tendency of European colonizers to hastily, dismiss as barbaric and “uncivilized”, cultural practices of Africans about which they lack deep understanding. In Death and the King’s Horseman, Soyinka dramatises the tendency of Europeans to think and decide for Africans (17).

It is this kind of proper presentation of our cultural nuances that we expect from Nollywood. It should be doing what the African writers have been strenuously pursuing and not showcasing what subject our being to ridicule. The Nollywood should be at the forefront of advocacy for proper recognition of our cultural norms through films that display the beauty in our essence and not those films that put smear on our race.

Technical and Ideological Problems in Nollywood

It should be reiterated that the misrepresentation of indigenous cultural episteme is not peculiar to the film makers from the Yoruba axis of the country's film industry. In the Igbo axis of the industry, there are instances of film productions that project and uphold Western culture. Besides, most of the films such as Broad Day Light, Issakaba, Romantic Attraction and Ashawo Enugu overplay violence, obscenity and other forms of immorality. Besides, the Igbo film makers engage in mindless adaptation or rehash of Hollywood films. Anyanwu gives the list of (Igbo) Nollywood films that are mindlessly adapted from Hollywood films. The list is reproduced below:

Nollywood (Igbo) Films                              Hollywood (American) Films

Game of Death                         -                       Basic Instinct

Not Man Enough                     -                       Last American Virgin

Silent Night                              -                       Silent Night

Romeo Must Die                      -                       Juliet Must Die

World Apart                            -                       Coming to America

Naked Weapon                                    -                       Lethal Weapon

State of Emergency                   -                       State of Emergency, etc. (131-132).

This paper does not frown at adaptation but it argues that adaptation should be done with some degree of creativity and innovation. In the column for Nollywood films, it can be seen that the title of the last film in the list is not different from its Hollywood's counterpart. Besides, Naked Weapon on the list has a close reference to a Chinese film of the same title. Since the Igbo films listed above are adapted from Hollywood films, they are not expected to project and uphold the indigenous cultural episteme of the practitioners and the audience.

The making of folkloric films among the filmmakers across all the major ethnic groups in Nigeria has been characterised by some professional deficiency. Folkloric films, as conceptualised in this paper, are those with epic stories, history and myth as their content/subject matter. The focus here, however, will be on the history genre of Nigerian film industry because "history is the way people(s) create, in part, their identities" (Jenkins 19). The deduction from the view of Jenkins is that history can help in the projection and propagation of the cultural episteme of a race or ethnic group. The usual practice in Nollywood is that history genre of films is made with almost the same process as in the making of love and thriller genres of films produced in the country. The making of history film is expected to be systematic and rigorous to avoid mis-representation of the past. The view of this paper on the nature of history genre of film is consistent with Sesan's:

Unlike feature films of thriller, comedy and evangelical that require the interplay of inspiration, imagination and perspiration, history film requires rigorous research into its subject matter. This involves due and unbiased consultation with the oral and archival sources of data. The making of history film is systematic, involving the processes of data collection, selection, verification, authentication and documentation. Unfortunately, most Nigerian filmmakers skip some of these processes and rely heavily on the secondary sources of archival documents (196).

By skipping one or two of the processes as observed by Sesan, most of the history films in Nollywood are not adequate in projecting the indigenous cultural episteme of a people.

Another problem of Nollywood is ethno-cultural diversities. The practitioners in Nollywood do not see themselves working towards the attainment of common goals of professionalism, quality production and conducive atmosphere for the production of quality films in the industry. When the name was first introduced by Matt Steinglass into the Nigerian popular idiom of movie terminologies in 2002, the Igbo filmmakers were quick to adopt the name in branding the films coming from their production axis. Thus, "Nollywood as a label is not accepted by the whole, but a part of the industry especially those who produce films in English language mostly around the cities of Lagos, Onitsha, Enugu and Aba" (Adeoti 200). With this development, the filmmakers and practitioners from Yoruba and Hausa extraction began to dissociate themselves from the name. The Yoruba filmmakers do use Yollywood to describe movies from their industry while "the Hausa movie industry is also currently toying with the names Kannywood for producers in Kano and Kalliwood for producers in Kaduna" (Oni 18). It can, therefore, be summarised that Nollywood does not operate with uniform and homogeneous standard owing to the factor of ethno-cultural diversities.

Neo-Nollywood: An Alternative to Nollywood?

Considering the above problems, Ogunleye's view that Nollywood is a name-calling may be taken as valid. This position is made with the recent conceptualisation of neo-Nollywood to describe some video films that are produced in the country. The concept of neo-Nollywood is a critical interrogation of the quality of films produced in the country's film industry in comparison to what is produced in the film industries of other countries such as American Hollywood and Indian Bollywood. In the conceptualisation of neo-Nollywood, this paper adopts the position of Afolayan that:

The idea of neo-Nollywood is a much more recent one (although its arrival has already been foreshadowed in the disaffection occasioned by Nollywood's paradigmatic production). It developed as a form of revulsion and indeed challenge to the negative and pessimistic portrayal of Nollywood, ironically perpetuated by its status as the second largest film producing industry in the world... In other words, neo-Nollywood is a move away from the cinematic ebullience and mushrooming tendency of Nollywood towards a qualitative and aesthetic transformation of the industry (26).  

The conceptualisation of neo-Nollywood suggests an improved production in content and technicality. With this, there is a need for the re-examination of the validity of Nollywood as the name for the film industry in the country. This paper maintains its position that Nollywood is not an appropriate name for the film industry in the country.

The concept of neo-Nollywood was first used in 2010 by Charles Novia. He first used the concept in a review of Ije on 234Next.com. Since its first used by Charles Novia, neo-Nollywood has become a register of Nollywood studies and scholarship. The modest goal of neo-Nollywood is re-configuration of the paradigmatic construction of Nollywood films. In achieving this re-configuration, the central focus of neo-Nollywood filmmakers is creativity. This creativity is used in Deleuze's term of creativity in art. In the view of Deleuze, a work of art that is creative,

... always entails the creation of new spaces and times (it's not a question of recounting a story in a well-determined space and time; rather, it is the rhythms, the lighting, and the space-times themselves that must become the true characters). A work should bring forth the problems and questions that concern us rather than provide answers (370).

The core argument of creativity in neo-Nollywood is that the films should have open-ended meaning and the audience should take active role in the reading and interpretation of films. Neo-Nollywood filmmakers are radical, apart from being creative, in their filmmaking process. In the neo-Nollywood tradition are Ije, Maami, October 1, Narrow Path, Madam Dearest and Dangerous Twins, etc. These films reconstruct the production paradigm of films in Nigeria. With reference to the sophisticated production pattern of neo-Nollywood, it is still reiterated that Nollywood is not an appropriate name for Nigerian film industry but rather it is just only name-calling.

Despite the problems identified with Nollywood and the overall film industry in Nigeria, there are still some traces of prospect in the industry. The prospect of the industry comes with sophistication in the production process motivated by the ideals of neo-Nollywood. Most films produced, in the recent time, in the neo-Nollywood tradition have high profile form and content that reconstruct the overall film gestalt. Most of the films from the country have competed in various film festivals across the globe.

The world is a global village. With this arrangement, there is Diasporic presence of people and culture across the world. In the instance of this, Nollywood and neo-Nollywood films have been playing vital roles in re-integrating Nigerians abroad into the folds of respective indigenous cultures of the country. The facilities of internet and digital broadcasting such as African Magic (Hausa, Igbo and Yoruba) on DSTV, Orisun, Awa TV, WAP TV, Iroko TV and Iroko Plus on Startimes, Youtube and Gelede TV, Nigerians in Diaspora have access to Made in Nigerian films. Nigerians in Diaspora fall in the category of off-shore audience as averred by Sesan in his study of the audience and genre factors in the Yoruba film industry. In the paper, Sesan categorises Nigerian (Yoruba) film audience into two: on-shore and off-shore (6-7). Of particular interest to this paper is the off-shore audience and how this has contributed to the prospect of Nigerian film industry. In the opinion of Sesan, the significance of Yoruba films to the off-shore audience can be seen in their education and socialisation values. He avers:

Off-shore is used to describe Yoruba film audience living beyond the territorial boundaries (land, air and water) of Nigeria. This category of film audience are those living in Asia, America, Europe and other parts of Africa. This category of film audience watched Yoruba film with some degree of fascination as a result of nostalgia for their indigenous language and culture. The linguistic adults among these off-shore audience see in Yoruba films a platform to socialize and educate their children who have been cut off earlier in life from their language and culture. The basic fact that can be deduced from this categorization is that Yoruba film has different utilitarian values for the on-shore and off-shore audience. To the on-shore audience, Yoruba film is primarily used for entertainment while to the off-shore audience, Yoruba film is a medium of (re) socialization and education. The off-shore Yoruba film audience have access to these films through the facilities of the internet, particularly Youtube and Irokotv with Ibakatv; and the nefarious activities of some individuals (6-7).

The off-shore audience with the facilities of internet and digital broadcasting has removed the barrier of space, time and location in the distribution, exhibition and consumption of Nigerian films across the globe.

Studied synchronically over time and diachronically over space, Nigerian films (Nollywood) have been able to fellowship with other continental and regional films. With recent innovation in cinematography, Nigerian filmmakers have been breaking barriers of production in terms of the content and technicalities. In the next two decades, there is prospect for the film industry in Nigeria to return to cinema. This position is made because the filmmakers in the neo-Nollywood tradition have been making return to cinema, the global standard practice in film production and consumption.


This paper has examined and discussed the problems and prospects of Nollywood. The epistemological and ideological backgrounds of Nollywood are discussed from the indigenous cultural/theatrical practice among the major ethnic groups in the country. The paper establishes the point that the Igbo, Hausa and Yoruba have different cosmological experiences in theatre and the eventual production of films and video films. The varied views and opinions on the relevance and appropriateness of Nollywood as a name for Nigerian film industry are reviewed. The arguments against Nollywood are more that the arguments in favour of Nollywood. These arguments focus on the etymology, methodology and epistemology of film production in the country. Certain problems in the film industry are identified and discussed. These problems are directly linked to the administrative and managerial deficiencies in the industry. The paper also discusses the concept of neo-Nollywood to describe the ethical and aesthetic standards that are expected of made in Nigerian movies. The paper, therefore, maintains the position that there is hope for Nigerian film industry in the next two decades considering the quality of films that are produced by filmmakers in the neo-Nollywood tradition.

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