Tuesday, January 25, 2011

The Nigerian Video Film Industry: Challenges and Prospects

By Patrick Ebewo

MOTION PICTURES WERE REPORTEDLY FIRST SCREENED IN NIGERIA in August of 1903, when Nigerian nationalist Herbert Macaulay, in association with the Balboa film company of Spain, introduced the new medium to an audience assembled in Glover Memorial Hall in Lagos (Owens-Ibie).

Over five decades later, the first film production companies, Latola Film (founded in 1962) and Calpeny Nigeria Limited (1970), were established in Nigeria (Amobi). In addition to Latola and Calpeny, members of the Nigerian theater community promoted film culture as well. In fact, the current video film industry in Nigeria owes a huge debt to the pioneers of Nigerian theater, particularly practitioners of the Yoruba Traveling Theater, who branched off from mainstream theater to experiment with celluloid.
*Patrick Ebewo
(The Author)


While the introduction of mobile cinema by the British during colonial times may have created awareness and interest in film, the medium was used primarily to educate Nigerians about such issues as health, sanitation, and nutrition. In the late 1960s, dramatists Hubert Ogunde, who recorded his plays on celluloid, Moses Adejumo (alias Baba Sala), and Duro Ladipo were responsible for elevating the cinema to a popular art that also contained social commentary (Ekwuazi 9). The legacy of those indigenous filmmakers was bequeathed to Ola Balogun, Ade Love, and Eddie Ugbomah — prolific filmmakers of the 1980s who extended the pioneer efforts of the early dramatists and ushered Nigerian moviemaking into the modern age.

The collapse of movie-theatergoing culture in the 1980s, caused by the incessant harassment of innocent citizens by criminals, the country's economic downturn, and various problems affecting celluloid film production, gave rise to the video film — "a less powerful but more convenient [form of] film making utilising U-Matik, super VHS and ordinary VHS cameras" (Dike). Video films, known in Nigeria as "home movies," are a new initiative in popular culture, though their impact is already phenomenal. Although many productions preceded it, Kenneth Nnebue's successful Living in Bondage (1993) is credited with "jumpstarting" the video film industry.

*Herbert Ogunde 
Since the early 1990s, the industry, now stylishly called "Nollywood," has churned out thousands of titles and brought many producers, marketers, actors, and technicians into the limelight. The video film is a household word in contemporary Nigeria and has become a popular form of audio-visual entertainment. The industry has also become too significant for the world to ignore. According to a press release for a 2005 international convention on Nollywood held in Los Angeles, it has been estimated that the industry produces an average of fifty movies per week, though this is surely an exaggeration (Bequette). Video films gross an estimated 200 million dollars a year and Nigeria has been ranked the world's third-largest film industry, after Hollywood and Bollywood (India) (Vasagar). Video films are not only popular in their native Nigeria and other African countries, but in less than twenty years they have attracted the attention of many media practitioners, film festivals, and some American and European universities. In fact, DSTV (Digital Satellite Television), a digital satellite service in Africa, features "Africa Magic" (Channel 102), a channel devoted to Nollywood films.

Nollywood films are popular in Nigeria because they have indigenous content and address issues relevant to a mass audience. Through an amalgam of Nigerian narrative techniques (African storylines) and Western technology, these films document and re-create sociopolitical and cultural events that occurred within and beyond the country's borders.[1] The industry has also saved poor Nigerians the cost of procuring expensive films from the West (the price per film ranges from N200 to N400 — about $2.50). Ogunleye contends that with the global world united under the sway of visual culture, the emergence of the video film in Nigeria is timely and crucial as it serves as the voice of its people and responds to the drudgery of a socioeconomic existence characterized by high unemployment and dwindling opportunities (ix). It has taken all on board, including religious-minded people, who are enthralled by "Hallelujah video films," religious films created or sponsored by evangelical groups for the propagation of their faith.

Despite its fame, however, some critics — both local and international — see the Nigerian film industry as a poor imitation of the real thing. Productions are plagued by technical glitches. According to journalist-critic Trenton Daniel, "the plots are sentimental, the acting raw, and the cable-access editing not unlike that of an X-rated flick, minus the randy parts. … Production values are deplorable; special effects leave much to the imagination" ("Nollywood"). Writing in Film Comment, Olaf Möller also dismisses Nollywood films: "Give or take a minor masterpiece or two, nothing could be further from wholesome art cinema, with its healthy messages and clean-cut images, than this lurid West African smut, dedicated to making money hand over fist" ("Homegrown Hybrid"). Though critics may not adopt the contemptuous manner of some critics of the Frankfurt School castigating the culture industry, we know any enterprise will encounter problems on its initial outing.

*Pete Edochie 

To deny that problems exist would be uncritical self-appraisal, deceptive, and counter productive. Our stand, nevertheless, is not that of the sympathetic and condescending critics who lower their standards of criticism when it comes to popular culture. Some of the films are excellent, some are just good, and many, to borrow a popular
Nigerian street expression, are "so-so." This paper aims to assess the problems encountered by the emerging video film industry in Nigeria, proffer solutions, and assess its prospects.

*Thematic Concerns

One of the major criticisms of this new industry is its thematic obsession with the occult world (juju, black magic, sorcery, ritual murder, witchcraft, etc.), obscenity, prostitution, and "money worship." Nigerian video films, along with their Ghana counterparts, have been described by Larkin as a mixture of "horror, magic and melodrama" (qtd. in Ogunleye 6). Some critics dub these films "occult thrillers." One journalist recently described their content as "an odd cross between the ultra-violence of Shaft and the gabbiness of My Dinner with Andre" (Solapek).

There is nothing wrong with a film dealing with any of these themes, but critics frown at the fact that they recur, film after film. The industry seems beset with a seen-one-seen-them-all syndrome. Worse, some productions seem to celebrate the evil inherent in the themes, with no serious effort to highlight their moral message. When a message is implied, its treatment is often bland, as in Living in Bondage, Sunny Collins's Billionaires Club I and II (2003), and Alex Omagbio's Dangerous Sisters I and II (2004).[2]

Producers may argue that video films address the social problems plaguing society, yet many people are disturbed by their treatment of ethical and moral issues. Though Enemaku believes that ethical reengineering in the larger society may be a prelude to sanitizing the video industry, he nevertheless observes that the situation does not obviate the need to urgently reexamine the ethical foundations of the video industry itself (78). Nigerians know the difference between right and wrong. 

*Olu and Joke Jacobs 

Many ethnic groups in Nigeria still hold firm to their cultural ties and norms. As elsewhere in the world, deviations in behavior are the exception rather than the rule, and this is the message home video producers should convey to the public. But so far, this is not the case. According to a study conducted by Akpabio, of the 1,547 video films submitted to the Nigerian Film and Video Censors Board, 60.1 percent were negative in slant, while only 7.27 percent were positive (138). As Enemaku observes, "this high occurrence of negativity puts a mark against the ethical structure of the [film] industry" (72). Osofisan, a celebrated Nigerian dramatist, bared his mind about this dilemma when he addressed the Sixth Lagos International Forum on Cinema, Video and Motion Picture in Africa:  

“The films also have significant influence on the way that others see us, and hence on the way they relate to us. We cannot but be concerned, therefore, about what they are saying, what attitudes they are promoting, and what image of us they are projecting. Precisely because they have deservedly won ovation everywhere, the Nollywood films have come to assume an authority over our values and our lives, such that what people see in them comes to be taken not as just a fictional projection of one imaginative consciousness, but as the true, authentic mirror of what we really are, as a veritable market of what our society represents, and much worse, of the ideal that we aspire, or must aspire, towards.” ("From Nollywood")

He, like many other critics, remarks that the producers should down play morally repugnant themes and produce videos that are of greater good to the larger society — videos with good morals and "ennobling virtues."

Another issue is the representation of women. Okome, a respected film academic and promoter of the Nigerian video film, has on occasions spoken on aspects of the representation and "objectification" of women in Nigerian movies (Giwa). Only a few Nigerian films, such as Tunde Kelani's Thunderbolt (2000) and Elvis Chucks's Trials of Love (2002), have portrayed women relatively positively. The general impression is that women are negatively portrayed in order to appeal to the male-dominated audience (Anyanwu 87).

Nigerian filmmakers do not seem to be aware of the shifting paradigm in women's discourse. Consequently, some films are gender insensitive and many still abide by the traditional and conservative attitude toward women. Women are portrayed in most films as prostitutes, at best courtesans, wily lovers, and witches. They are prone to all imaginable criminality:
This image of women as portrayed in Nigerian home video films cut across the country from North to South, though with differing intensity. The difference being that the rituals and murders, which occur in Southern films, do not yet appear in Northern movies. Still, women in the Northern films are not reflected any better; they are seen as greedy, fickle minded, weak, unable to make their own marital decisions and are available for purchase by the highest bidder. (Anyanwu 84-85)

Negative images of women are apparent in films such as Living in Bondage I (1993), Abuja Connection (2003), Dangerous Sisters I and II (2004), and The Ritual (1992). The women in Glamour Girls (1992) are reminiscent of Helen of Troy, Jagua Nana (Cyprian Ekwensi's Jagua Nana [1987]) and Rola (Wole Soyinka's A Dance of the Forests [1963]). They are not traditional housewives sentenced to "hearth and home," but modern women who mount roadblocks and act as vamps. When women are given a voice, it is misused; when they stand their ground, it is in a ruinous cause.

 In Alex Okeke and Ugo Emmanuel's No Nonsense (2003), the heroine, Ada, is presented as a liberated woman. She dominates and terrorizes anyone — her parents, brothers, sisters, husband, daughter, and son-in-law — who gets in her way. She creates trouble in her own household as well as in her parents' home. Nigerian movies perpetuate sex role stereotypes and reflect the patriarchal social values dominant in Nigerian society, which amounts to what Tuchman calls the "symbolic annihilation of women" (qtd. in Strinati 183).

*Patience Ozokwor

*Artistic and Professional Constraints
As noted, the downturn in Nigeria's economy, especially during the military regime of General I. B. Babangida (1985-93), forced film producers to change from celluloid to video. A camcorder is ideal for making films. Unfortunately, Nigerian film producers started shooting with cheap analog technology and the results were not always encouraging. The good news is that many of the film companies that could not afford top-of-the-line cameras like the Arriflex SR3, Beta-Cam, and Super-Cam series, have switched to digital cameras with improved image quality.

The ordinary digital camera is now being replaced by HDV, a sophisticated high-tension digital camera with lenses that have the capacity to create special effects. Still, critics have complained about the "dialogue-drowning sound track noise" and the "gloriously ridiculous special effects" (Möller 12). Better equipment, such as boom and environment-friendly microphones, would take care of some of these problems. Unfortunately, certain equipment, such as the crane, which is useful for establishing shots and following shots, is simply not available.

Like the Nigerian theater before it, the video film industry has disappointed many. They feel it is a dumping ground for those who have failed to find their feet in other lucrative businesses. Many people who have ventured into the business of filmmaking lack the necessary skills, as is obvious in the amateurish direction, cinematography, scriptwriting, and acting. Filmmaker Eddie Ugbomah once lamented that those who parade around as filmmakers are really mere "videographers" (Balogun). People who have only ever handled a still camera or video camera at a village funeral or a traditional wedding ceremony somehow feel they have the skills to use a sophisticated film camera to shoot a narrative film. But the cinema has its own language; words like shot or take should not be taken for granted. Consequently, the composition and framing of the image in some films is poor.

 Artistry is often measured by a director's use of shots and camera movements (tilting, panning, tracking, or dollying), the combination of which may have a powerful effect on the audience. Shaka observes that in most early video films, "static camera angles/set-up/positioning, itself a carry-over of static photography, is the main form of scenic representation; and when static camera positions are adopted at the level of scenic representation, narrative action seems to drag"(45). She concludes that video films shot in this manner tend to be "stagy."

For example, the lgwe's palace meeting in Egg of Life (2003), a movie about the Ogbanje ritual) and the villagers' meeting scene in No Nonsense are both shot with a static camera. Also, if properly shot, many films with multiple parts and running times of 120-240 minutes would shrink to 60-120 minutes. According to Shaka, the list of early films shot in this manner include Living in Bondage I and II, Zeb Ejiro and Bolaji Dawodu's Nneka: The Pretty Serpent I and II (1994), and Emeka Ani's Ikuku (1996).

In some films, the editing is poor. Techniques used to signal a transition from one location to another, such as the dissolve and superimposition, are blatantly abused, and the timing of the shots is wrong. Lighting is another crucial element that, used creatively, can shape or embellish an image and have a psychological impact on the audience. Unfortunately, the Nigerian industry lacks basic lighting equipment, and in many video films, very high or very low lighting affects the quality of the color. With no deliberate attempt to create a dramatic effect, a good number of the films contain shadows that could have been eliminated with proper lighting.[3]

More than anything else, uncontrolled background noise has greatly reduced the quality of the video films. Samuel Nwankwo's Out of Hand I is saturated with background noise, which becomes very annoying in places. Both Anini (2005) and Royal Family (2003) contain scenes in which the performers' voices reverberate, break, hum, fluctuate, echo, and crack, while background music drowns out the dialogue (especially in Anini). The noisy nature of many of the films calls attention to the need for proper equipment and training in the area of sound mixing. (Nollywood cameramen do deserve a commendation because I have never seen an unwanted microphone in a shot, the filmmaker's professional nightmare.)
Another issue is the quality of the performances. In the words of one critic, video films feature "absurdly ardent acting, the absence of anything remotely resembling craftsmanship beyond keeping the actors in frame" (Möller 12). 

*Sam Loco Efe
Though Möller seems to come down hard here, the fact remains that with the exception of talented veteran players like Sam Loco, Pete Edochie, Patience Ozokwo (a.k.a Mama G), Charles Okafor, Genevieve Nnaji, Omotola Ekeinde, Zack Orji, Alex Usifor, Liz Benson, Richard Mofe-Damijo (a.k.a. Denzel), Segun Arinze, and Nkem Owo (a.k.a. Osuofia), some of the actors display such amateurish tendencies that they become "diminutive" on the screen. Some of their performances are pedestrian, hammy, trite, and full of clichés. The problems include poor casting, a "hurry-hurry" production schedule, and under-trained actors unable to adapt stage-acting techniques to the screen. Some of the performers have more ambition than ability. Unlike most British actors, who receive their formal training at a professional drama school or academy, Nigerian actors gain their experience as theatre arts majors at a college or university (Tucker 104).

In some video films the actors do not seem to know the difference between stage and screen acting. As Tucker has pointed out, "the main reason why good [stage] actors are not good on screen is that they have their vocal levels wrong" (69). When they speak too loudly, their performance becomes "too theatrical." A stage actor projects his or her voice to the back of the theater, but a film actor's audience is the microphone. Tucker has supplied the rule of thumb: "If you project to the other person [in a film] as if he were as far away from you as the microphone on the boom, then you will be projecting at the right level for the size of the shot" (70). For example, when characters quarrel, the actors raise their voices, which tend to reverberate and become cacophonous because the microphone is so close. To make video films accessible to an international audience, more attention must be paid to the articulation and pronunciation of English words.

While many actors have made effort to articulate properly, others have refused to be "oyinbo" (an English person). Katsuva has reported that Nigerian English pronunciation and code-mixing have caused some difficulties in understanding the films even in nearby Democratic Republic of the Congo (99). Some of the productions show evidence of last-minute and/or inadequate rehearsals, which sometimes leads to improvised dialogue. "With little time to rehearse, the actors frequently read from scripts left open on the floor during filming" (Vasagar). To make more money, actors also contract more than one project at a time, giving them little or no time to adequately prepare.

Something must also be said about directors and directing. As the creative executive of a production, the director must coordinate the activities of his or her collaborators. A visionary director ensures that everyone works together toward a single goal. At the same time, the rhythm of the production, the verbal and visual balance of each scene, the intensity of the performances, and the overall style and design of the film rest with the director. Film directing is a difficult job because it requires the director to be not merely a jack-of-all-trades but a master of all — an effective director knows what he or she wants from his or her crew and must develop empathy and human understanding with the audience.

A good number of the Nollywood films cannot be absolved from directorial lapses, some of which occur out of sheer carelessness or an obvious lack of training. Many films are loud and racy. Why can't a director sometimes explore the world of silence? The creative use of silence can create incredible dramatic atmosphere. An aside is a stage technique used by playwrights to indicate a word or speech meant to be heard only by the audience or, perhaps, by another character on stage (as opposed to the other characters on stage). While the aside may be effective on the stage, this device is overused in films and is usually ineffective because a character who is not supposed to be hearing the aside will often appear in the same shot.

*Rachael Oniga

Film approximates reality, but when the director ignored the fake and unconvincing slap administered by Judith in Dangerous Sisters II, the situation becomes absurd. In Egg of Life, an uncle who wants to discipline his niece searches furiously for a cane but ends up using an available cocoyam leaf — not believable! The "box-set" setting may be appropriate on stage, but the movie director should handle this with care or the audience will sit watching a stage on screen (see Egg of Life and We are One [2004]). Anini (2005), a film in pidgin English that moves with lightning speed from beginning to the end, uses inner monologues that backfire in places, such as armed robber Anini's preachy confession. Worse still, when the gang of robbers meets in a bar, their table is littered with several bottles of Guider, stout, and Star beer, yet not one of them takes a sip throughout the scene, and none of them are drunk. 

In Ojiofor Anyanchie's True Love (2000), two men are fighting for the love of a girl (Onwu), and the more powerful of the two (Chike) throws the other (Paul) into a pit. After some days, the girl discovers Paul, whom she prefers, and tries to pull him out of the pit. She is searching for a ladder when, suddenly, the lover in the pit tells her he has a rope. How did he obtain the rope? Deus ex machina! These are lapses that a superior director ought to have taken care of either during shooting or editing. As suggested earlier, part of the problem is inadequate training.
In recognition of the personnel problems in the film industry, the Nigerian Film Corporation (NFC), in cooperation with the Federal Ministry of Information and National Orientation, the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Coteborg Film Festival Fund, Kodak, Nordisk Film, and Fuji Film, organized a workshop at the National Film Institute (NFI), Jos, in July 2006 to address professional issues concerning the film industry. Experienced facilitators were brought in from Norway, Denmark, South Africa, and France because, according to Nweke, “The only guarantee for sustained optimal performance by any group of professionals including movie practitioners is through constant training and re-training, to enhance in true professionalism effective skills, and efficiency, and to keep abreast of developments within a very dynamic industry. Qualitative productions are not an accident. They are the products of hard work, training and constant exposure,” (qtd. in lyanda E1)

Participants from the public and private sectors attended the workshop, but unfortunately, "the so-called big names in Nollywood stayed away because quite a number of them abhor training" (lyanda E2).

*Entrepreneurial Monopoly and Managerial Challenges

In Nigeria, filmmaking is mainly in the hands of private entrepreneurs with no training in film production. Ideally, filmmakers should strive for excellence. Their interest should not be limited to making a profit. They should be cultural activists — people who love art for art's sake. Unfortunately, an artist is under the control of the individuals holding the purse strings. They control the quality of the production by dictating the shooting schedule. To cut costs, video films are produced in a "fast-food style," and the result is mass production, several films per week — a sure route to mediocrity.

This excerpt from an interview between writer-journalist Ugochukwu Ejinkeonye  and Sam Kargbo, a lawyer-turned-movie-producer (Blood Diamonds [2004]), illustrates how not to be a producer:

SAM KARGBO: I have my preferences for artists. That was why people like T. J. Cole, Mike Nliam, and Abay Esho of Safari could convince me to invest in movies. To cut cost and perhaps to simplify matters, I decided to write the first story [Blood Diamonds] I was to shoot. I wrote the screenplay and Teco Benson, who directed it for me, gave it to one Bat Hills, a banker to edit, and he did it overnight.

 UGOCHUKWU EJINKEONYE: Were you involved in selecting the cast? The character of Don Carlos is excellent, and several others too; but most people wouldn't be able to say that about a few others, especially, Shan George, who acted Vera.

*Sam Kargbo

SAM KARGO: I was the one that hired the lead cast, but it was Teco Benson that assigned the roles to them. For instance, T. J. Cole was to play the role of Don Carlos, but Teco, as director, thought that the role fitted Desmond better. … As you have observed, Teco was right. I do not want to fault your reservations about Shan George, but I believe that she did wonderfully well. I know your stand on morals, but mind you, she was just acting a role scripted for her….

UGOCHUKWU EJINKEONYE: I am not referring to any moral preferences here. I watched the film with a colleague, who also is a director and producer. We both thought some measure of sprightliness was required for a character undertaking such a hazardous expedition, to endear her to the audience. But Ms. George simply refused to shine.                 
*Ugochukwu Ejinkeonye 

SAM KARGBO: Of course, there were others in the industry that could have played the role, but she is part of our circle and we felt that she could do well and we still feel that we did the right thing. You may not fancy our take on her, but I still insist that she did well….

UGOCHUKWU EJINKEONYE: Will it be possible to rescue the industry from the hands of the powerful, but barely literate, marketers dictating the tune and pace there today?

SAM KARGBO: The industry the world over is not for the acadas (educated people).

This exchange says it all: the sponsor writes the script, selects the cast, and hires the producer, while a banker edits the script overnight. The sponsor also strongly believes that the industry is not for educated people who are financially "incapable" of contributing to the process. This approach to creativity constitutes what Peter Brook calls "The Deadly Theater" (11-46). Being a financier does not make a person an artistic director in the film industry. Films made by incompetent hands will always be different from films made by professionals like Tunde Kelani, a trained filmographer (Brass Jingle Bells [1999] and The Gong of Taboo [2000]) and Eddie Ugbomah, erstwhile director of the Nigerian Film Corporation (Black Gold [2006] and The Rise and Fall of Dr. Oyenusi [1977]).

Another major obstacle faced by the industry is the lack of collaboration with other stakeholders and cooperation among the producers. To start with, the industry in Nigeria, unlike Australia and New Zealand, does not work in partnership with or receive financial support from the federal government. The film industry in Nigeria should be tapping into the creative minds in the country's universities and the Association of Nigerian Authors (ANA). As Ekwuazi points out, creative collaboration between the industry and the Nigerian literary community obviously went away with celluloid (Akubuiro). Television stations should be reliable partners of the video industry, but when they are approached for advertisements, they insist on holding onto the broadcasting rights of the film being produced.

The burgeoning industry, like Nigerian politics, is lately becoming regionalized and is beginning to show signs of sectarianism. Besides English and pidgin-English films, 836 Yoruba-language movies have been produced; forty-four Ibo-language films, four Hausa films, five Edo movies, one Itsekiri movie, and one Isoko were produced between 1995 and 2000 (Akpabio 134). The Ibibio minority group has recently joined the race with the Magnetic Lynks Production of Usen Ikpe (2006) and Emem Isong and Rob Emeka's production of Mfana Ibagha I and II (2006). There is nothing wrong with celebrating ethnic cultures and concerns in the films, but the industry is beginning to show signs of regionalism. In Kano, Northern movie-makers are likely to disassociate themselves from Nollywood. In fact, they have coined for themselves another Hollywood-derived name, "Kanywood." Instead of pulling resources together, the producers pull apart and point fingers at each other. 

For example, moviemakers from the North have accused filmmakers from the South of sexual immorality and indecency in their productions. Vernacular films are welcome, but they should not promote regional tensions. Before this polarity set in, Kenneth Nnebue, though of Ibo origin, started his career as a filmmaker with the production of Yoruba-language videos, Ina Ote (1990) is a notable example.

*Ngozi Ezeonu

Some critics have frowned at the Hollywood-inspired Nollywood because the name, which is associated with Nick Moran, a BBC correspondent, implies film on the fringes, "Third World cinema," "the poor cousin of Hollywood." Without belaboring this point, we agree with Haynes that there is no need to politicize the name ("Hollywood"). After all, Nigeria itself was coined during the colonial times by a foreigner, Flora Shaw, Lord Lugard's paramour, and nobody has raised an eyebrow since. What requires greater attention is the problem of piracy, which has become a menace that has eaten deep into the industry and may grind it to a halt (Dike). With CD writers and other copying devices available in electronic shops, the pirates flood the local market with inferior and cheaper versions of the movies, cutting the shop's price by as much as 30 percent. 

The films normally sell for about $15.99 for a DVD and $10 for a videotape, while the pirated versions sell for as little as $4 each (Ajiboye, "American"). Video parlors buy videos and rent them to clients without consultation or alliance with the producers. Piracy and monopoly from financiers rob the producers and artists of their financial rewards. The Nigerian Copyright Commission has introduced what it calls "Strategic Action Against Piracy" (STRAP) to protect the films against copyright infringements. To wage a successful war against piracy, the government must educate the public about this notorious practice. So far, the message about piracy and its effect has been top-down, but experience has shown that in modern communication development, rural people must be removed from the passive periphery and placed in the center of the communication process. When the people are included in the decision making, they will feel more committed to the project and treat it as their own.

*Recommendations and Conclusion

These criticisms of the industry should be seen as contributions to its growth, not as exercises in fault finding. Good artists grow from criticism because a good critic is a chaperon of the arts. Our intention is to constructively push serious, committed filmmakers to reach the international scene, but we may also be seen as "constructively destructive," as we would like to see the loafing producers and other detractors abandon the trade. Nigeria's video film industry has great potential and it has come to stay. The initiative is a big lesson to other African countries because it demonstrates that a successful film need not have a huge budget. The industry has added an item to the development of the economy and has placed the name of Nigeria on the entertainment map.

Today, filmmaking employs about a million people in Nigeria, split equally between production and distribution, making it the country's biggest employer after agriculture. … The industry has sales of $200m-300m a year…. So far, the industry has grown with little or no help from Nigerian government. (Okafor) 

*Nkem Owoh

For the industry to continue to wax stronger and make an indelible mark on the competitive global market, it needs to devote its energy to improving its productions. Film producers should not rest complacently, believing they have reached the top; much work needs to be done to elevate the industry to international standard.

However, many believe that Nigeria, with a population of approximately 131,530,000, can sustain a film industry without recourse to external markets; since that population accepts the films in their present standard, why improve? This position seems to be a defense mechanism, and it is myopic in a global economy. Filmmakers should not delude themselves and settle for what is inferior. To deny the audience what is best because it cannot differentiate the classic from the pedestrian is a disservice to the community. Film producers, like critics, should assist the local audience in the cultivation of artistic taste. Films should not stifle but elevate the mentality of the audience, should take it off familiar grounds to new terrains of experience.

The industry must provide constant training and workshops for its employees to keep them abreast of developments in the field. Attention should shift from commonplace, stereotypical themes to adaptations of classic literary works that are readily available in Africa. So far, attempts have been made to adapt for film Chinua Achebe's Things Fall Apart and Festus lyayi's Violence. Finally, frantic moves have been made to secure government sponsorship for the film industry on the grounds that Australia, New Zealand, and India, among others, sponsor their film industries. Difficult as it may be, however, the Nigerian film industry must resist the temptation of government sponsorship. If government ventures were truly reliable, so many of them would not have privatized.

Besides, government sponsorship of the film industry will lead to high-handed censorship and curtailments of the prevailing freedom of expression (already in existence is the National Film and Video Censors Board). Reputable companies and multinational corporations may be approached for sponsorship and many of them are willing to assist. The Nigerian Film Corporation, in partnership with Sithengi Film Forum, South Africa, is working on plans to get Nigerian filmmakers to meet financiers and international sales agents and engage in co-production projects that will enhance quality, competitiveness, and sustainability.
Patrick Ebewo is a Professor & Head, Department of Drama & Film, Faculty of the Arts, Tshwane University of Technology, Pretoria, South Africa (http://www.tut.ac.za/). He is the author of  Barbs: A Study of Satire in the Plays of Wole Soyinka (2002) 


1. See Peace Fiberesima's La Viva (2006), a film first exhibited at the 2nd Abuja International Film Festival, which deals with "love and hatred among ECOMOG soldiers in Liberia."

2. Kenneth Nnebue's Living in Bondage (1993) dramatizes the fate of people who pawn their souls to the devil. Similarly, Sunny Collins's Billionaires Club I and II (2003) focuses on greedy people who engage in ritual killings. Alex Omagbio's Dangerous Sisters I and II (2004) is the story of rivalry and jealousy among blood relations.

3. While we may generally praise the costumes and makeup used in the home video, there seems to be a little problem with the latter. In Butterfly (2003), a love story, one of the characters, Chelsea (Genevieve Nnaji), is sick in bed but heavily made up. Is this realistic? In Egg of Life, a beautiful young girl is supposed to be a minor living with her uncle in the village, but her makeup rivals that of Marilyn Monroe, thus betraying her real age. This becomes even more absurd when the girl misbehaves and, still wearing her heavy makeup, is chased around the compound, caught, and flogged by the uncle.

PHOTO (COLOR): Photo 1. Root of Evil: Women and money are the roots of all evil.

PHOTO (COLOR): Photo 2: Anini (2005): the exploits of the notorious bank robber whose gang terrorized Benin City.

PHOTO (COLOR): Photo 3: Usen Ikpe [Judgment Day] (2006): a woman is falsely accused of her husband's death.

PHOTO (COLOR): Photo 4: Mfana Ibagha [No Trouble](2006): Traditional wives of a chief threaten the life of his male heir, born to a maid.


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Ajiboye, David. "American Varsity Shows Interest in Nollywood." Nigerian Tribune Online 16 Aug. 2006. 12 Dec. 2006 <http://www.tribune.com.ng/16082006/enter.html>.
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First published in the Journal of Film &Video (California), 2007

Ebewo, Patrick J. “The Emerging Video Film Industry in Nigeria: Challenges and Prospects,” Journal of Video and Film, Vol. 59, No. 3. Los Angeles, California: (Fall 2007): pp. 46-57. 
*The author's consent for the republication of this piece here has been obtained...

Open Looting Of Nigeria By Nigerian Lawmakers

Salary Of Nigerian Lawmakers – Incredible!

Do You Know That A Senator In Nigeria Earns - N29, 479,749. 00 Per Year And They Still Want More!
Who says politics doesn't pay in Nigeria? Not me.
Check the frivolous breakdown out.
 You can't but laugh in pity.


The National Assembly In Session


Basic Salary - N2, 484, 245.50.
Hardship Allowance @ 50% of Basic Salary - N1,242,122.70 (I love this kind of hardship)
Constituency Allowance @ 200% of BS - N4,968,509.00
Furniture Allowance @ 300% of BS - N7,452,736.50
Newspaper Allowance @ 50% - N1,242,122.70 (Which kind newspaper be this,  shey na online or hard copy?).

Wardrobe Allowance @ 25% - N621, 061.37
Recess Allowance@ 10%: - N248, 424.55
Accommodation @ 200% - N4, 968,509.00.
Utilities @ 30% - N828, 081.83.
Domestic Staff @ 35% - N863, 184.12.
Entertainment @ 30% - N828, 081.83.
Personal Assistance @ 25% - N621, 061.37.
Vehicle Maintenance Allowance @ 75% - N1, 863,184.12.
Leave Allowance @10% - N248, 424.55.

One Off Payments (As Advised by Sagamite Severance Gratuity) @ 300% - N7, 452,736.50 (Once they get fired.)
Motor Vehicle Allowance @ 400% of BS - N9, 936,982.00 - Every Four Years

Senator’s Salary Per Month. - N2, 456,647.7

Total = N29, 479, 749.00

* 109 Senators Grand Total = N 3,264,329,264. 10
A feeding frenzy!!!


Salary U.S. President: $250,000/yr.
GDP U.S. Economy: $13Trillion/ yr.
Allowance Nig. Senator: $1,500,000/yr
GDP Nig. Economy: $45 Billion/yr.

And They Want More!! Doctors, Teachers, Civil Servants Can't Boast Of N1m A Year And These Guys Want N30m Every Month


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