Nigeria’s50th independence celebration yesterday provided a very good platform for Home Video People to recall the journey of Nollywood to what it has become today.
August of 1903
In August of 1903, the first films were reportedly screened in Nigeria. The late nationalist Herbert Macaulay, in association with the Balboa film company of Spain, introduced the new medium to an audience that assembled in Glover Memorial Hall in Lagos.
The screening of the films marked the beginning of the film culture in the country.
Twenty years after his demise, Hubert Ogunde is still celebrated as the doyen of Nigerian theatre. Popular opinion believe that no Nigerian artiste has matched the spirit and ingenuity of Ogunde’s creativity on the stage and in film productions. His famous trilogy, “Aiye, Jaiyesimi and Aropin’N’ Tenia and later featured in “Mr Johnson” to crown his er ov40y years of theatre, drama, film production and acting would not be dumped in the trash can of history.
Before his death, in April, 1990, Ogunde towered over African theatre and film production like a colossus and received many international recognition and awards for his production. It was to his credit that apart from popularising the cinema culture, he also lifted his audience from the theatre to the celluloid.
Ola Balogun, scholar and writer is another pioneer film maker this country produced in the last 50 years. He belongs to the first generation of Nigerian film makers such as the late Chief Hubert Ogunde, Jab Adu, the late Ade Afolayan (Ade Love), Moses Olaiya (Baba Sala) and Eddie Ugboma, to mention just a few.
But having paid his dues in the motion picture industry for over four decades, Balogun discovered his talents in music, as he promptly established Iroko, a musical outfit whose repertoire is rooted in Highlife and which performs at home and abroad to showcase the rich cultural and artistic elements of Nigeria through music.
A pioneer film maker, Eddie Ugbomah’s contributions to the growth of film industry in the country can never be wiped out in the annals of the movie industry.
At the peak of his career, he produced ‘Oyenusi’, a film that highlighted the life Ugbomah has made over 17 films, in his more than four decades’ sojourn in the world of make-believe. He belongs to the generation of Hubert Ogunde and Ola Balogun and has etched his name in the sand of time.
A comic actor, Okpuru Anyanwu was reputed to have led the revolution in the film culture in Nigeria. He was said to have faced difficulties in getting his works shown on the TV stations in Anambra State, and out of frustration, he shot his episodes on video and sold them on a weekly basis to the Igbo speaking people of the east. His videos became very popular and his growing audience eagerly waited with anticipation for the next video, just as one would wait for the next episode of one’s favourite soaps, TV dramas and comedies.
Living in Bondage
The release of this box-office movie in 1992 by NEK Video Links owned by Kenneth Nnebue in the city of Onitsha marked the birth of what is today known as Nollywood. Upon its release, the movie, directed by Chris Obi Rapu and written in conjunction with Okechukwu Ogunjifor, became an instant hit across the nation. Other producers followed suit and as it caught fire, Nollywood emerged.
Osuofia in London
One of the first Nigerian movies to hit international scene was the release of “Osuofia in London’, starring Nkem Owoh, the famous Nigerian comedic actor in 2003. The movie by Chico Ejiro, who directed over 80 films in an 8-year period and brags that he can complete production on a movie in as little as three days, caught fire as it became an instant hit around the world.
“Figurine” produced by Kunle Afolyan is one of the best movies that came out of Nollywood in 2010. The film, which hit the cinema early this year, raised the bar in the industry, carting away five awards during this year’s edition of African Movie Academy Awards(AMAA) to emerge top in Africa. Critics believe it is largely a result of the impeccable audio-visuals and attentive performance by the actors.
Directed and produced by Nigerian film maker Chineze Anyaene, “Ije” premiered in Nigerian cinemas to rave reviews and a sold out box office last two months.The movie stars Nollywood A-list actresses Omotola and Genevieve as well as Nollywood star Clem Ohameze alongside international actors such as Odalys Garcia, Jeff Swarthout and Ulrich Que.
Since its production, the movie shot on 35mm, has already made headway, winning several awards, as well as being nominated and chosen as official selections in many film festivals around the globe. The blockbluster is currently described as a “master piece and the best of all the movies that Nollywood has produced till date”.
African Movie Academy Awards (AMAA)
Founded in 2005, by Peace Anyiam_Osigwe, AMAA in the last five years has helped to raise the profile of African movies across the world. Held annually in Nigeria, the AMAA awards have turned out to become the most prestigious and glamorous African entertainment industry event of its kind on the continent. Evolving from a one day event- televised live – to a diarized annual African event, the AMAA awards are now an established engagement platform for filmmakers, industry professionals and all creative industry stakeholders. The awards are presented to recognize and honour the excellence in professionals in the African film industry, including directors, actors and writers, and to unite the African continent through arts and culture. It is one institution that has added value to the growth of Nollywood and indeed African movie industry.
Globacom Nigeria limited
The quest for private sector involvement in the movie industry became visible last year, when the telecommunication giant, Globacom unveiled its first set of ambassadors with about 10 Nollywood stars becoming the beneficiaries. The stars, including Monalisa Chinda, Jim Iyke, Ini Edo, Rita Dominic, Ramsey Nouah, Funke Akindele,Chioma Chukwuka-Akpota, Uche Jombo and Desmond Elliott were awarded a two-year contract, at a total sum of N500 million. This gesture, by the company was hailed across board as one of the best things that happened to the industry in this 21st century.
For any reason, credit must be given to the Silverbird Group, for its vision of championing the cause of reviving the cinema culture in Nigeria. Almost after the exit of Hubert Ogunde, and with the advent of the home video, the cinema culture journeyed into extinction, creating an existing vacuum that was later to be filled with the establishment of the Silverbird cinemas across the nation few yeas ago. Today, movie producers are embracing the culture of premiering their movies first in the cinemas before putting them on DVD, which is a welcome development in the industry.