Beyond Project Nollywood
AT 20, Nigeria’s home video industry, Nollywood, has assumed enough importance to receive presidential attention. Way before it turned 20; Nollywood had defined Nigeria internationally, through its daily offerings that are seen all over the word.
Its dominance of African satellite television stations has sent Nigerian cultural messages, even if unintended, to many audiences. Criticisms of Nollywood still abound. Its messages are unclear, production is below standards and the stories are often repetitive, and present Nigerians in eerie lights.
Still a lot of credit has to be given to those who have pushed through the crushing barriers to entrepreneurship to establish an industry that receives critical applauses from home and abroad. A lot of work lies ahead for it to be profitable and keep employing the thousands that live on its value chains.
President Goodluck Jonathan’s affinity with Nollywood centred on celebrity endorsements during his 2011 campaign, but he has sustained it by financial support for the industry, first two years ago when he announced a $200 million facility the Bank of Industry managed.
Complaints were rife about the stiff conditions for accessing it. March 4, at Nollywood’s 20th anniversary, the President announced Project Nollywood, which, “will include capacity development fund and funds to support the industry’s infrastructure. The scheme which will be launched in the first week of April (2013) will be managed by the Ministry of Finance in collaboration with the Ministry of Culture and Tourism.” It is a N3 billion facility.
It is heart-warming that the state has taken note of an industry that in the past 20 years has shot to the third place behind United States’ Hollywood and India’s Bollywood. Nigerian movies have captured the fancies of audiences across the Afro-Caribbean continents and the world at large, creating celebrities and giving the world something positive about Nigeria.
Nollywood needs intellectual bearings, the type the Nollywood Centre at the School of Media and Communication of the Pan-African University, Lagos, is providing. The work to be done is so much that collaboration of the various schools offering courses in the performing arts would be required for monumental changes in Nollywood.
A purposeful administration of the fund would improve professionalism, good taste, socio-cultural correctness, scripting, quality, creativeness and depth in issues Nigerian movies treat.
Equally important is the extension of similar facility to arts, music and fashion, the other vital flanks of entertainment, through which Nigeria is gaining universal recognition. They too are bedevilled with issues that are hampering their growth.
If these pieces are sewn together, entertainment could play leading roles in job creation and the positioning of Nigeria as the cultural gateway to Africa and the Black World at large.