By Kate Henshaw
Notwithstanding the origin of the name which sounds like a hand-me-down from the western world but it has grown in the consciousness of Nigerians here, in the Diaspora and the world as a whole. It is a name that has stuck and it is here to stay whether we like it or not.
Many are wont to criticise and sling mud at this vibrant industry but it has proven its resilience despite naysayers. It has stood the test of time. It is a rolling stone that gathers no moss. 2013 marks the 20th year since I have been a part of Nollywood.
As a young lady, I watched movies like Nneka, The Pretty Serpent and Living in Bondage to mention a few with no idea that I would be part of an industry that would become a force to be reckoned with. My journey started in 1993, when I had a chance meeting with a young man whom I starred with in a musical video, titled JOKES APART for a guy named Tom Freckles. We struck up a friendship and back then when there were no mobile phones, we somehow kept in touch and one day, he invited me to attend an audition for a movie production around Mile 2 bus stop.
I had no idea what an audition meant; I was a final year Microbiology student at LUTH, Idi-Araba. I attended the audition out of inquisitiveness and was shortlisted after many callbacks and finally that landed me the lead role in the movie: WHEN THE SUN SETS. The name of the young man was J.T.Tom West. He has since passed on and I will forever be grateful and indebted to him for the chance encounter.
“When the global economy experienced a dip which resulted in global financial crises in 2008, figures from the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) showed that world export of creative goods grew at an annual average of 14% between 2002-2008, reaching a peak, of $592billion in 2008. So while the economy of most countries burned, people were watching movies”— Nseobong Okon-Ekong.
People found an avenue of release, a place of solace, a world to disappear into while the turmoil raged in the financial sector. The stone which the builders rejected became the chief cornerstone. Those who otherwise did not think the movie industry did not stand a chance, were hooked. Nigeria carried the torch for film-making in Africa with film releases in English and the 3 major languages of the nation. Its actors became icons across the continent and if you claimed to be Nigerian and had travelled to another country, you were asked if you knew “Aki and Paw Paw” for example and if your response was negative; your nationality was brought into question.
Nollywood has been and continues to be a huge employer of labour (maybe even the 2nd largest in the country) for the youth who otherwise do not have the opportunity for sound education. Young men and women have become versed in both the technical and practical aspects of the industry with spin-offs of reality shows springing from the need to be a part and parcel of this industry.
Internationally recognised awards like the African Movie Academy Awards (AMAA) have rewarded practitioners across the African Continent and beyond for great work thereby spurring them to breathe life into their individual nation’s film industry. Recently at a presidential dinner held at State House, Marina, Lagos, to celebrate the industry at 20, the President unveiled a N3billion package to help turnaround Nollywood. The package to be launched as “Project Nollywood” will include grants for the best film scripts, a capacity development fund and funds for supporting the industry’s infrastructure.
Much as I would like to hang out the buntings and celebrate, I still bear in mind a previous loan of $200million announced by the President in 2010 which has been plagued by complaints of inaccessibility by stakeholders in the same industry it was created for. It is a laudable announcement but the implementation gives me cause for concern.
How about the passing of a bill that will sanitise the film industry, make accessible locations that are needed for a film shoot or the provision of tax relief for film makers who majorly are funding from their pockets? How about zero tolerance for piracy? How about a proper and fully equipped film village? Apart from TINAPA which is fully equipped and functional, there are very limited places for a proper film production hence the use of people’s homes who are kind hearted enough to let us in.
I have read many articles that say that Nollywood should inspire more, should focus on the political, economical and social sector , that inspiring story lines should be drawn from our daily living. I agree and that is being done — a good example is a movie titled: THE MEETING, even though not every film maker will tow that line.
Some will go the commercial route depicting sex and scantily clad ladies in their movies which by the way still flies off the shelves once they are released as hypocritical as we are and the truth is that every Nigerian and not just Nollywood should be inspired… from the leadership to the citizenry. I say thank you to Mr President while at the same time encouraging frugal use of the funds promised and that its effect be felt indeed.