The Midweek Read: Nollywood Takes Center Stage in Africa

By: Danielle Taylor

Nollywood: the Nigerian movie industry

Its name would imply that Nigerian films are equally robust in regards to technology and multimillion dollar production budgets. While it is well on its way to getting there, for now, Nigerian films tend to be low budget (estimates range from $10,000 to $100,000 per film), often shot on home cameras in approximately one week, and are quickly churned out for mass consumption via DVDs. Despite these characteristics, these highly entertaining, melodramatic, and culturally relevant films are eagerly consumed by the public both at home and abroad.

While they may not appeal to American tastes, Nollywood provides a very unique pleasure to those Nigerian consumers around the world searching for culturally relevant entertainment, a quality Western films simply cannot provide. They highlight the difficulty many Nigerians face, such as transitioning into a technologically advanced and global society, struggling to leave behind traditional beliefs and fully embrace Christianity, and overcoming conflicts between expatriates and locals. The Pidgin English often used in these films is also a unifying feature, making them distinctly Nigerian without isolating any of the many traditional language groups in the country.

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Reach and Impact

Nollywood’s influence across Africa and in all regions of the diaspora is exceptional. Sky, Afrinolly, Odeon, and iRokotv, among others, all cater to those expatriates and Nollywood lovers seeking access to Nigerian films through online streaming. In fact, it is difficult to travel anywhere on the African continent and not find a Nigerian film playing in an airport, a hotel, or in homes. While they have mixed receptions in other countries, there is enough support for them that they draw record sales, greatly outweighing the influence of the higher quality (in terms of production) American or European films.

All of this success is not going unnoticed by film industries in the West. In demonstrating their unique take on film and working to improve the quality of the productions, Nollywood has been successful in capturing the attention of the international film community, even gaining consideration by the prestigious Oscar’s Foreign Language Film Award.

This sustained, high volume level of production and consumption of Nigerian films begs the question of the financial impact of Nollywood on the Nigerian economy. The Association of Movie Producers in Nigeria has estimated that Nollywood, now the third largest movie production industry in the world, has created approximately 20 million jobs in the past two decades, primarily benefitting the nation’s youth, a population that has long suffered from a lack of domestic job opportunities. This would make it the second largest employing industry in Nigeria by some accounts. The jury is still out on other measures of Nollywood’s economic impact and longevity, but the potential for dramatic and sustained success is undeniable.