Taking a Second Look at Nigeria’s Entertainment Industry
2/26/2012 5:37:31 PM -
From posh terraces to intricate slums, posters of low-voltage flicks are plastered on walls, bill boards and every other space available.
Since Nollywood, the Nigerian competing equivalent of Hollywood debuted with Living in Bondage in 1992 local film enthusiasts have been inundated with a legion of films. The recurring lacklustre of the Hollywood-style pizzazz by the Nollywood lot, has also been a major let down.
The high-volume production of these videos has seen film premieres to the gallows and heightened possibilities of alarming piracy with equal gusto, just as the movies, produced and released on a daily basis, have earned the industry the number two slot on the list of the biggest movie spinners in the world (only behind India's Bollywood).
The cast of a movie can be assembled in a matter of weeks. The production crew, costumiers and other departments can come in a jiffy and the lights would click away, reeling out a movie for Iweka Road, Alaba International, and other movie markets in the country.
Though the movie industry has gained applause with productions like 'Living in Bondage' by Kenneth Nnebue, 'Magun' and 'Maami' by Tunde Kelani(the latter scheduled for release this month) and other films produced by, Amaka Igwe and Jeta Amata, the many afflictions of the film business in the nation remain palpable.
Nollywood has assumed a vertical growth since the 50s. But there is no auteur (producer with grasp) in sight, and the bulk of the directors, producers and cast lack the intelligence and imagination to ad lib or improvise.
Flashes of thespian propriety have come from relatively accomplished actors like Stephanie Okereke, Jeta Amata and few others, but a lot remains undone.
Popular actor and theatre teacher, Dr. Sola Fasudo has criticised the industry as being all about money and not quality.
'Home movie in Nigeria has been bastardised. They produce movies every week, which is not supposed to be. They have turned it to money making business. And because of their selfish means of trying to make money, they feel they can keep producing more films so that they can make enough money, but they have made people give us all sorts of names abroad. We don't know where we are going in this country', he lamented.
The old theater warlock added that: 'The problem is that people are not ready to learn, so someone would just wake up one morning and say he wants to be an actor. Then the next step is for him to look for where they are doing audition and attend'.
According to him, 'Even if you have the talent, you still have to go and learn it. You need to go to school, because you need to put some finishing touches to the talent to make it more solid'.
The trained actor, says he prefers 'being in soap operas, because that is where you can breed yourself to be a good actor, not all those road side people they put in films and start calling themselves actors'.
The failure of a typical Nollywood flick starts from the costume and permeates the entire production.
Lighting as a theatre or drama technique is yet to be mastered by the production cadre of the industry. The same goes for interpretation of scripts, speech, body manipulation, improvisation and adaptation.
Most Nollywood directors and producers cannot interpret scripts. They even make shoddier jobs of adapting a novel or play, except in cases where such works were handled or supervised by masters like Prof. Femi Osofisan, a playwright and foremost dramatist.
Tunde Kelani, one of the very few good heads thriving in the Yoruba film genre, has for example made a great service to Osofisan's 'Maami', which is on the verge of release in theatres. But such good productions are too few in the industry for comfort.
A movie on Aba Women Protest of 1929 is a good example of how shoddy Nigerian producers can be. The setting was that of 1970s South-eastern Nigeria, the costume was the costume of the 90s and every other thing else in the movie did not reflect 1929.
The diachronic adaptations of thousands of scripts for Nigerian movies have failed flat on their faces. Epic movies, evade historical essence and substance for drama and voodoo.
The 1990s Amadioha, an Igbo epic movie, was a breakthrough on action, suspense and aesthetics, but a befitting and thorough-going narrative of the story of the Igbo legendary warrior and deity of thunder was virtually missing.
In modern theatre productions the adaptation of novels, stories or plays goes for accuracy as best as it can get. In cases where accuracy is not achieved in that sense, the producer must conscientiously and intelligently review the narrative, not to distort certain diachronic essentials, but to achieve a desirable purpose for the audience.
The Gladiator (2000), a multiple award-winning movie by Ridley Scott and The Fall of the Roman Empire are examples of purposefully embellished movie adaptations.
Both movies adopt the plot that Marcus Aurelius, who ruled Rome from 161AD to 180AD was murdered by his son on revealing that his succession will go to Maximus, a general in the Army.
Besides the purposeful adaptive twist in the fate of the historical Emperor Aurelius, the costumes, dialogue, action are accurate and in tune with the era in which the Emperor and his beguiling adoptive General-son, Maximus reigned.
After more than 50 years of Theatre in Nigeria, just a handful of mainstream movie productions have been able to meet the basic requirements for adaptations.
There are even fewer cases of these productions improvising in the expert mode of Late Professor Sonny Oti's The Pioneers (1976).
In too many Nigerian cases, that style of adaptation is not common. Not even the basic rules for adaptation are there.
A few adaptive works have managed to breast the tape. One of a few of such is the British-Nigerian movie co-directed by Jeta Amata.
The movie, which is based on the slave exploits of the British in Nigeria, managed to garner its modest success, because of the directorial prowess and thoroughness of Amata and a horde of other thoroughly professional production crew.
Even low-budget flicks have had run-away successes. Nollywood may be bigger than Hollywood and Bollywood put together, but may still be derided by the bigger part of the film world that is a stickler for details, quality and meaningful growth.
The vain flattery around town that Nollywood is the fastest-growing movie industry in the world, only next to Bollywood, is not helpful. The traders and businessmen in garbs of movie directors, producers, script writers and actors, must lean back and come up with better ideas.
Some estimates have it that Nollywood is worth $6billion every year. Other 'Woods' have no such ready annual estimates. But I guess that is not what matters to them.
Another problem with the Nigerian film industry is that of a lack of talent synergy.
The Yoruba genre of Nollywood as a matter of fact, has more talented directors and in most cases actors; it does not, however wash them clean of occasional dismal showing.
But the Nollywood mainstream largely controlled by the Igbo-Niger Delta axis is worse. Besides lacking in good actors and good producers, it has chosen, as if out of spite, some sort of contrived airs of competence.
There is the Kannywood variant, taken from Kano State of Nigeria that is worrisomely base and dismal.
Their jarring mimicry of Bollywood in Kannywood, goes as far as wholesale copying of the culture of the Asian film sector. The whole kannywood ouvre is buried in Indian ways from choreography to song.
The ignorant disconnect is that: The art of choreography, besides it being alien to the culture of the Habe(Hausawa), or to be specific the Kanawa(the peoples of Kano), cannot take that form in Nigerian theatre setting. Of all film industry variants in Nigeria, Kannywood is the worst.
Low-budgeting is not quite the problem. Many good directors have made good films with little budgets.
Another sour point in the Nigerian film business is dialogue. Here, actors besides being terrible in speech rendition do not believe that a speech should tally the occasion or the era in which the movie is baseddiachronic adaptation in the film business, means adapting to time, culture and speech of the era in which a particular project is based..
If the speech pattern, diction or vocabulary of a cast in a movie that seeks to adopt a story set in 1960 reflects the vocabulary of the 21st century Nigeria, then the director would have failed.
The music industry in comparison to the movie industry has however, made a lot of progress.
Almost all music genres in Nigeria, have achieved international acclaim. The Nigerian music industry has been rated as having one of the most advanced recording technologies in the world.
Composers of different genres, from Apala, Afro Juju, Fuji, Swange and the various genres across Nigeria have hit gold with high international accolades and ratings.
The music industry has even produced a three-time Grammy nominee, Femi Kuti. His father, Fela Kuti was one of Africa's greatest music exports. The music production cadre also boasts of production companies like Chocolate City.
Chocolate City is the first Nigerian music company to attain a global music award and recognition by the British Council in 2007. Its founder and Chief Executive Officer, Audu Maikori won the international music Entrepreneur of the Year award the same year.
Reuters international later produced a documentary on the success of Chocolate City titled: 'Music and Money', in recognition of the company's contribution to the development of the Nigerian music industry. One of the rappers on Chocolate label later represented Nigeria on a tour of the United Kingdom and Africa from 2007-2008.
Tuface Idibia remains one of the best ever in Africa with several hits and awards on his belt.
Another music production company that has gained recognition globally is Kennis Music, and Mo'Hits records that is now collaborating with G.O.O.D Music owned by Kanye West.
The development of the two has not been even. In the 1960s , while the Theatre industry with its different genres, or strictly speaking the drama industry was trying to pick up, the likes of Rex Lawson, a Highlife maestro in the Niger Delta and later the likes of Fela were firmly on the international stage.
Theatre exports from Nigeria that managed a global stage came from Prof. Wole Soyinka and very few others like the Late Prof. Ola Rotimi.
The music industry outperforms all genres of theatre in Nigeria put together in terms of international rating.
The music industry, unlike its sister film industry has aimed at inventing and multiplying genres of music, as opposed to aping foreign counterparts. Since 1930s, each region or ethnic group has continued to give birth to a multiple of music types that have made great impact in their individual rights.
In cases where foreign genres were adopted, the music industry players have managed to infuse such genres with local derivatives and given them new aural effects.
Besides being very high on rhythm to match the digital tradition of the 21st Century, recent Nigerian music has also played great roles in exporting different Nigerian slang or versions of the English language to the global stage.