Nollywood: Sold-Out Culture And Other Stories – Noble Igwe

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Nollywood: Sold-Out Culture & Other Stories – Noble Igwe

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It took a while to decide if I was going to write this article or just shelf it. I’m not certain why I had thought it belonged on the shelf but a recent conversation with O.C Ukeje and Seyi Babatope at the waiting room of Accelerate TV helped me make up my mind.

This piece was written by Noble Igwe. The views and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of 360Nobs.com.

I do not think that I am an old man, but I belong to the privileged few who saw “Living in Bondage” when it graced the shelves of many homes and movie rental centres. To many of us, it is the benchmark for many Nigerian movies years after. It could be argued that Nollywood has produced other movies better than ‘Living in bondage’, but you cannot deny, that it came out at a time when cinema culture was non-existent in Nigeria, and till date I dare say no Nigerian movie has been able to have the same impact.

Yhup, Sue me.

Perhaps I feel this way because it sits as one of the very first decent works in Nollywood, it was well told and perfectly played out.

Nollywood: Sold-Out Culture & Other Stories - Noble Igwe
African movies that come out of Nigeria and Ghana are the craze these days. The movies, which have soap-opera type themes are particularly popular among South Florida Caribbean’s population. (Michael Laughlin/South Florida Sun-Sentinel/MCT)

In those days, movies were sold on VCRs, and they were subsequently followed by the sleeker versions, VCDs. But with piracy and illegal video clubs on every street of Aba and Onitsha, it was almost impossible for movie makers to make any money and there was dire need for a more structured system. Movie producers needed to recoup money on their investment.

Thus modern cinema came and that provided an avenue for Nollywood movies to be shown on big screens and reach a wider audience, this new movie distribution system was the magic wand the movie makers needed. They could control movie viewership perfectly. The Cinemas provided movie markers the opportunity to premiere their movies properly with the cast and crew just like its done in most developed parts of the world and also lured non -traditional movie markers to Nollywood and changed the game. With a vibrant social media audience and more cinemas in major cities across Nigeria, Nollywood grew to become a Nigerian export within Africa and the world over.

We went from the Nollywood of Ossy Affason, Emmalex Associate, Kas-Vid international, Nek Video Links, OGD Pictures and OJ International to Adrey Silva, koga Studios, Golden Effects Pictures and Denzoit. New names started popping as producers such as Kunle Afolayan, Mildred Ogwo, Emem Isong, Okey Ezugwu, Tchidi Tchikere and Charles Novia to mention a few started changing the face of Nollywood as storylines gradually changed from ‘Patience Ozokwor poisoning Pete Edochie’s son with the help of Sam Loco so that said son would inherit her husband’s brother’s property’. I hope you didn’t get dizzy reading that because I did while writing that. All our movies had the same story line.

It was a welcome development and cinema goers across Africa embraced Nollywood completely. Then the likes of AY got into the movie business and took it up to a whole new level of extra by assembling star studded crews in ’30 Days in Atlanta’ and his style of movies did not only sell out in cinemas, it also got him a spot in the 2017 Guinness book of records as the movie with the highest gross in the territories of Bollywood, Nollywood and Hollywood. A record he broke with his follow up movie ‘A trip to Jamaica’ and the figures I believe encouraged non-traditional film makers to get involved in Nollywood. Wild right? But Nollywood was just getting warmed up.

Taking a leaf off the AY Productions page, on the 16th of December 2016, Ebonylife films, went to cinema with a star-studded crew of veterans and new actors with ‘The Wedding party’ and till date, the movie can be argued to be the most talked about movie in recent times.

The wedding party 1, packed out movie theaters for months unending, had folks talking and trended on social media for months and as if that wasn’t enough, it brought a movie marriage to reality in the case of Nigerian sweethearts Banky W and Adesuwa Etomi. It became the movie to beat, and birthed a monster.

This unmatched success gave birth to the new set of producers, ‘The Sold-out producers’.

I have continued to observe the newest trend in Nollywood and this is how it works.

  • Take a break from acting
  • Select people on social media with a good number of following
  • Put them in the movie
  • Pay little or no attention to story line (As long as Nigerians see their faves it’s all good right?)
  • Have them sell tickets at the cinema (Fans would be ecstatic for a selfie)
  • Post ‘Sold Out’ on Instagram
  • The End.

We have a new Nollywood out there and if you are paying attention you’ll agree that we have producers posting ‘Sold Out’ for movies that no one is talking about.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that these movies are not sold out, but let’s agree that these movies are sold out only because social media influencers are selling tickets to their fans who are looking for pictures ops with little or no interest in the actual movies.

We have gradually started forgetting the actors we loved without knowing their numbers of followers, most actors are no longer known for their acting or their role in a movie just as most new movies are not interested in a well thought out storyline.

Popular people are suddenly actors, some actors that went to school for this reason are left out not because they are not good enough but only because their number of followers will not generate the required daily ‘Sold Out’ post on social media.

It feels like the cinemas just want to fill up their chairs which I well understand, but I also agree that we can achieve same with good movies and not the recent popular contest going on with movie casting.

It’s almost award season and in a couple of weeks, we would all dress up in our bottom box to argue about why other African countries are winning awards and producing better movies. We need to get back to the drawing board and pay attention to our story lines, hire proper actors, and take away our foot away from the ‘sold out’ pedal.

Selling out is awesome, plus man’s gotta eat right? But we had better be selling out great content while we are at it. ‘Giant of Africa’ no be by number.

This piece was written by Noble Igwe. The views and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of 360Nobs.com.

Photo Credit: Naira Land, Review Naija, Nollywood Re-invented

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