A scene from a Nollywood film
By Yinka Olatunbosun
Nigeria and Nollywood are strange bed-fellows. Perhaps, not so strange since Nollywood is a product of the Nigerian media content. It only follows that a multitude of genetic traits travel from mother Nigeria through the cinematic veins of Nollywood.
Some of the traits include scarcity amidst plenty, shattering the solid foundation laid by predecessors, celebrating mediocrity with emphasis on quantity rather than quality and many more.
Nollywood, like Nigeria, has an abundance of human resources. The human resources spread across the key areas of film specialisation such as acting, editing, scriptwriting and film exhibitions.
True, Nigeria can boast of fantastic actors as much as they can. Such boasts will be instantly silenced when their foreign counterparts show them that acting is not limited to screaming and shouting.
Every actor needs to learn some complementary skills such as driving, swimming, running, singing, and dancing. Sometimes, skill acquisition depends on the role an actor gets. But in truth, Nollywood is yet to experience a challenging scriptwriter that would create challenging roles.
Recently, though, Nollywood actress Uche Jombo starred in a Yoruba video where she drove a ferry. It is quite a commendable feat in that Uche had to break free from her English tongue to speak in Yoruba, which she is not so articulate in.
Also, driving the ferry was a whole new experience for her since she had to move at a very fast pace, running away from the long arm of the law. An enabling script made such possible for Uche Jombo.
It is indeed an ironical Nigerian configuration that where there is plenty resides scarcity. Nigeria is the nation that produced the most respected African dramatist who won the 1986 Nobel Prize in literature.
To buttress the point: type Wole Soyinka in the google search box and what the search results will not be less than 94,600. No doubt the most sought-after literary legend, Soyinka still retains an office as a professor of Drama at Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife.
Whether Soyinka stills retains his artistic position as an agent of change in the dramatic sphere is a topic that can spark uncontrollable outrage from his literary loyalists.
For Nollywood to make a remarkable development by the world’s standards, the scriptwriting scenario has to be populated with serious-minded writers with deep thinking faculties imbued with the drive to rebuild.
We can easily spot such qualities in the likes of Wole Soyinka, Femi Osofisan, J.P. Clark, Duro Ladipo, Ola Rotimi and others with the similar spirit of patriotism. That spirit should not be so astronomical that it envelopes the time that should be expended in writing drama scripts.
In fact, the works of our playwrights can be read and reworked in screenplays. After all, a child learns first by imitation. Nollywood needs to see its scriptwriting as its most provocative deficiency which has become every Nollywood critic’s subject of criticism.
A departure from status quo is long overdue in the proliferation of Nollywood videos in the film market. According to the latest United Nation’s report, “The cinema of Nigeria grew quickly in the 1990s and 2000s to become the second largest film industry in the world in terms of number of annual film productions, placing it ahead of the United States and behind the Indian film industry.”
Nollywood is estimated to be a $500-million industry even without the aid of government. That is not a cause for applause. The quality of the movies produced is relatively poor with the odds of poor funding and effects of the failed power sector.
Still, a lot can change if the Nigerian government can explore the movie industry with the same zest incurred in the nation’s oil exploration. Let Nigeria call it Nollywood Project. It will be a melting pot of talents drawn from the streets, the academia and the diaspora.
What will be the unifying factor is the will to make a change. Every class of talent must have a substantial contribution to this network of change. The Nigerian screen awaits a renaissance of the comedy industry that the legendary King of Nigerian Comedy Moses Olaiya a.k.a. Baba Sala initiated.
It is a type of comedy that is devoid of the use of debased language that is now popular in the contemporary works of our new generation of comedians. Imagine how a movie scene where a new generation actor like Bayo Bankole, assumes the role of Baba Sala.
Moses Olaiya can also get royalties from the sale of his patent rights of his “Baba Sala” character to moviemakers and even advertising agencies who may find his artistic creation handy. That is a better prospect for a Nollywood artiste to anticipate rather than placing such great innovators on monthly stipends to mollify the pain of their impoverished later years in life.
Nollywood has a great potential of ending some of the major problems plaguing the Nigerian populace. One of such is unemployment.
Some Nollywood stars have established art foundations to train and develop new talents for the industry. Still, the government can move a step further, revisiting the syllabi of tertiary institutions where drama, theatre and performing arts are taught as courses.
Emphasis should be laid on making graduates of these courses entrepreneurs who will in turn decongest the labour market upon their graduation. This can be done where materials, equipments and facilities for learning are lifted from the glossy pages of the recommended foreign textbooks to the workshop and studio where they belong.
More schools of art that would be practical-oriented should be created for such purposeful learning. Ballet and music lessons, arts and crafts, make up, costume designs and management and other lucrative aspects of the industry can be included.
The Nigerian government needs to zoom-in on all these areas in the Nollywood industry, making provisions for outstanding talents to acquire sophisticated equipments on lease or by government aid and grants.
Organising special nationwide arts talent competitions can also heighten creativity. Winners can be given the opportunity to train abroad in their areas of specialisation and bring home the honour that the world number two movie industry really deserves.
The point is education is a vital key to developing Nollywood to an acceptable standard. That is the Nollywood project.