Why are Nigerian movies popular?

As the home video industry continues to grow, film-hungry viewers beg
for more, but what is being served up?

Such is the reputation of Nigeria's film industry that it is known as
Nollywood, Nigeria's version of the legendary American home of cinema,

But with money to be made - over $200m in the last decade - critics
say quality has been overlooked. The movies are popular and in terms
of plotlines, they have everything - history, folklore, romance,
betrayal, revenge and murder.

But are these shoestring productions compromising too much on quality?
Do you regularly visit the video kiosk to see if the next release has
arrived? Or do they annoy you? What do you feel about the subject
matter? Would you let young members of the family watch?

This debate has now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.

It helps me feel at home
Iyk Akaji Uzoh, Japan
As a good citizen of Nigeria living in Japan, watching our home movies
is something that I love doing alot, because it helps me feel at home.
Keep it up.
Iyk Akaji Uzoh, Kanagawa, Japan

For me I always prefer quality to quantity. Any Nigerian just wakes up
one day and decides to make a movie! Movies are a passion, dedicate
yourself to it and invest in it and you will get good returns.
Ike Okwuraiwe, Budapest Hungary

Nigerian movies are ok in their story lines, but their production
qualities are bellow zero point, noisy and the pictures are not clear.
Chief Kanu, South Africa

Even though they aim to educate lets not forget producers are in it
to make money too!
Concilia Niyibitanga, Tanzania

I do watch Nigerian movies and I love them because I learn so much
from them. I think we have to watch them bearing two things in mind;
first, nothing is without fault. And secondly, even though they aim to
educate, lets not forget producers are in it to make money too!
Concilia Niyibitanga, Tanzania

People should understand that Hollywood was not built in a day hence
the Nigerian film industry has to start from somewhere. It is
interesting to note how with time Nollywood has become a force to be
reckoned with. As an African, I am proud of the development of the
Nigerian film industry.
Musa, Venatius David, Bauchi, Nigeria

I can hardly recall a good Nigerian movie. Some of these movies spit
on creativity not to mention the poor story lines, acting and camera
shots. Surely, we in the art world should invest more for all round
quality, and no excuses of shoe-string budgets!
Enos, Nairobi, Kenya

I come to work early every day just to have enough time to watch a
Nigerian movie before starting work
Mariama Badji Touray, The Gambia
I only watch Nigerian movies and I love them. I also learn so many
things from them like love and care for husband, daughters and how to
be careful of bad friends. I come to work early every day just to have
enough time to watch a Nigerian movie before starting work. I am
praying to God that one day Nigerian movies will be more.
Mariama Badji Touray, The Gambia

I don't watch them nor do I recommend them, because the producers and
directors do not have well laid out storylines. They tend to glorify
the social decadence in the upper class in Nigeria.
Tunde Odejayi, England

We have to begin somewhere. Comparing what started decades ago with
what has just started is a mismatch. Nollywood films will also come of
age and beat foreign movies. Just wait and see!
Adebowale Adebukola, Nigeria

Nigerian films are horrible, the scripts are empty and poor. They
always copy and remix the title of western hits. And, most of all,
they are too artificial.
Billy Di Angelo, Nigeria

They show too much witchcraft activities and black magic
Martin Mangenda, Zambia
The main problem with Nigerian movies is that they show too much
witchcraft and black magic. I do not think that Africans are like
that. Mind you, these films are watched by children. Their minds get
affected. I have stopped my family from watching them.
Martin Mangenda, Zambia

I think because they relate to our lives we are more prone to love
them compared to western movies. We love reality and they are real to
us, irrespective of their shortcomings.
Osaigbovo Igbinosa, Nigeria

I understand the fact that most people say that Nigerian movies show
too much witchcraft. Well guess what? The last century of most African
societies dwelled on the belief and as a Christian I also relate it as
one of the aspects we deal with.
Michael Joseph, UK

The Nigerian movie industry is another example of the resilience of
the private sector in Nigeria
Kingsley Ezenekwe, Nigeria
The Nigerian movie industry is another example of the resilience of
the private sector in Nigeria. The producers are also working at such
a frenetic pace that there is something in it for everyone. Those that
compare them to Hollywood should be fair, and realise that these are
people that shoot movies on very tight budgets, in very short periods,
and have very little equipment to support them.
Kingsley Ezenekwe, Lagos, Nigeria

I regularly watch Nigerian video films because they are very good as
it brings the African lifestyle to memory. It helps to educate some
African children born outside Africa about their origin. My children
watch some of the films under my guidance. It also helps to educate
foreigners about the lifestyle in Nigeria and Africa without bias,
presenting it as it is.
Bernard, Kent, England

I am an Englishman of Nigerian ancestry and love to watch Nollywood
films as it helps me to understand my parents culture and what my life
would have been like, had they not moved to England.
Kasim Badru, London, UK

What I have observed watching Nigerian Movies is that the actors and
producers are not concerned about how the story impacts on the lives
of the viewers, but how much the production impacts on their pockets,
so quality is compromised.
Fidel Okaba Adie, Bekwarra, Nigeria

Every Nigerian movie has a part two. No story can ever be told
completely in two hours. I think they'll make more money if they
concentrated more on film quality than making a second part to the
Lape, New York City

People crave Nigerian movies, particularly in Ghana, because of the
excellent production work. Unlike Ghana, where movies are made only
for financial gain, our Nigerian counterparts no doubt blend the
African-Nigerian culture with contemporary technology to produce
movies that appeal to the public both home and abroad.
Sylvester Yawson, Accra, Ghana

Nollywood mirrors our African way of life
John Odey Okache, Nigeria
Many good stories from Nollywood are used in African homes to correct
family ills. Nollywood mirrors our African way of life. The industry
has the capacity to improve the quality of the movies. The actors and
producers have tried their best thus far, but they can do better.
John Odey Okache, Abuja, Nigeria

Nigerian movies or EkiNigeria are quite popular. They are watched day
and night in homes, cinema halls, even in churches. Songs have been
composed from these movies like the Common Man in the Bottle. 90% of
the subject matter portray wickedness. Nigerian movies are creepy.
Prossy Nannyombi, Entebbe, Uganda

Personally I do not watch Nigerian movies because many a time they
clash with my Christian beliefs. How do I stand to benefit from such
soap operas that depict witchcraft and other evils? Our own local
production Kabanana is free of spirits and so I watch that one.
Shuttie FN Libuta, Kitwe, Zambia

Although not of the best quality yet, nevertheless they are
entertaining. I really think they are good, otherwise, they would not
be so popular.
L Osagie, Greenbelt, Maryland USA

Nigerian movies are popular in Africa because they identify with
African themes, such as poverty, witchcraft etc. The way a Nigerian
woman behaves in a movie is exactly how a Malawian woman conducts
herself in real life. The movies make it look real.
Pacharo Kayira, Lund, Sweden

The Nigeria movie industry started with good quality, but now because
of the quest for money some producers and directors have started
putting movies on the market that lack that initial quality.
Asonganyi Defang Akuakem, Yaounde, Cameroon

The movies are popular because in the land of the blind, the one-eyed
man is king
Anthony Okosun, USA
Nigerian movies are over glorified amateur drama sessions poorly
captured in celluloid. The movies are seriously lacking in technical
depth. The sound and picture qualities are of less than average
quality. The movies are popular because in the land of the blind, the
one-eyed man is king. Nollywood producers and directors must do all it
takes to acquire cutting edge technical expertise from Hollywood.
Anthony Okosun, Baltimore, USA

As a Nigerian, I love our movies. Our actors and actresses have come a
long way and they are improving by the day. What I really like about
the movies is that they relate to real life experience. I always crave
for new ones to come out. If the title is ideal for the young ones, I
would not hesitate to allow them to watch it. It is good for the young
ones to have an idea of what is going on in the society. Although some
of them might not be of great quality, but they still get the message
across. I would like to encourage our actors and actresses to keep the
flag flying.
Omorodion Osula, Boston, USA

I work in a university town. The students and faculty crave for
foreign movies and social events. One of the theatres on campus
specializes in shooting movies from Asia, Europe and the Americas. I
would love to introduce some Nigerian movies to them. The trouble I
deal with is that of quality. I think these movies would make much
more money if quality becomes central to the production.
Daniel , Oxford, USA

I grew up watching Nigerian movies and I think the industry should be
congratulated for successfully developing itself without big
government or corporate funding. The movies are popular because they
all follow the same theme - salvation from corruption and evil - which
many Africans wish for and can relate to.
Azeez Ade, London

I don't watch Nigeria movies because it is an every Tom, Dick and
Harry affair. Anybody can come out of nowhere and be a movie producer.
Jacob Shaibu Ekele, Kogi, Nigeria

Story from BBC NEWS:

Published: 2005/12/19 10:41:55 GMT

Wesley Goes To Nollywood | Jamais Cascio
December 19, 2005

Filmmaking has a cultural vocabulary. American action movies,
Bollywood musicals, French art cinema -- all are immediately
identifiable, not just by the actors or language, but by the
cinematography, the pace, and simply by how the story is told. The
rapidly-growing film industry in Africa, centered in Nigeria, is
developing its own voice and style, but one that seems to generate
quite a bit of ambivalence among those who follow Naija movies -- more
familiarly referred to as "Nollywood" -- most closely.

The rise of Nigerian films and "Nollywood" was among the earliest
topics on WorldChanging, and it remains a frequent touchstone.
Nollywood's growing success is a testament to the importance of
inexpensive, high-quality hardware and robust global distribution; the
movies are arguably as important (if not moreso) to the African
diaspora as they are at home. For now, Nollywood isn't nearly as
visible outside of the global African community as, say, Bollywood,
but that's gradually changing. As this post's title suggests,
Hollywood heavyweights like Wesley Snipes are starting to poke around
the Naija film world to see what they can use.

But the growth of Nollywood is prompting a not-entirely-positive
reaction among those who follow it closely, in large part because of
how the movies represent Nigerian society. Sokari Ekine at Black Looks
("Musings and Rants of an African Fem") posted today about this
phenomenon, linking to several provocative essays and stories about
the evolution of Naija films.

The initial catalyst for Ms. Ekine's post is an article in the
December 20 Christian Science Monitor entitled "Africans, camera,
action: 'Nollywood' catches world's eye" (I have to say, "Lights,
Camera, Africa" would have been better). The article introduces
Nollywood to the Western reader, and describes some of its dilemmas:
rampant piracy, to the point where some filmmakers with incredibly
popular movies see almost no return on their work; a local backlash
among Nigeria's neighbors over the popularity of Naija films, evoking
similar reactions to American 'cultural imperialism' in Canada or
Europe; and the overwhelming popularity of movie plots that are
simplistic and reinforce a strict traditional morality.

Nollywood's stories are "very black and white" compared with
Hollywood, Ms. Silva says - and that explains their appeal across
Africa, where religion-based moralistic strains are popular. A
"Hallelujah" sub-genre even involves timely interventions by Jesus
Christ in daily affairs. [...]

And there's the recent "Women's Cot," starring Ms. Silva, which
centers on a cultural practice whereby a man's family grabs all his
property when he dies, leaving his widow destitute. Silva's character
and other widows form a powerful group to prevent the practice. But
they become corrupt.

The message: Traditional norms may be flawed, "but be wary of
women if they get too much power," Silva says. It's part of Nigeria's
national debate over tradition versus modernity, which resonates
across Africa.

Sokari Ekine has a distinct ambivalence about the way that Nollywood
presents Nigeria, and she's not alone. In a post from 2004, she calls
out the Nollywood treatment of Nigerian women as either good wives
willing to overlook their husbands' misdeeds, or "whores." Similarly,
Dianam Dakolo, at the Nigerian Times website, says that "Nollywood is
the story of Nigeria," but tells that story in problematic ways, as
they portray and celebrate in plot and technique the most superficial
aspects of Nigerian society:

Nigeria is Nollywood and Nollywood is Nigeria! It is the story of
a people who dream dreams shaped by material reality elsewhere - in
fancied societies. They identify and lift (for adoption) features of
better organized and sophisticated societies, but stop short of the
effort to make those things real in their own societies.

The irony here is that we hear very similar accusations leveled
against Hollywood films, claims of casual misogyny and the celebration
of the superficial. What makes the situation different is that
Nollywood, and the African filmmaking community at large, hasn't
necessarily institutionalized these practices. There's still an
opportunity for independent filmmakers across Nigeria and across
Africa -- and, for now, the vast majority are effectively independent
-- to shape the emergence of the Nollywood voice. As the demand for
traditional morality plays saturates, directors and writers seeking to
tell different stories in different ways will find a willing audience.
In short, this tension is very much a sign of creative growth.

Although Nollywood doesn't yet have the online or media presence of
Bollywood, there are still numerous sources for information and
discussion available. is a good source for thoughtful
essays, observations and analysis of the regional industry, with a
focus on production and market more than on celebrities., conversely, is very much a Nollywood fan site --
current forum discussions include "stars you would love to meet,"
"hottest bodies in Nollywood," and "when stars fake their accents...".
Movie World Nigeria has a polished look, with a focus on both issues
and upcoming movies. And, of course, Black Looks is always worth
reading, and has a favored spot in my RSS list.

Posted by Jamais Cascio at December 19, 2005 07:27 PM | TrackBack