The Nollywood Industry needs to find its way back to its purest beginning, where collaboration drove the energy in the room. As the industry grew, unfortunately so did its extreme need to be a vocation filled with envy and competitive spirit. Rather than strive for quality in its realest sense and collobaration in the most creative sense, we opt for individual achievements that ultimately do not move the industry further in any significant way. Certainly, having the highest grossing film or debuting with the largest box office released on a Sunday is worthy of recognition. However, I believe we can strive for more – together.
The recent debacle over the failure of the Nigerian Oscar Selection Committee to choose a film that would represent Nigeria at the foreign language film (Best International Film) category presents a cautionary tale to all of us. The selection committee was to choose from the three films submitted but we were made to deal with issues of ego rather than the quality and eligibility of the films. Is the selection committee to judge or just select one out of the qualifying films? Understanding what roles everyone has to play in the bigger picture of keeping Nollywood going is important because those three films, like a few other releases of 2022, have kickstarted a new era for Nollywood, after its first three foundational decades.
The structure of the guilds system must be adjusted and adhered to in order to help push for further professionalism within the industry. The guilds should be used as gatekeepers of quality control. We must begin to adhere to the professional ethics of filmmaking by being very careful of the foundation of the of the scripts. This is how Nollywood can grow and compete as it begins the next 30 years, following from 1992 to 2022.
Over the years, the biggest issues Nollywood has had is the script and sound quality. No matter what we do, walking down the road to a future that does not include building capacity in this two areas will mean a failure to achieve our ultimate goal of being taken seriously as a film industry.
I believe that in the next 30 years, Nollywood would have built film studios which will help in high production value and quality control. We desperately need to equip and train practitioners in the areas of post production, sound design, scoring and colour grading. 95% of our professional films go outside to have these things done. Yet, we have some extremely skilled people waiting for the right tools and environment to excel.
Our biggest hurdle is the lack of adequate facilities for people to do this work locally.
For us to remain relevant as the kings and queens of content, I would love to see Nollywood look deeper inside: celebrating quality, listening and responding to criticism, and pushing towards higher quality. I would like to see us try harder at sustainable growth that will make us even more relevant at both AMAA and at top film festivals like Berlin, Cannes, Toronto and even Fespaco, Cairo, Durban and AFRIFF.
The wish for Nollywood is to see it grow in leaps and bounds in real terms and not remain constant in the noise of praise amidst mediocrity. We have to move beyond the stranglehold of a cabal that only wants “their people” to benefit from the influx of streamers. Real filmmakers can and should be allowed expression to showcase the possibilities that Nollywood offers. All we need is collobaration, structured financing and grants.
Above and beyond, the stories we must continue to tell about Africa and Nigeria has to be our real stories. The stories of our Kingdoms, our Orishas, and our spiritual life. We must begin to discern the stories told to us by our parents and grandparents and transpose them onto the big screen.
We should be producing cinematic interpretations of the authobiographies of our heroes, such as Jaja of Opobo, the real stories of the IFA or Igba Afa and in everything that represents our essence as a people.
In doing so, we would have succeeded in showcasing the powers of African history, in the fervent hope that informed and committed ‘bystanders’ such as Steve Ayorinde would always be available to document the giant strides that Nollywood is destined to record in the coming years and decades.
**Madam Peace Anyiam- Osigwe, Founder of African Film Foundation, wrote this piece in December 2022 as ‘Encore’ (Last Word) for ’30: Three Decades Of The New Nigerian Cinema’, a book by Steve Ayorinde, Chairman of the Governing Council for AMAA Jury.