My close friends, know my immense love for Nollywood. It is probably the singular thing I am proud of in Africa’s entertainment industry (Yes, “Ghallywood”, you have some catching up to do, and less contrived movies, please! I do commend some of your efforts though more work must be done, as stated here).
However, my close friends, also tend to be my biggest critics of my love for Nollywood. From hearing claims like, “Metty, how can you like these movies?!”, ” oh Metty, I’m so disappointed in you for watching these!” to “oh Metty, why do you even bother whenyou can tell the end from the beginning!” and”Ah Metty, they are just wastes of time!”, I must say, I have heard it all.
To some extent, hearing all these derogatory claims from friends about Nollywood movies, knowingly or unknowingly, compelled me to start referring to my love for the industry as a “guilty pleasure”.
Nevertheless, I have always been an advocate of Nollywood, both old and new, and strongly believe the portrayal of culture and rebranding the image of Africa, will stem primarily from industries such as this. I came across an article today in my daily readings that gives a more solid reason why you (yes you!) should be in support of the great strides the industry is making! To know what I am talking about, check out the newest movies by Desmond Elliot’s (actor, turned producer in addition) Academy of the Arts, as well as other movies in both the Ghanaian & Nigerian movie industry such as Ijé, Inale, Tango with me, Phone Swap, I Sing of A Well, Sinking Sands, Ties That Bind and even the Amazing Grace, and many more. Pretty impressive. Not to say all of them are spectacular, but hey, I am a fan – guilt or no guilt.
For me, this is testament that Africa can breed her own. If we don’t, people, who find our culture or customs more intriguing than we do, will tell it for us, and they may not tell it in a way entirely true. They may not be able to express the intricacies of our thought, well enough to the world at large. And we dare not complain, because, we stayed silent (See Punctured Hope). Many of us have hopped on the band-waggon of telling our “own stories” and the creed of “re-branding Africa” and “the danger of the single story of Africa” is now being trumpeted by all and sundry. However, we fail to realize how powerful a voice our movie industry too is in this “rebranding” effort. We fail to realize that sometimes, the only other thing on our TV Screens that is more powerful than the sordid pictures from the media are these very faces, speaking our language, re-enacting what is deemed to be reflective of daily living, displaying culture, ideals and traditions. Thus, it is very important we invest in what we have and become patrons of our own product. If we shun it, then hey, of course the world will shun it too! Come on guys, we really need to give credit to the progress of the industry within the last 5 years! It’s incredible, I tell you.
Also, I believe the growth of this industry begins to emphasize for me, how highly unnecessary it is for us to bring in other characters to play major roles that we alone are more familiar with (Case in point: The movie adaptation of Chimamanda Adichie’s renowned and beloved novel, Half Of A Yellow Sun). I still am hurt the main role was given to Thandie Newton and not Genevieve Nnaji or Omotola or another renowned Nigerian actress. I think it is so sad that the re-enactment of a history so dear to Nigeria and sub-saharan Africa as a whole (and indeed the world), has to be embodied by a foreigner to Nigerian Culture. Our stories are powerful. And even more powerful when they come from us, ourselves. I love Thandie Newton, but disagree with her playing the major role. Then again, this is probably why I am not a professional movie director or anything close to it.
Given that Nollywood is the third largest movie industry in the world following Hollywood and Bollywood, the potential of the industry is immense. With the onset of novel ideas like IrokoTV, catering to the diaspora, access to Nollywood movies has become way easier than before. As this industry waxes strong, it is also important for us to put more thought to its trajectory Where do we want it to go? What role do we want our stories to play on the world stage? What is the essence of this storytelling to us, ourselves? What need does the industry satisfy? Are we doing our stories justice? Will men of old, and those of tomorrow be able to appreciate them no matter what? How do our stories extend beyond the borders of the continent? Where do we find common ground with Afro-American culture and Caribbean culture?
Okay, so, here’s an Ode to Nollywood. Wish the industry good success and a positive role in charting the course of our storytelling!