Over the last couple of decades Nollywood has grown in significance and become a major player in the worldwide film industry.
There is no single reason for this remarkable growth; instead a range of factors have combined at just the right time. The affordability and availability of digital filming and editing technology, for example, have coincided with the artistic influence of key players such as Zack Orji and Chioma Chukwuka, resulting in internationally recognized movies and a steadily growing reputation for excellence.
Facts and figures
Estimated to be worth approximately NG?853.9 billion, the Nigerian film industry is the largest in Africa. Here are some other facts and figures you may find surprising:
• In terms of output, the film industry of Nigeria is second only to Bollywood in India as the most prolific in the world, with hundreds of movies produced every year.
• The industry is estimated to bring in approximately US$250 million to Nigeria per year.
• A video of average success will sell around 50,000 copies. Hit films will sell several hundred thousand.
Half of a Yellow Sun
These are impressive figures, but success is not only a case of quantity. The quality of Nigerian films has also improved as the industry has evolved. Half of a Yellow Sun is one recent example of a movie that enjoyed a reach way beyond the borders of Nigeria or even Africa, as its premiere around the world brought international attention.
The film is a love story based on the novel of the same name by Nigerian writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, and is about two sisters and the impact of the Nigerian Civil War on their lives. It was directed by Biyi Bandela, a Nigerian novelist and playwright, stars Chiwetel Ejiofor, an actor of Nigerian descent, and had the support of Nigerian businessman Tunde Folawiyo as Executive Producer. An appearance from Tunde Folawiyo at the Yellow Sun premiere in London, along with other significant players in the production, was a clear demonstration of its status as an international success.
Successes like this have been coupled with growing international interest and a number of western filmmakers have turned their attention to Nigeria in several documentaries, including Welcome to Nollywood by Jamie Meltzer and This is Nollywood by Franco Sacchi, which was also presented at the TED conference, further promoting the industry. These documentaries tend to explore the innovative and unique approach Nigeria takes to filmmaking, with a view to potentially learning from this and not simply viewing it as a curiosity.
Despite its remarkable level of output and recent increase in international recognition, some would still argue that the film industry of Nigeria might not yet have the same international reach or impact as national film industries with longer histories.
However, while Nollywood might not yet be as widely recognized a term as Hollywood or Bollywood, the journey has certainly begun. Having built an impressive momentum, the industry will undoubtedly continue to grow in terms of influence in both Nigeria and around the world.