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Is Nollywood destroying Africa's film industry?

Charlotte Attwood | 11:14 UK time, Wednesday, 9 June 2010

The BBC Africa Kicks bus has left Ibadan and Africa Have Your Say comes live from Lagos, the headquarters of the budget Nigerian film industry known as Nollywood.


nollywood.jpgNollywood is makes billions of dollars and has become the staple entertainment for millions across the continent. But some believe mass production is compromising standards.

What do you think? Is Nollywood ruining Africa's young film industry? Do you watch Nollywood films and if so why? If not, why not? Do you think Africa's film industry would be taken more seriously on the global stage if it weren't for Nollywood? Or would your life just not be the same without Nollywood films? Send us your views.

To debate this topic LIVE on air on Wednesday 9 June at 1600 GMT, please include a telephone number.



  • Comment number 1.

    Yes, i watch Nollywood movies and i belief that it is an inspiration and motivation for other Africans to start making films in and about the continent. no arguement about the quality of the early Nollywood films. They have started paying more attention to quality. it is becoming a process in the film industry now.
    Nollywood films actually brought the Continent into the world arena in a way never seen by western film makers, Nollywood tells the story of Africa in African way.

  • Comment number 2.

    Nollywood is a positive influence in the African movie industry in terms of the raw commercial instincts of those behind it which drives the mass production of home movies.
    But that's almost where the positives stop. I think Nollywood is stunted on purpose. There is no real professionalism in the industry. Every dick and harry claims to be a director the moment they sit down and tell a cameraman off the street where to point and shoot. Nobody seems to pay attention to the standard of scripts,to lighting, accoustics/sound production, to the appropriateness of any location to the theme of the movie. There is an almost childish confusion of film with theatre by both actors and directors. Whatever happened to a director being a god, and the overall benchmark of creativity hardly counts in Nollywood.
    I am always at a loss why Nollywood directors seem not to notice the long, boring, often irrelevant dialogue that go on in most scenes. Some scenes take as long as 15-30 minutes with one single actor still jibbering on about something a Hollywood actor would have said in 3 seconds. Because the angle of the camera in a movie is so small, unlike the reach of the eye in a theatre, scenes change quicker. Films focus more on action rather than dialogue. Every dialogue between actors in a movie is a cue to action unlike in Nollywood. This leads me to think actors are not subjected to mastering their scripts in Nollywood, if there are any scripts at all. I do get the feeling sometimes that Nollywood thinks of film as an extension of theatre, some form of improvisational theatre captured on video.
    If the Nigerian music scene is becoming more sophisticated in terms of all aspects of the production, I reckon Nollywood has no reason not to be as professional too. There is already a very large market for Nollywood, a vibrant market that stretches beyond the 150 million, movie crazy Nigerians to as far as east and southern Africa.
    The Nigerian would only have themselves to blame if they fail to tap into this huge market before filmakers from Republic of South Africa whoare more professional and better equipped realise there is money to be made from the vast but untapped African film industry. The snag though is, South African filmakers seem to wrinkle their nose to the African market.

  • Comment number 3.

    I've only watched a handful of these films, and that's because the storylines are much too predictable: a wealthy, corrupt politician and/or drug baron, living in ten different mansions or more, with many more top-of-the-range cars than he can ever find any rational use for, seduces any number of bimbos, each of whom is now scheming to join his battalion of wives and concubines, by consulting a shaman or two. They amount, at best, to a normalization (if not a celebration) of the very excessive materialism and superstitious beliefs that have made it impossible for us to challenge those who rob us blind even as I write.

  • Comment number 4.

    No the Nollywood is in fact encountering and inspiring many African moviemakers especially here in Kenya. only that they exaggerate the witchcraft thing (scenes). [Personal details removed by Moderator]

  • Comment number 5.

    I read a couple of years ago that a Nigerian trader had lots of blank cassettes in his shop that were not selling as quickly as hoped. After giving his problem some thought, he reportedly decided to bankroll the production of a movie - "Living in Bondage", which would be recorded on the tapes to increase their marketability. His decision is said to be what triggered the industry that the world now refers to as Nollywood.
    This innovative spirit is what has helped Nollywood grow to what it is today. While the concerns about quality may be valid, I think it is a lot more likely that Nollywood is doing more good than harm. I believe given time,and with the right incentives, Nollywood will get better and motivate people from across the continent to challenge it.Give it time,I remember what Bollywood movies used to be like.
    As for international acceptance, it will grow in time as quality grows. However the international community must be willing to open their minds to the fact that Africans are unique and that we will tell our stories our own way, not necessarily in conformity with their expectations.

  • Comment number 6.

    Nollywood is a positive influence on the African film industry. The genius of it is that they have found a way to mass-produce films for an audience that mostly subsists on less than $2/day. Once Africa's purchasing power rises, so will the quality of Nollywood movies.

    For now though, they fill a vital gap of telling African stories that Africans can identify with. And I believe that regardless of quality these are prefered to movies like 'blood diamond' and 'last king of scotland' which were made by non-Africans and are almost universally reviled among Africans for their inability to capture African humanity...

  • Comment number 7.

    What film industry does Africa has minus Nollywood. Simply putting it Nollywood is the continent's film industry one and only supremo. Somehow, I kind of love this your Nigeria bashing week, the previous string was about the non importance of Nigeria to Africa, this one is about the non importance of Nigeria's films to the African film industry, It's quite ironic. I've travelled extensively across Africa and I've seen the strong influence of Nigeria's culture (Particularly Yoruba) holds across the continent from fashion, music to the arts. Nollywood is watched across Africa and beyond, most importantly no one is coerced into tuning in, if you are not interested simply don't tune in, it's that simple! Not liking it because it's another "Nigeria thing" aren't good enough. Nollywood is ahead of Hollywood in the number of films produced every year, making it the biggest film market in the world behind Bollywood of India. Popular USA talk show host Oprah Winfrey says Nollywood is worth over US$2.5billion. Put in proper perspective, the annual worth of the films produced in a year is more than the annual budget of some African states. With its investment in technology and wide subscriber base across the globe, Nollywood films are guaranteed a world-wide reach, which in time will greatly impact positively on the profile of the industry. Just as the world is learning to live with China's dominance, Africans must learn to live with Nigeria center stage position.

  • Comment number 8.

    I personally do not watch Nollywood films as they just do not appeal to me. However I know a lot of people from the West Indies who have a different aspect of Africa because of exposure to Nollywood. I think Nollywood is a testament to the genius of making do with what you have. Through Nollywood the myth of Africans all living in shacks has definitely been dispelled.

  • Comment number 9.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 10.

    I have watched a lot Nollywood movies.I quite agree they are budget movies but one, as an African, cannot deny the storyline. They depict more of African societal belief and lifestyles. I have also watched many Hollywood movies(though sophisticated) but the storyline are mostly not real,and I can tell the difference. Whenever I watch Nollywood movies, I learn real life lessons. I see, from African perspective, while there are ills in our society but some folks here denying that fact are not sincere.Someone talk about witchcraft, most Nollywood movies I have watched do not exalt witchcraft but expose them. There is a superstitious belief in Africa about witchcraft that when something bad happens, it is connected to witchcraft, every African society holds that belief. Jealousy and inferior feelings would not allow most Africans appreciate Nollywood, which speaks a lot about our good and core values as a people; and about evils that exist on our continent. Finally, the funny thing is that those coming here to say bad things about Nollywood, in their closets watch these movies,mostly the Kenyans.

  • Comment number 11.

    i have to be honest and say the last time i saw a nollywood movie which was professed to be the latest movie i was able to discern the end of the movie within 5 mins in. which is not to say it was not interesting but that the plot could do with a little less predictability. it is also sad that for an industry that churns out so many movies they cannot try and have a proper script or sound manager.
    truth be told the negatives outweigh the positives in nollywood at the moment and i would be nice to get some of our movie in cinema quality so that we can trully market them.
    i remember in the days of the likes of the late Hubert Ogunde and even some of the movies made by the likes of Adebayo Salami in the early eighties like Aiye, Kanna Kanna, Jaiyesimi, Orun Muoru, now those were real movies which are still today held in high regard and standard bearers.with the introduction of cinemas in lagos now one would expect the likes of the television industries to try making some series which people can look forward to rather than the obligatory soap opera.
    afterall check in nigeria now and so many watch the like s of prison break,24 desperate housewives and even friends.

  • Comment number 12.

    A friend of mine once commented that he doesn't like Nigerian movies because they are always about witchcraft and the themes are always too predictable. However, the truth is that those movies contain themes that are relevant to Africa and i would rather watch them than those Western movies that i find too bland. The influence of Nollywood in Kenya is quite widespread to an extent that even young children try imitating the Nigerian accent while playing. It's common to hear statements from children (or even adults) like, 'My broda, i'm not joking oo'. A drinking joint has also come up in my local suburban town of Kitengela outside Nairobi. It is called 'Oga the Place Pub oo'. I'm also not particularly interested in the themes the movies are intended to generate but i like the ones where actors are more of clowns with the favourite being - Osuofia in London. Believe it or not, the Nigerian movies have revolutionized the movie industry in sub-saharn Africa.

  • Comment number 13.

    well,I for one though a Nigerian don't fancy watching Nollywood movies for the fact that the story lines are always predictable and moreso, some Nollywood movies tends to be mere repetition of past movies.
    Having said that,it's my considered opinion that Nigerian films have really portray Africa to the entire world as a continent where good things happen. It's no small feat to evolve the second largest film industry in the world after Bollywood and please let it be born in mind that Nollywood's growth has nothing to do with the Nigerian population. China is over ten times Nigeria's population. Nollywood has done well for Africa and I believe as the welfare of Africa states rises, the quality of Nollywood will definitely rise too.
    I say welldone Nollywood for putting Africa in the spotlight of world movie.

  • Comment number 14.

    Such a subjective question for such a layered topic. I will only scratch the surface by saying I am no expert on Nigerian film but to assert that it is "destroying" a whole industry is absurd. If anything the popular acceptance of its sub-par standards speaks to a bigger issue in African media and film culture: the desire for more accessible African media and the abysmal lack of availability. Africans want more film content they can begin to connect with and absorb easily. Nollywood fulfills that need by making African film for a starving audience. And there are African filmmakers who want to combine formulaic yet interesting narrative with quality film making. Eventually African's standards for their popular film will increase given an increased distribution of at least marginally higher quality films. If just one Nigerian film made in this vein, above current Nollywood standards, finds great success, investors will likely back better quality. Oh trail blazers, where art thou?

  • Comment number 15.

    Yes. I watch Nollywood movies once in a while and I enjoyed them. Although, I have family and friends who I will consider Nollywood junkies. They cannot seem to get enough of these movies. On the key question of whether Nollywood is compromising standard, I say the answer is NO. The fact that Nollywood movies have a huge market on the African continent and among Africans in the Diaspora - Europe, the Americas and Asia, is a testament to the business ingenuity of Nigerians in making good movies on small budget. It also allow Nigerians to tell their own stories instead of all the 419- Scammers news often told by foreign media. Listening to those negative news, one would think that all Nigerians do,is scam others. Let's face it, Scammers and the Scammed are equally guilty. Why would anyone want to share millions of dollars with a stranger who asked you to first send him money?

  • Comment number 16.

    I think that nollywood is having a positive influence on the African film industry. In a few years time, I think a lot of films will be coming out from other African countries as some of them have started partnering with some nollywood actors to produce some films. The only bad thing I see in the films is that there seems to be a lot tendency to produce films that portrays Nigeria as a country that is riddled with witchcraft. I think it is time they start thinking of producing films that shows the positive aspects of Nigerian culture values. Also, I think the witchcraft of a thing can end up having a negative influence on our youths as some of them now believes that unless you commit a crime, that you can never make it in life.

  • Comment number 17.

    Nollywood is still unsurpassed in Africa, it can only get better.

  • Comment number 18.

    Nollywood is definitely a good influence to African movie industry. There sure has been some issues with quality but the output has to an extent been determined by what the viewers want. While a lot of the movies have been the usual mass-produced quality, there have been some very good ones of late. Just like a new child totters when he starts walking for the time and shapes his step later to a swagger, some of the producers are now thinking of the artistic quality of their productions and distinguishing themselves from the pack.

  • Comment number 19.

    In s/leone nollywd is havin a big impact in terms of audience, but my problem with nwd is that most if not all the stories are the same and in terms of morals and ethics, its sertainly having a negative contributions on the minds of many s...Leonians especially wonen & children.

  • Comment number 20.

    I think the movies are so predictable and low budget. If enough funds is spent on producing this movies and not make too many of the movies it will make more sense and the market for nollywood movies will even be wider than what it is presently. Foreigners will enjoy nollywood movies and if the right things are done, for example i see the few foreign movies that are shot in Nigeria, nollywood actors are not even used for such movies because they are not good enough. Slumdog millionaire is not a bollywood movie but a lot of bollywood actors where used because they are good enough. Nollywood should invest in training and retraining of both the on and off the camera crew and also invest more funding in the movies for better quality and definitely will get bigger wider market.

  • Comment number 21.

    Nollywood is a good innovation which has provided employment opportunities for many in Nigerians. However, there are a number of problems to be addressed with Nollywood. The major one is the Nigerian Values . For example, bully and assaults are seen as acceptable, domestic violence against women and children are not punished , police force are instruments of punishment in the hands of the rich and the mafia, child labour are openly ignored, police beating up suspects and even killing them without trial, tribalism, human right abuses and so on.All these are not Nigerian values and many Nigerians do not like to see things like these.I agree that these things may be happenning in reality but Nollywood should seek to educate people to adopt right values. Nollywood should produce films that speak up against tribalism and racism, uphold human rights, rejects cybercrime(not singing to promote it)and so on. These are values that would make the world understand Nollywood when they watch the movies and promote the international market.

  • Comment number 22.

    I seldomnly watch Nollywood because i'm not living at mother earth for soemtimes but so far so short that i watched Nollywood,i will say let not the movie actors concentrate only in making fame/money for themselves but use that means to bring improvements in development of Africa than corrupting and dainting the Africa's film industry because in my own opinion,We Africans needs more HUMAN NECCESSARY AMENITIES now than movies.So,to act or show some naked sexual stuff on their movies are wrong,Other thing i wana comment on is let Nollywood actors make some improvement on their CD productions because most CD's are with low quality sounds and picture.

  • Comment number 23.

    …Obviously, they say everything has its own humble beginnings. I am sure that even Hollywood had its own humble beginnings before it came to be what it is today. Secondly, excellence comes with lots of practice and learning from your own past mistakes and I trust that Nollywood will have its own share of learning. That said, I think that Africa has the reservoir of real talent and resources for future film making right from Arab Africa, Sahara, Sub-Sahara, Tropical to the far Southern Tip of the cape.

  • Comment number 24.

    I do not believe Nollywood is destroying Africa's film industry. Much as I do not watch the movies anymore I used to enjoy them a lot some years ago. My problem, which other commentators have also cited is the predictability of the plots. That's what made me lose interest.Other than that I feel it was a good move to establish the industry and should be an inspiration to us all. I look forward to seeing movies from other regions with different emphasis and story lines. Perhaps less predictable as well. But I believe we are still learning and with time we shall perfect the art. Well done Nollywood.

  • Comment number 25.

    nollywood happens to be the only thriving movie industry in africa but this makes it the third largest in the world ..... nollywood has a lot of catching up to do ! cuz most of its actors and producers are illiterates particularly the producers the actors we can really cope with ..but the producers are very very ignornant of the global terms of making movies ....

    we have 2 men that i knw of that are actual film makers ..they are EDDIE UGBOMA and TUNDE KELANI these 2 men are the only professionals we have in the business ! its a shame for an industry like nollywood !

    the govt or somebody has to set up a standard organisation to enforce standards in all these fields .....then nollywood will be watched globally by not just africans but by the world at large ...then nollywood movies will be in film festivals across the globe and most importantly win internationally recognised awards .. thank you !

  • Comment number 26.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 27.

    Before Nollywood, Africa did not have a recognised film industry so how can Nollywood destroy what was not there in the first place.
    The western world and its film industry has ignored Africa and black people as a whole and now Africans are doing something for themselves and making billions the western world is trying their negative campaigns again. We are now seeing how beautiful Africa is and the beautiful quality of life in Africa. Continue Nollywood and with time you will get better and better your films are certainly more informative about life than the cowboys and Indians bias films.

  • Comment number 28.

    I normally dismiss these films but felt that I should watch some before I could comment......well they are pretty poor stuff. I may be missing the cultral context but they are in general pretty poor fare. My reasoning...well its not the production quality which can be poor even in the U.S. but its the writting; given that Nigeria has produce so many top notch novelist its preety shocking. Writing is like a good song no matter where its sung and no matter the langauge it can touch the heart or make one re-evaluate an opinion. Actors are only as good as the script...sort it out.

  • Comment number 29.

    [Personal details removed by Moderator]
    Not all movies made in Hollywood are that brilliant either so Nollywood has produced some good films and equally bad ones the same applies for Bollywood, pledge industry support rather than pass uneducated judgement! After all no one is forced to watch the movies!

  • Comment number 30.

    Oh please, give us a break? How come Nollywood is now spoiling Africa's movie industry? Someone explain this to me PLEASE!!??!! They may be low budget but so what? Nollywood put the African movie industry into the spot-light and they have some great actors - who are now collaborating with film makers from abroad. What is so bad in that? Give them a break, in fact, give Africa a break!!

  • Comment number 31.

    I watch Nollywood films, i have many of these films, they are very affordable comparing to Bollywood and Hollywood films (which are more expensive).

    The older Bollywood films of the 80's and 90's were more family oriented, view from village lives or just plain ordinary Indian people lives, these days it's too modern, about espionage or rich people travelling/globe trotting to Switzerland, so it's not as enjoyable as the 80's and 90's Indian films.

    The Hollywood films were great escapism, but again the actors and actresses look so polished and beautiful and it's nice to see sometimes but not all the time, it gets boring I find my mind not getting into the story too much, because it just looks too fake or contrived, to be so smart/polished.

    So I am currently enjoying the affordable African films (British pound 2.50 each) with story lines that are so funny and absorbing.

  • Comment number 32.

    Nigerian movies are all about human sacrifices in order to get rich, influence people to love you, and that kind of nonsense. They inspire people to believe in witch craft, juju and magic. They should be banned

  • Comment number 33.

    Nollywood is not destroying the African film industry. As a growing industry, Nollywood is having to deal with a myriad of teething problems. A lot of people tend to dismiss Nollywood films as a bunch of hurriedly put-together farces dealing with ritual and voodoo. This is too simplistic a view to take. I have personally been trying to get various discussions going to help shape Nollywood through my magazine Nollywood Focus www.nollywoodfocus.com and a series of interviews with Key players in Nollywood, some of which are published in the magazine and others in Next newspaper in Nigeria. See the latest interview with Charles Novia in which he discusses the problem with Nollywood here [Unsuitable/Broken URL removed by Moderator]


  • Comment number 34.

    Is Nollywood ruining Africa's young film industry? No.
    It's the capitalism society that ruins our Africa's young film industry and our Nollywood.

    African cinema is another experience approving Marx's theory on the economic determinant.

    "it is not consciousness that determines the conditions of life but the conditions of life that determine consciousness"(Marx and Engels)

    Nollywood suffers from the lack of access to the material things which could determine it's development.(Ownerships, financial and technology). Thanks Nollywood and his channel struggling to make films and owning a channel to show his movies.

    For filmmakers i recommend to read more about New wave cinema.
    I 'm from Democratic Republic of Congo, i use to be so critical to Nigerian movies as Congolese movies/Theatres, when i begun to look close to the film production then i made up my mind said Nollywood as other African film are not in a wrong truck. The day is coming. Give them time.

  • Comment number 35.

    In general, African movies would be interesting to me if or when they will start saying truths.
    Like, how we ourselves are destroying out continent, how we are killing each other for nothing, how some women’s makes babies without plan
    (I mean good plan)
    how especially our politicians are so corrupt and the list is long….

    Instead of stupid witchcraft, stupid millionaires, stupid women’s and the rest of baloney,fake stories, complete illusion that they are making.

    When you have the opportunity with a camera and based on our present situation in Africa, say and show something that can educate the population, not to deviate their mind with rubbish…

    I simply don’t watch.

  • Comment number 36.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 37.

    I believe Nollywood film industry is actually helping the African film industry. It helps Nigerian writers and directors tell our own stories from our own point of view and not Hollywood's point of view. The quality is also getting better and will soon catch up to international standards. Take this new Nollywood film "Anchor Baby" for instance. It was written and directed by a Nigerian director Lonzo Nzekwe and the lead actress is also a Nigeria actress Omoni Oboli. The picture quality is on the same standard as most films shot in Hollywood. [Unsuitable/Broken URL removed by Moderator]

  • Comment number 38.

    well nobody ever take nollywood serious until sometimes ago when it was judged 3rd in the world, we fancy it, we love it. Our culture determined the kind of film we produce most of the duplicating machines are imported from europe and asian.So who is corrupting who?
    It is purely Nigerian , African

  • Comment number 39.

    Is Nollywood destroying Africa's film industry? NO!

  • Comment number 40.

    I am an American who saw a Nigerian video for the first time while in The Gambia and I was hooked. I begged my Nigerian friends in the states for videos and I enjoy them so much. The ones I have often have social messages. While the acting and the sets are not always equal to the slick Hollywood productions, these Nollywood products have a place and fill a void. Hong Kong has a thriving film industry as does India--why shouldn't Africans have theirs and if it just happens to be Nigeria that does so, why not?

    Eventually, what I would hope to see are films that depict with accuracy and detail traditional African life, folk tales and the life and times of founders of West African empires and kingdoms. Such productions if done well could serve as educational materials for students around the world. This could assist in overcoming the perception that nothing of importance happened in Africa until the colonizers arrived.


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