As celebrities from all walks of life, politicians, government officials, diplomats and captains of industry gather today at the magnificent Intercontinental Hotel, Lagos, to flag off the celebration of Nollywood at 20 with a grand opening event tagged “Nollywood Celebrity Glam Night”, one thing that is bound to make the difference in the minds of the people is using the event to chart a new direction for the industry.
Over the years, Nollywood as a growing industry is currently acknowledged by many as a veritable alternative to oil in the country has been trailed with a lot of unprecedented challenges; ranging from lack of funding to absence of a formal regulated structure, piracy, internal crisis, retraining and inadequate distribution network among other factors.
However, despite these challenges, the industry in the past 20 years has positioned itself as the most viable information dissemination and image-making tool in Nigeria and Africa at large. It has also transformed into a veritable vehicle for social change, providing jobs for over 300, 000 Nigerians, in all spheres of the production and distribution process.
Given these applicable achievements, the yearning for government support for the industry finally received a nod three years ago, when President Goodluck Jonathan announced a loan scheme of $200 million (N32 billion) for the entertainment industry which was later plagued by complaints of inaccessibility. This was also followed by the recently announced N3 billion grant to support the movie industry.
Announcing the grant at a presidential dinner to celebrate the industry at 20, held at State House, Marina, Lagos, in March, President Jonathan had pledged that “his administration would continue to give Nollywood every possible support and assistance to take the Nigerian movie industry to even greater heights of success.” Mr. President, however, believed that the industry can further be developed with the support of the private sector and corporate Nigerians.
In the same manner, it is believed that with the government investing in the industry at last, the operators at different levels should embrace the need to live up to their billing. The era of churning out substandard and obscene movies which has become the order of the day, should begin to give way for quality production.
Indeed, one is advocating the return of the days of “Living in Bondage’, ‘Nneka, The Pretty Serpent”, “Deadly Affairs”, “Circle of Doom”, ‘Tears of Love” and “Betrayal”, the early films of the 90s, which were seen as embodiments of moral qualities and lessons of life.
These films, which gave birth to what is today known as Nollywood impacted positively on every facets of our lifestyle as a people and were watched across the ethnic groups. They were produced, during the booming era of the insatiable lust for money, needs for cultural re-orientation and eventually, achieved the desired result of dousing the mad urge associated with acquiring wealth through means of blood sacrifice and occultism by Nigerians in the early 90s.
With the passage of time, this purposeful standard raised by the early movies, started disappearing and what seemed to be the bargain of lovers of Nigerian movies in the early 2000, was a quick replacement of an unethical display of nudity, violence, prostitution and over-advertised and unrealistic ritual practices. But today, the practice has taken a new twist as the people are daily confronted with scenes of nudity either on the screen or on the internet- You tube.
While one acknowledges as well, the remarkable impact Nollywood has made on the international scene over the years by becoming regular traffic in Europe, America, Asia and other foreign markets, as world’s second largest film industry, the fact still remains that the practitioners are currently diverting from the storytelling concept of the industry. The production of pornographic movies seem to be taking a toll on the industry in recent times.
Despite efforts by some notable producers to raise the standard, in terms of producing quality films, some backward film makers, driven by the passion to make quick profits, have continued to produce films with lewd scenes, which are often sold in the open market.
From all indications, if Nollywood must embrace the next level, after the celebration, the practitioners have a duty to move away from producing pornographic films to telling the Nigerian story. The global attention that the industry has brought to the nation must not be soiled by the bizarre actions of some agents of darkness.
There is no doubt that the industry is facing immense prospects and commercial opportunities provided by the digital revolution. But these prospects can only be actualised where there is a unity of purpose, focus, and an enable enviornment that is devoid of internal crisis. Nollywood needs to re-assess itself, perhaps, strive to put its house in order before it can set out to dream of building a castle in the air. Today, as the practitioners wine, dine and unwind, engaging in no-holds-barred conversations about yesterday, today, and tomorrow, the chorus must be “united we stand and divided, we fall.”
As rightly pointed out by Mr. Zik Zulu Okafor, the president of the Association of Movie Producers (AMP), today’s event seeks to build on the game-changing contributions of key stakeholders to the meteoric rise of Nollywood.
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