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Celebrating Nollywood at 20

News » Entertainment

Date: 15th, MARCH, 2013

Image: Amaka Igwe

Without being told, it was apparent to the average Lagosian that there were important visitors within the vicinity on that cool breezy evening. All the data of Very Important Personalities (VIPs) were obvious from the exotic cars to the presence of heavily armed mobile police and military officers.

With the presence of Nigeria’s number one citizen at the State House, Marina, Lagos, it wasn’t so surprising. The occasion was the presidential dinner for the Nigerian movie industry popularly referred to as Nollywood. Put together by the presidency, it was one of those very rare nights that members of the movie industry felt honoured that President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan deemed it worthy not just to wine and dine with them but to celebrate the industry in its entirety.

Present in the hall, made more exquisite by the bright lights and booming audio-visual equipments, were governors, ministers, presidential aides and prominent businessmen. Omawumi Megbele and Chika Chukwu sang the National Anthem to kick-start proceedings. DJ Jimmy Jatt took over the stage after a minute silence for  Sam Loco Efe, Enebeli Elebuwa and Justus Esiri. Whatever the reasons maybe, the names of Tonu Oni, Ashley Nwosu, James Iroha, Ongo Ombo, Christy Essien-Igbokwe, Claudius Eke, (Jegede, in The Masquerade) were conspicuously missing

Sensational soulful singer, Timi Dakolo however ensured such memories did not linger for long in the minds of discerning guests as his patriotic themed song, “Great Nation” enveloped the entire hall. A documentary on Nollywood at 20, in truth falling short of what one would expect at such an event, soon came on screen, after which Bayelsa-born music star, Timaya, took over the stage.

But the serious part of the event was set in motion when Amaka Igwe, was called to make her remarks. The woman behind some of the best movies and soap operas in the history of Nigeria motion picture, Rattle Snake, Fuji House of Commotion and others, stepped on stage, she did not disappoint those who call her ‘content engine.’

Although alloted just five minutes to make her presentation on the way forward for Nollywood in terms of government participation, Igwe articulated clear policies that cannot but lift the industry in leaps and bounds if implemented.

Beginning with the assertion of renowned African film maker, Sembene Ousmane, that ‘Nigerians had found a way to reach the African audience … which is a great accomplishment’, Igwe said,

“Africa, through Nollywood has finally found a way of telling our own stories our own way. This is the Nollywood we celebrate today. Nollywood’s arrival in 1992 with Kenneth Nnebue’s Living in Bondage signified a change on the Nigerian filmmaking scene. With video technology, Nollywood brought African filmmaking from the sidelines of global filmmaking into the centre.

Finally, an audience that had long yearned for a movie culture they could call their own, found a place they could call home. With no formal structure, no government aid, no backing from financial institutions, no grants from donor agencies, and solely dependent on informal marketers who were largely importers of electronic appliances, what is today a global phenomenon took off.

In merely 20 years, Nollywood has done more for this country than any other art form; it has placed our dear nation on a pedestal that has spiked interest the world over. No other African country can boast of any indigenous artistic expression that equals Nollywood. Its stars are the cynosure of all eyes at international events; they are worthy brand ambassadors for some of the biggest brands in the world; Nollywood has provided employment for and radically changed the lives of thousands of Nigerians; it is the subject of seminars, conferences, workshops and many other creative and intellectual engagements.”

But beyond the praises, the esteemed producer soon got down to the practical side of things.

Hear her, “Great as all of this sounds however, it saddens me to admit that for a while now, we have spent too much time celebrating this phenomenon and lost focus on what it truly important; putting down a Superstructure for the realisation of the potentials of Nollywood as a socio-economic giant especially in our quest for the transformation of our father land. Because of its informal beginnings a lot has been left unattended on the growth path of Nollywood. We somehow assumed that things will take care of themselves as we went along. In places where we have made attempts, we have failed to follow through the processes that have led to true development in other places.

After two decades of existence, we have a poorer distribution network than when we started. Where once our guilds and associations were worthy representations of our collective desires for a common front to tackle our issues, they are today a shadow of what they used to be. As nature never allows for a vacuum, piracy is at 82% because distribution is grossly inadequate. Where once our films sold copies in thousands of thousands over long periods, we can barely hold on to a two-week shelf life today and sales are dismal. Now more than anytime, we need a superstructure to cash in on the potentials of Nollywood.”

Pointing out the constant evolution of top movie industries all over the world with China, which she said has about 30,000 cinema duplexes and India also with 20,000 cinemas, Igwe said she proposes a four-pronged approach.

“A thousand cinemas in the next 2 years would be a good start. It is possible. Mr. President, with your good relationship with Alhaji Dangote, Chief Ibeato, Julius Berger, Samsung , Sony, the various funds ranging fromSURE-P, to IFC in a PPP arrangement, it can happen. Mr. President, what’s Arik Airline without the various Airports. What is soccer without the various stadia built by government?”

Her second suggestion is about the creation of a Department of Film and creative Art to be “domiciled in a ministry that recognises the film industry as big business and not just an information function” and charged with “developing the business aspect of film, the position of the Industry in its proper place as no 2 in the world, capacity building etc.”

Capacity building for all classes of practitioners in the movie industry and effective restructuring of the guilds and associations which in the past were responsible for providing direction for the industry, are other points she made while reiterating her unshakeable faith in Nollywood.

The turn of celebrated film maker, Tunde Kelani equally yielded a measure of reflective moments his thought-provoking comment pointing out how bad piracy is dealing with producers. According to him, while it was bad enough when pirates reap off one’s works, their new approach of selling several moviesfor as low as N50is the worst of intellectual property battles they have ever faced.

Founder and CEO of Africa Movie Academy Award, AMAA, Peace Anyiam-Osigwe was also effusive in measures to be taken to rapidly lift the industry to heights that seem unattainable at present.

President Jonathan, speaking after much fanfare as he was ushered on stage by Timi Dakolo’s ‘Great Nation’ said he was delighted to have the men and women of Nollywood around him. He revealed that he had the intention of holding the event last year but had to put it off due to the sad and untimely death of his younger brother.

“Three things unite us despite our class, creed or religion, they bring us joy. One is sports, another is music and the third, out national but truly global brand – Nigerian movies – Nollywood,” the president said, adding that is the reason for the day’s celebration.

He said it is always a thing of joy to him when he travels to other countries and fellow presidents talk about Nigerian movies and movie stars, saying such comments have reinforced his administration’s decision to initiateProject Nollywood through which a whopping N3 billion will be made available to boost the industry on account of the inability of accessing the $200 million intervention fund which he announced over two years ago.

Speaking after the president, Governor Godswill Akpabio made Nollywood players happier by announcing a grant of N50 million for the best male and female actors every year. Although like the latest financial incentive announced by the president, the modalities of the fund, sustainability of it and even the process of indentifying recepients were not announced.

Article Credit: Daily Independent News

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