NOLLYWOOD WOOING BAJANS
"Don't care where you come from
As long as you're a black man
You're an African"
By Peter Tosh, 1977
A QUIET REVOLUTION in Barbadian viewing habits is taking place. We speak of the popularity of Nigerian films, generally referred to as African movies.
They are the hottest rental items in many video shops, while some people are buying the DVDs for between $5 and $10, as well as exchanging them at workplaces and other gatherings island-wide.
What makes these films so popular here, it seems, are some of the mannerisms, especially how they "steupse", the men's philandering ways, and the infectious laughter and dances.
In so many ways they are very similar to Barbadians' behaviour, giving credence to Tosh's statement.
Then it's the strong social and moral messages, with themes of betrayal, infidelity, love and revenge, in the movies. These themes are often portrayed through devious schemes, ritual killings and witchcraft.
However, in all of them, good triumphs over evil, and the wrongdoer suffers in the end.
In these movies too there is the tradition of the elders being consulted on major decisions, respect for the elderly, condemnation of the exploitation of children and, increasingly, violence against women. There is also no nudity or cursing.
Hollywood movies, on the other hand, often portray Blacks, for the most part, in a negative light, or living lives far removed from the average black person. Their themes and portrayals too often embrace gang violence, drugs, profanity, prostitution and other by-products that are not uplifting.
Furthermore, it's refreshing to see a side to Africa that doesn't focus on starving, pot-bellied, half-naked, impoverished people, suffering and dying at the hands of gun-toting soldiers.
But for those who have never seen one of these films, don't expect clear celluloid quality, breathtaking stunts, special effects, or any faces that you recognise.
In fact, at first it might be hard to even understand any words that you recognise as the sound quality is often not the best. Still you will get lots of drama, some action and moments of suspense, though many plots are often predictable.
The popularity of these movies in black communities throughout the world, has earned the burgeoning film industry in Nigeria the nickname, Nollywood.
Today, Nollywood stands for low-budget, VCR/DVD-based, fast-paced movies with about 2 000 releases each year, and sales as high as US$200-$300 million. By comparison, Hollywood released 611 commercial films in 2005, and India (Bollywood), 934.
Though we condemn the blatant copyright piracy through which many of these films are acquired by Barbadians, one can suggest that their unpretentiousness could act as a source of inspiration to local movie makers.
That is, in these Nigerian productions, Barbadian film-makers can see how it is possible to produce entertaining, low-cost movies with an international appeal, using local talent.
Who knows, they may even inspire more Barbadians to whip out their video cameras and film friends in a Nollywood-styled movie.