AMERICANS DON’T WATCH NIGERIAN FILMS
All the talks about Nigerian movies being popular abroad are mere illusion. Ask 10 Americans if they have seen a Nigerian film and you will be lucky to have one say yeah. Thanks to Africa Magic Channel on DSTV. What this implies is that only Nigerians based abroad and other Africans watch Nigerian movies. The reason is simple; the need to feel a touch of home and this is understandable because of Nigerians in Diaspora. The only link between them and their motherland is seeing the Nigerian actors playing the native life styles in a local environment and enjoying the aura of traditional background.
Yes, it is true that the country has been rated the third in the world after Hollywood of America and Bollywood of India, but we need to remind ourselves that this rating is in terms of home video (not films) and its quantum. Putting the record straight, Nigeria is the largest producers of home video in the world. Good enough, but to break even as a film producing nation and tap adequately into the economic and social opportunities which the business of filmmaking provides, our films must enjoy patronage across the world, the way Indian films are seen all over the world irrespective of language. If the industry must attain this height, it is pertinent to consider three things; an improvement in technical quality, improvement film budgets, embarking on co-productions with and telling unique African stories (most of the popular African stories were told by Hollywood).
That Americans, Indians, Europeans and other non-Africans don't watch Nigerian films is a reality; and these foreigners to tell us the truth even when they come over here for researches, technical partnerships or as resource persons on film missions. For example, Emmy nominated Director of Photography and pioneer trainer in the popular annual SHOOT Workshop of the Nigerian Film Corporation in Jos, Marc Wishengrad had said after his first visit to Nigeria "I have high hopes for the Nigerian movie industry and proud to be a part of helping to foster its growth.
"He said further, "people throughout the world know what life is like in America without even setting foot on its borders which is because movies tell stories of common people and the way they live. I had little or no idea of what life was like in Nigeria because Nigerian films are not in American movie theatres." If this is coming from a filmmaker, then you can imagine what an average American will have to say about Nigerian films.
Another type of films that may attract the foreigners are those unique stories about African history and experiences, for which he said most films about Africa are made by outsiders and that it will be a wonderful day when Africans tell their own stories, filling the silver screen with their personal stories and not looking to emulate Hollywood style but to look at how stories have been told in their own culture.
Marc, who few months later returned to Nigeria to shoot the string orchestra scene in Lagbaja's video Never Far Away, summed his narrative about the Nigerian film industry when he said " it is up to the Nigerian filmmakers to tell the stories that chart the growth and development of a hero in their quest to achieve their goal especially if they have to fight against an opponent who has motivation to prevent the hero from getting what they want yet, if they go through the process of questioning whether they are worthy to achieve what they desire out of their world… well then I will no longer be able to say. 'Americans don't watch Nigerian movies!'
Another foreigner, Alexander Van Der Meer, a native of Holland in Amsterdam and documentarian for the European television who said recently at the last Abuja International Film Festival that it is not yet 'uhuru' for the Nollywood, pointed out that although he detests Indian films because they appear too shrill, Nigerian films are saddled with lengthy dialogue which tends to kill the technique of master story telling. "I saw an interesting Nigerian movie but there was too much talking. I know Nigerians like to talk but they could reserve that talent for the radio. People in the west don't tell a story that way, they show a lot of things in actions and expressions. This further revelation about Nigerian film may be shocking. Hear him; " if Nigerian movies are shown in the movie theatres and television abroad and the average man in my country watches them, that would be interesting. But even the Nigerians in my country, they only watch Nigerian movies because it is their culture and they can see themselves in the movies and that is the mistake your minister of Information in his speech made about how a Nigerian movie was shown at the Canadian Film Festival and how every body was happy with it, so he thinks people in the west are happy about Nigerian movies but that is not true because those films are not shown outside the festivals. The truth is only Nigerians watch Nigerian movies in the Diaspora. Of course you can buy Nigerian films in my city but you can only buy it from the African side of the city and the other people are not interested.
However, there is great hope for Nollywood, the potentials just need to be channeled aright. At a recent technical workshop for the Nigerian filmmakers involving their Hollywood and Bollywood partners, one area whereby Nollywood films can gain world patronage like the Indian films is in strategic marketing and co-production. This will mean that a Nigerian film producer could team up with an American producer, source a good script, and cast one or two popular Hollywood actors to play alongside choice Nollywood actors. (Imagine a Richard Gere and Sharon Stone playing alongside an RMD and Genevieve Nnaji) this kind of proposal, if made to any Nigerian bank will change the face of corporate investment in the Nigerian movie industry and all this cry about government not adequately helping the industry to grow will be a talk of the past because all over the world the business of filmmaking thrive without government funding less for enabling environment.
Let us say that effort in the direction of co-production is no longer strange to this industry. Just last year with the support of the Nigerian Film Corporation, some Nigerian filmmakers pitched their project for international financing. The project took the likes of Jide Bello, Greg Odutayo and Didi Cheeka to the last edition of the Sithengi Film Festival.