Nollywood cannot win an Oscar —Madu Chikwendu
With Nollywood which is regarding as the third largest film producers in the world going through a recession, some industry pundits are afraid that sooner or later Nollywood may be dominated by other African countries film industry at the rate they are developing. But Mr. Madu Chikwendu, Regional Secretary of the Pan-African Federation of Filmmakers (FEPACI), he not only sees the insinuation as wishful thinking but reveals that the many dreams of many Nigerians of seeing a day when Nollywood would win an Oscar will remain an impossibility unless certain industry professional processes are adopted in this interview with AHAOMA KANU.
How can you describe the lack of activities that seems to be happening in Nollywood right now?
I was asked this kind of question some days back and at the risk of sounding tedious I will give the same answer I gave before; Nollywood had already melted down before the melt down and it is the inevitable end result for total lack of foresight; lack of planning; lack of strategic thinking; lack of fresh ideas; lack of government initiatives and lack of everything standstill and you should know that if anything is at a standstill there is a tendency to go into reverse but if you at in motion there is no way you can decline. So we are at a stand still and I am sure that very soon we will begin to regress.
Do you think that the directive from the National Films and Video Censor's Board (NFVCB) on the new distribution framework is responsible for the stand still?
It will be unfair to put the blame on the new distribution framework because the strategy is a very laudable initiative irrespective of whatever flaws that may be inherent in that proposal considering the fact that this is the first effort and attempt by government in 15 years to make a definitive intervention in Nollywood; there has not been any initiative at all in any form whatever from the government. To my mind, what we need to do is to properly analyse this initiative and find out what we need to add and remove and not the condemnation by some sectors of the industry.
Recently, a ban was placed on foreign soaps to be aired during primetime and this created a 400 hours space on our local television stations, do you think local producers can meet up the challenge?
Yes. You see, protectionism is an economic strategy which can work and that is what they are trying to implement; that is to protect the local industry. Nigeria is a very large country and the audiovisual industry is also very big so I am certain that the local production companies are equal to the task but however, the mistake we often make in Nigeria is to pose solutions in isolation of other factors and you know these things are intertwined and interwoven. So a mere directive on its own may not necessarily not be enough to achieve the desired results; there are other factors to be looked at, issues of funding, some form of institutional funding scheme. It's very strange that our law makes provision for Radio and Television Tax; as usual, that will look very interesting on paper. The law now proscribes that this tax should be collected by the local government and that is where things begin to go wrong very rapidly. I am sure the framers of the constitution had in mind that the local government, being the closest to the people, would be in a better position to collect this tax but where we always get it wrong and shoot ourselves in the foot is when the local governments now treat this Radio and Television Tax as their own revenue which shouldn't be so. But that is not the idea because in developed countries, this tax is used to fund Free Television and Radio like in the UK, stations like BBC, VOA and others that people don't pay to receive their signal when you are not a paid TV, this tax is used to fund the programs. But in Nigeria there is no such thing in place.
With this kind of recess Nollywood is undergoing at the moment, do you see other motion picture industries of other African countries overtaking Nollywood as the largest producers of home movies?
That may be wishful thinking because big is tied to size; size is tied to market and market is tied to population. So if you look at maybe countries like Sierra Leone with a population of maybe five or six million people or there about, Ghana has a population of 22 million and the Ghanaian film industry has been much more organised and stable than Nollywood, they cannot become bigger than Nollywood; it is impossible because of the simple economics involved. In Nigeria you have probably over 1000 film producers and close to or more than 50 000 actors. These are all the indices that combine to determine the value of the industry. And even if we say that Nollywood is in a stand still, it does not mean productions are not taking place.
The African Movie Academy Awards (AMAA) has been held for the umpteenth time in Nigeria, since this is a Pan-African Film awards, don't you think that the recurrent hosting of AMAA in Nigeria will make it appear as Nigeria and lose appeal as truly African?
I don't know whether it would be appropriate for me to comment on AMAA but there are certain things that will make an event or an institution African and the least of it is the location or city it takes place because it must take place somewhere. Even if you decide to move AMAA to a different African country every year, that only does not make it African. Assuming that you have a jury that is made up of only Nigerians and also have entries from only Nigerians and every year AMAA moves to a different African country; will you say it is African? I will not say it is African in a sense; I can say it is African in a sense in terms the geography of the venue but it is not African in its entirety. I think that what AMAA needs to do is to institutionalize itself as an African platform and this can be done by widening the participation of Africans at the level of the screeners, at the level of the jury, entries and then, even more institutionally, at the level of the board; these are what determines whether it is Nigerian or African.
We saw Bollywood dominating Hollywood in the last Academy Awards otherwise called the Oscar Awards where Slumdog Millionaire carted home record eight awards, do you see Nollywood with the way it is going achieving this kind of feat one day?
First and foremost, I must be obliged to challenge a fundamental assumption, would you call Slumdog Millionaire a typical Bollywood movie? I will say no; it was not directed by an Indian, it was directed by Danny Boyle and was an American production that was set in India. This issue has been coming up all over the world and people have been celebrating Slumdog Millionaire as a triumph of Bollywood but I am saying that is not a Bollywood movie because it is lacking in the typical things that make it a Bollywood movie which is song and dance; these are critical key elements and then the composition of the cast and crew. If you want to choose a movie, a typical Bollywood movie, would you in all honesty take Slumdog Millionaire? But going to the question, cinema is probably, to my mind, the most political business in the world; it is extremely political and politicized. As far as I am concerned and know from attending many film festivals all over the world, the mere fact that your film is very good does not mean it will win the award. I am telling you that categorically that, assuming we make a movie that is better then Slumdog Millionaire, it is not automatic that it will go and win an Oscar and beat an American film because there is no where in the books that it is said that it is said that the fact your film is good guarantees awards Remember also that in the last five six years, India has signed a lot of bilateral and multilateral treaties with a lot on audiovisual; these treaties insures a very high level of international access, acceptance and collaboration and it may interest you to know that Nigeria has no single co-production, bilateral or multilateral treaties with anybody on audiovisual, so where are we going to get the Oscar from?