Their films do not show up at major international film festivals. There are no recognized auteurs among their filmmakers. Cinematography is unremarkable, lighting sparse and uneven. Sound recording takes place when the world around the set calms down. There are no large production companies. The films are not seen in theaters. In fact, there are no films. The entire cinema industry is based on videos, made with equipment that cannot even compare to what students have available in film schools in the West. Close studies of these films are nearly absent from the Western academic discourse. Marché du Film’s publication in Cannes, Focus, barely mentions the cinema. KPMG reports, an authoritative source on the industry statistics, waste no effort on Nigerian cinema.
Nollywood has pushed itself on the world cinema stage simply on the basis of the strength of its numbers. Even when noted, it is often discussed in ambivalent terms, as a cultural anomaly that comes up only to be ignored. As it is widely recognized as the second largest film industry in the world (behind Bollywood, and followed by Hollywood), it retreats into a barely visible, peripheral position. Our canonical spaces of knowledge make no room for it. For decades, the same was true for Indian cinema. It was ignored too, gaining visibility only when it adapted the pejorative designation of Bollywood, aligning itself with Hollywood in image, glamour and numbers. The sphere of world cinema has been so dominated by Hollywood, art cinema and other trendy emergences that it has deftly relegated Nollywood to an anthropological oddity.
A polycentric approach to world cinema must recognize Nollywood as one of its significant centers, a formidable partner along with others. Nollywood demands our attention with its variety, its stubborn embrace of the home video aesthetic, its unique distribution system, its insistent construction of national identity, its enormous reach in shaping diasporic identity far away from the homeland, its complex influence on African cinema and cultures, and its thrust on to the global film scene that questions the established canons of film festivals, auteur cinema and academic film studies.
As we mourn the decline of theatrical exhibition and celluloid film, cinema has made a rapid and forceful move online, with miniaturized gadgets shaping both production and exhibition of films. Nollywood has been immersed in this “post-cinema” phase since 1992, foretelling the future of cinema. As we ponder these contemporary transformations and the shape of “cinema after the death of cinema” in the West, the phenomenon of Nollywood already provides us with an opportunity to rewrite and refine our critical tools for understanding these developments. Assigning Nollywood a prominent space alongside the recent inquiries about the status of minor cinemas, marginal cinemas and small cinemas across the world is a gesture much overdue, but also timely. It is not only a gesture of refinement but one of inclusion.
(University of Pennsylvania)
World Cinema, Routledge, 2015
Arcadia University was the first to offer courses in Nigerian-Nollywood Cinema in Africa in its Tanzania program in 2010. Mr. Akpor Otebele, a professional in Nigerian film industry developed these courses in our center in Arusha. There, along with Mr. Roland Adjovi, now a resident scholar in The College of Global Studies, he organized Arusha-Africa Film Festival, which has continued in its second year. We invited Mr. Otebele to Glenside campus to speak to students on Nollywood. The web site is to make the most of our interest in Nollywood as well as his visit. The site presents the best of available resources on Nollywood, likely to grow in the future. We invited Gary Kafer to write the introduction and provide annotations to major published works on Nollywood to date. He deserves applause for his thorough and terrific work. Christine Kemp designed the website with the now familiar skills, while several students helped with research.
We hope the website will provide space to think of Nollywood and its relationship to World Cinema. We invite contributions and comments.