Nollywood Myth And the Rise of Local Cinema
Aft is the "President of Compliance Consulting, an LA-based firm specialized in international film finance, banking and distribution management." He praises the "quality" of Nigeria's "new crop of theatrical filmmakers" claiming that the "Nigerian film industry is moving past Nollywood." He mentioned that "[d]irectors like Kunle Afolayan (The Figurine), Jeta Amata (the musical Inale [and Black Gold]), Chineze Anyaene (Ije), Izu Ojukwu (The Child), [...] and others are making films with budgets between $250,000 and $750,000, often with international casts and locations."
He continues that "though there are still fewer than fifty high quality screens in about ten venues in Lagos, Abuja and a few other cities" that screens are increasing, and that "Nigerians are filling cinemas at $6-10 a ticket to watch home-grown films." He critiques a recent The Economist article on Nollywood for quoting the UNESCO report that claims that Nigeria is second only to Bollywood in producing feature-length films. The Economist was "ridiculous" to cite the report, Aft claims, saying they gave "no thought to whether it even made sense that Nigeria produced more films than the U.S. or letting readers know that the figure dates from 2006."
He also claims that "my sources in Nigeria tell me that the number of films produced peaked in 2008 and has been in steep decline ever since due to piracy and changing consumer tastes. The [Economist] article presents a neo-colonial vision of African film (damning with faint praise) that does not do justice to what is really happening in Nigeria any more than analyzing straight-to-DVD features in the U.S. would tell you anything about the quality of U.S. films." He appreciatively notes that "Nigerians have proven their leadership" in other areas of the arts, and "now they are proving their potential in film."
I had read Aft's piece a few months ago and passed by without comment. I too had read the unremarkable Economist article, and the UNESCO report which I found problematic in its lack of clarity on whether it was also counting independent productions in India and America alongside independent Nigerian films. I agree with Aft that the "new Nollywood" filmmakers are exciting. I have celebrated several of them in this column.
However, upon a second reading, I found Aft's article as problematic as the pieces he critiqued. While Aft attacked the Economist for presenting a "neo-colonial vision of African film" the tone of his own article came across as patronizing, that of a teacher praising a student for "proving their potential." First why would we need to question "whether it even" makes "sense that Nigeria" produces "more films than the U.S."?