How Cinema-worthy Are Nollywood Movies?

Earlier in the week, I responded to a tweet posted by an account that I follow. It was an interesting tweet, in that the owner of the account explained why movies like Dunkirk, Fury, and Gravity were designed for cinema viewing, as opposed to watching them on a laptop. Gravity itself, the film released in…

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Earlier in the week, I responded to a tweet posted by an account that I follow. It was an interesting tweet, in that the owner of the account explained why movies like Dunkirk, Fury, and Gravity were designed for cinema viewing, as opposed to watching them on a laptop.

Gravity itself, the film released in 2014 starring Sandra Bullock and George Clooney, was technically alluring with an impressive sound palette. Why I responded to the aforementioned Twitter post was because I have been thinking of Nollywood movies and how they are overwhelmingly fed into the cinema pipeline.

There was a time Hollywood products were the top choice for movie-goers in Nigeria, and this was largely due to the advent of modern theatres (Silverbird Cinemas, for example) stocking their slate with everything released from Marvel Studios, Paramount Pictures, etc. It took a while for Nollywood to come up, to see cinema as a viable, updated avenue on the now-archaic home video system.

And when it did, the process compelled movie-goers to be weaned off on Hollywood cinema. Sure, they are still people who flock to the cinemas to see tasteful superhero flicks and whatnot, but now we can boast of a balanced menu of Nollywood and Hollywood movies.

But disturbingly, what we have also witnessed is a never-ending proliferation of Nollywood in the cinema space, in that the desire of most filmmakers is to offload their movies onto the profitable cinema chain, no matter how crappy these movies are. With splashy red carpet sessions and the paparazzi clicking away, the average Nollywood cinema premiere is a sight and also a spectacle, all for media hype and promotion.

When these movies turn out to be disasters, which most are, or don’t live up to the hype, it makes me want to douse my eyes in bleach after cinema viewing. There’s the business perspective to examine, where filmmakers want huge box office turnovers so they tailor movies with star-studded casts, and go for familiar, digestible genres like comedy or romance.

The Lilian Afegbai-directed movie Bound, which premiered in cinemas in March, stars Rita Dominic in a lead role. Before the premiere, and strangely enough, Dominic made some noise against Nollywood movies flocking the cinemas. She didn’t even promote Bound on her platform, a movie that was, excuse the pun, already cinema-bound.

At this year’s SuperBowl, streaming giant Netflix dolled out huge money to advertise the Paramount Pictures movie The Cloverfield Paradox, which would turn out to be a failure. Paramount sold the movie to Netflix because a) they knew Paradox was bad and b) it won’t make box office impact. They company saw Netflix as a streaming messiah, and also a powerful player in the streaming landscape.

Although some Nollywood movies can be found exclusively on streaming platforms like iROKOTv, and hopefully on the fledgling service Linda Ikeji TV, the trend of seeing so much Nollywood movies populate the cinemas is worrisome. What qualifies a movie for cinema is sophistication, high texture and tone. A cinema-worthy movie also cuts across tastes and genres, meaning that such movies are made with wide appeal.

This month, movies like PayDay, Lara and the Beat, and the anticipated Yoruba Demons will be released in cinemas. Out of the three, I’m feeling inclined towards Yoruba Demons because AY Makun has a penchant for making his movies slightly grand, and also because Yoruba Demons is imbued with a cultural reference. If cinema gatekeeping were stricter, most Nollywood movies won’t scale over the hurdle. And maybe that’s not such a bad thing.

Responses

  1. Jubril
    Whatever you do, do not go to see Lara On The Beat! A terrible movie from lazy scriptwriters, packed with Nollywood’s A-list making unnecessary cameos and dialogues. A wasted 1hr+ I would never get back. Should not even be approved for VCR not less TV or the cinema. Might have worked as a play.
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