Some key players in the movie industry including President of Association of Nigerian Theater Practitioners, Jide Kosoko and prolific film maker and actor, Kunle Afolayan has kicked against the Nollywood at 20 celebrations. The major argument is that any attempt to celebrate Nollywood at 20 is re-writing the history of the industry.
The Nigerian movie industry has come of age and as a history student, we learnt that the first ‘commercial’ film in Nigeria, Ajani Ogun was shot by Adeyemi Afolayan (Ade Love) in 1976 while the first home video titled Ekun was shot in 1988 by the late Muyideen Alade Aromire. The phrase, ‘Nollywood at 20’ is however very disturbing!
Nobel Laureate, Professor Wole Soyinka had once observed that the term Nollywood borrows from Hollywood. Albeit warning against unnecessary copycatism, the Professor’s analysis may be unpopular. The entire Nigerian movie industry has accepted the term ‘Nollywood’ as a common identity.
The idea of Nollywood at 20 has been faulted. It’s either the promoters of the event didn’t do their research well or intentionally doesn’t want to reckon with history. If Living in Bondage produced in 1993 by Kenneth Nnaebue is seen as when Nigerian movie industry started because it’s the first home video produced in English Language, then the organizers and promoters of the event are saying movies shot in indigenous languages are not part of Nollywood. If they are, the organizers will reckon with efforts of the pioneers before blindly christening an event Nollywood at 20.
The Nigeria film industry has different associations from different geo political zones of the country. There is the English language industry, Actors Guild of Nigeria (AGN) which has its main production center in Lagos and is dominated by people from the south east of Nigeria. While the language used is English, the stories in these films mostly reflect the ideology of the Igbo people of the region. The second industry is much, much older, and consists of the indigenous Yoruba language movies. This can be traced back to the Nigerian feature film industry of the 60’s and 70’s, up until the economic downturn meant that people could no longer afford to produce feature films anymore and started making videos instead. The Yoruba movie industry has an association called Association of Nigerian Theater-Arts Practioners (ANTP).
Then you have another industry in the Northern part of the country now known as Kannywood. By the Hausa population, it has a lot of Islamic influences. There are also pockets of smaller production, like in the south around the Niger Delta. These are also indigenous, mainly made in the Edo language. Each of these has its own associations for the industry professionals. The meeting point is supposed to be the Motion Picture Council of Nigeria, in which all the different areas are represented for the purpose of regulating the industry and lobbying the government but nothing seems to be happening.
There is no National body that adequately represents the industry and which all the associations are answerable to. The Guild, AGN is supposed to be the umbrella body of all the associations but it has been polarized. There can be no one Nollywood unless a board is created with the leaders of all the associations represented in all major decisions making to create a level playing ground.
When Entertainment Rave spoke to AGN President, Ibinabo Fiberesima, she admitted that Nollywood is more than 20 but she couldn’t explain while they are celebrating 20 years of Nollywood. “It’s about celebrating our own even though Nollywood is more than 20 years. It’s been long that people have been celebrating us but right now, we are celebrating ourselves and giving lots back to the society. It’s a good step we have taken especially now that the qualities of our movies have improved. Aside the film village we are planning to build, we will also be remembering people of yesteryears. It’s big celebration because it’s a collective effort of everybody in Nollywood including all the associations.
Speaking with a veteran film maker and actor, Jide Kosoko who is also the president of ANTP, he said the organizers are telling their own story and not the story of Nollywood. “The Nigerian movie industry as far as I’m concerned is not 20 years and I had an extensive discussion with them on this issue. If we all truly belong to the same industry, then the industry I belong to is not 20 years. There is a need to tell the world the sincere story of our industry and don’t rubbish the pioneers. As far as I am concerned, what they are celebrating is ‘Living in Bondage’ and not Nollywood. At the right time, we will tell our story of Nollywood. So we will join them to celebrate their own story”.
A movie producer, Kunle Afolayan is one of those that also faulted the Nollywood at 20 idea. “The whole idea of Nollywood at 20 does not make sense to me because the Nollywood that I know is more than 20 years. I remember my father shot a film about 37 years ago and I also grew up in the industry. As far as am concerned, it’s absolute crap”.
When the idea of Nollywood at 20 was conceived by AGN and other associations such as Movie Producers Association of Nigeria headed by Zik Zulu Okafor, other associations were not consulted. They went ahead to have a dinner with the presidency, pay courtesy visit to governors and continuously asked for financial support for the development of the movie industry. The Governor of Akwa Ibom State, Godswill Akpabio gave them N50million which have been cornered by few who called themselves Guild of Nollywood Stars including actress Stephanie Okereke-Linus and Zik Zulu Okafor. The money has torn their association apart with accusations and counter accusations. The recent is a court case instituted by Zik Zulu Okafor demanding N150million damages from the President of Association of Nollywood Core Producers, ANCOPS, Alex Eyengh for libel. All these dramas over N50million portrayed some level of selfish interest because other associations across the country that are supposedly part of Nollywood were not carried along.
The argument is that Nollywood at 20 is a half baked idea and does not represent the interest of the whole movie industry in Nigeria. The organizers should go back to the basis, identify with history and preserve the labour of our heroes past. Aside different associations scattered all over the country, there must be a national body that has the membership of all movie practitioners of Nigeria.
WORDS BY SEUN APARA