Culture: Soaraway success on a shoestring
The industry generates an estimated $600m in revenue annually and produces around 2,000 films a year. The appetite for indigenous stories made on a shoestring budget and retailing for only a few dollars each has proved a hugely successful combination.
Despite the vast revenues earned, the industry is renowned for its small budgets – movies average between $30,000 and $75,000 – low production values and fast turnaround times, with many films shot and edited in under a month. This is compared to Hollywood, where films can easily cost $250m and take more than a year to produce.
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However, as the commercial revenues have grown, so has the appetite for more polished, bigger-budget offerings, spawning a new genre of film dubbed New Nollywood, which seeks to distance itself from the traditional Nollywood output.
Movie piracy remains a threat, with the World Bank estimating that for every copy of a Nollywood film sold, nine bootlegged versions are traded.
With limited distribution options for Africans in the diaspora, British-born Nigerian entrepreneur and co-founder of distributor iROKO, Jason Njoku, launched iROKOtv, an online platform that provides paid-for Nigerian films on-demand in 2010. Today, it has grown to become the world’s largest online distributor of African content and Africa’s largest internet TV operator.
To cater to the growing popularity of Nollywood outside Anglophone Africa, Njoku signed a multi-million-euro deal with leading French pay-TV provider Canal+ earlier this year to distribute Nollywood hits in French via an app.
As of 2015, a 12-member Nigerian Oscars Selection Committee (NOSC) has been put in place to submit Nollywood entries for the Best Foreign Language Film Award at the Oscars. ●
Talent Acting exports
Ever since her breakthrough performance in the blockbuster historical drama 12 Years a Slave, Kenyan-born actress Lupita Nyong’o has remained a permanent feature in the Hollywood firmament. The star recently earned a Tony award nomination (Best Actress in a Leading Role category) for her performance in Eclipsed, the first Broadway play to feature an all-female black cast and creative team. The Oscar-winning actress is also set to star in and produce an adaptation of Nigerian author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s acclaimed novel Americanah, selected as one of the 10 best books of the year by the New York Times Book Review. Meanwhile Idris Elba also made headlines with his 2015 Netflix movie Beasts of No Nation, starring Ghanaian teen actor Abraham Attah. For his first feature film debut, Attah won the Marcello Mastroianni Best Young Actor Award at the 2015 Venice Film Festival and has since landed a new role in American film director Shane Carruth’s third film, The Modern Ocean.
Literature – Wise words
African literature continues to make a powerful impact on the world stage, through both established authors such as Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and newcomers such as 27-year-old Somali-British poet Warsan Shire, who was named the UK’s inaugural Young Poet Laureate in 2013 for her powerful work chronicling home, womanhood and life as an immigrant. Sweden has distributed Adichie’s essay We Should All be Feminists to every 16-year-old in the country, while American singer Beyoncé has incorporated literature by both writers in
her music, ensuring an even wider audience for their words.