Nollywood has grown to a point where it can no longer be ignored by movie goers, the government and now the international community. One of our own Nollywood stars Omotola Jalade Ekeinde was recently listed in the influential Times 100 list. She did not get there by taking waka pass roles in some half baked Hollywood productions… No, she got there by working hard in the Nigerian entertainment industry as an actress and musician and let’s not forget her humanitarian work. And while she has acted in hundreds of features, you will not find Mrs. Ekeinde in just any Nollywood flick. She is very choosy about the projects she takes on these days. In other words, you are most likely to see her in a big budget Nollywood blockbuster than in a cheaply produced VCD in Alaba market (no offence, guys). And she is not the only one towing such line; A-listers such as Joke Jacobs, Genevieve Nnaji, Kate Henshaw and Rita Dominic are no different. My point is New Nollywood is about quality over quantity. It is about appealing to a different class of viewers; a set that is ready to part with a thousand and five hundred Naira over the weekend to enjoy two hours of well put together entertainment.
The New Nollywood appeal is not just for the regular Nigerian cinema goers. It is for the international scene. It is where films are made for the purposes of entering into film festivals, premiering around the world and making bold statements on issues while still retaining the African essence. They are the films that make it to the final rounds of the African Oscars – the Africa Movies Academy Awards which is now in its ninth year. They are the films that take months to complete as opposed to one week as was the case in the past. These films pay attention to detail and try and involve professionals across board. The credits at the end of such movies are exhaustive which only goes to show the amount of work and resources that went into one single production.
But beyond the big budgets and award ceremonies, New Nollywood is raising the bar in the industry and commanding collaborations from within and outside the continent. Hollywood actors and crew are taking a second look and giving the industry a try. Tony Abulu’s Doctor Bello is easily comes to mind. It features Isaiah Washington and Vivica Fox. There is also the yet to be released Half of A Yellow Sun which will see Nollywood’s Thandie Newton and Chiwetel Ejiofor act alongside Genevieve Nnaji and O.C. Ukeje among others. New Nollywood means new possibilities.
New Nollywood has also served as a melting pot for new and budding talents in film-making. Gone are the days when you have to be part of a cartel or from a big ‘acting’ family (yes, we do have them here in Nigeria). With the right amount of cash, you do not even need a Nollywood A-Lister to make your film a hit at the cinema. And you can also decide if and when you want to release your DVD edition. But what is more invigorating is the diversity of stories and techniques coming out of Nollywood. And while it might still feature, the odd Babalawo (witch doctor) and husband-snatching, New Nollywood has taken some decisive and giant strides in a short time. It is no longer business as usual.
The Nollywood Review is a weekly column by Isabella Akinseye published in Saturday Newswatch newspaper.