BY VICTOR AKANDE
There have been several ideas on how to advance Nollywood in terms of quality and returns, but they had always ended up as mere discourse at film fora.
When also, the idea of a Mobile Application for Nollywood films began, those who attempted them soon knew that they were not ready; because apart from the task of having to change the psyche of the Nigerian youth who constitute greater percentage of mobile phone users, to add Nollywood films to their repertoire of foreign videos, they soon learnt that Mobile Application for local films in Nigeria is an enduring and strategic process.
Chike and Jane Maduegbuna dabbled into this idea, perhaps as a starting point for a bigger vision. They continue to nurse their big ideas as a business, while at the same time seeing themselves as agents of change. That way, they earned the confidence of Corporate Nigeria, Cultural organisations and other Creative Support agencies.
To date, the brand has moved from Afrinolly Film App to Short Film Competition; exceptional Google rating and prizing; partnership with Durban Film Mart, a co-production and finance arm of Durban International Film Festival (DIFF); talent partnership with Ford Foundation; approved studio for BoI’s Nollyfund project and potential Secretariat and foreign business contact for Nollywood.
“I would say that our target from the get go has always been multifaceted, the only thing is that we showcase one feature at a time,” said Jane.
“First of all, what we did was that we started with the IMDb (Internet Movie Database) platform; helping people to publicise African content. Because even as the narrative is that Nigeria produces huge contents, we realised that people hardly know where to go to see them or even to see the trailers of these films. So we created this platform where there is a pivoted platform where people can see the trailers and decide to buy the DVDs.”
Flashback to July 18, 2014, at the Durban International Film Festival, Chike had described the digital application as something more than just a digital migration: “It is more of the number of people who can be reached through mobile devices. We are looking at more of the people on the demography, so it is not just a migration. Look at our population now, which is about 70% demography of 15 and 35 years old. That demography is the fastest of communication on their mobile devices. So if you want to connect with their devices, you have to look at that medium. I know we have cinemas, but it is not everybody that has access to them. Those who can’t can have access to those contents through their devices. It makes it easier to connect and make people see and know what is going on in the world.”
At that time, he put the download of Afrinolly at three million, but recent reports say the brand has four million patronage.
Michael Chima Ekenyerengozi, in his June 8 report in IndieWire, described the brand as “using mobile technology to connect African filmmakers and audiences in ways previously impossible.”
Ekenyerengozi’s report, like several others, reflected the dedication of Afrinolly to Nollywood, so much so that it earned Google’s recognition as one of the technological innovations that have aided the growth of the Nigerian motion picture industry.
It will be recalled that Afrinolly App, in 2011, won the Google Android Developers Challenge – Sub-Saharan Africa, in the Entertainment category, with a $25,000 cash prize.
Perhaps the second leg of that journey, in the words of Jane, is the Afrinolly Short Film competition, which on February 22, 2014, showcased 11 top talents from across Africa, and encouraged them with cash prizes, at a glamorous event which held at the MUSON Center, Lagos.
With the works of the winners being showcased in Durban last year, more young filmmakers appear endeared to the project, such that beyond the competition and the prize money, young Africans are beginning to see the importance of short films as a good start for their burgeoning career.
This also is a win-win for Chike, whose vision for the Mobile App has suddenly become overwhelming.
Culled from The Nation. This article first appeared on Sunday July 5, 2015 on The Nation Online.