BY GEOFFREY YORK
The world’s second-biggest film industry was born in 1992, when a Nigerian trader was pondering how to sell a large shipment of blank Taiwanese videotapes.
He thought the cassettes might sell better if they had some content on them, so he hired a crew to produce a low-budget film about witchcraft and murder in Lagos. The film, Living in Bondage, quickly sold 750,000 copies, mostly through street vendors, and Nollywood was launched.
For more than two decades, Nigeria’s film industry has churned out thousands of movies every year, notorious for their cheap budgets, hasty shooting schedules, lurid plots and melodramatic acting – and they’re wild popularity across Africa. But now, Nollywood is changing. New investors are entering, production values are rising and ambitions are soaring. And this month, Nollywood makes a giant leap toward global respectability when it arrives in Toronto for its first sustained exposure at the Toronto International Film Festival.
Cameron Bailey, artistic director of TIFF, has chosen eight Nigerian films to screen at the festival’s City to City program, where Lagos will be the featured city for the first time. “A new generation of filmmakers is emerging to both advance and challenge Nollywood,” he said in his announcement of the series. “Bigger budgets, greater artistic ambition – the new cinema of Lagos is bold, exciting, and ready to take its place on the international stage.”
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