BY DEOYE FALADE
I think I’ve said it on a few occasions: I don’t believe in the New Nollywood.
But before I get to see a bunch of people screaming for me to be tied to a stake, I’m not saying I don’t believe in what Nollywood stands for and what the heights to which our movie industry can rise. I’m just saying I don’t buy the idea that you can just give an institution a new name and expect it to become brand new and shiny – the same way calling a Honda Accord an Aston Martin would make James Bond look at it twice.
It’s a no-brainer really; just look at NEPA to PHCN, NFA to NFF, GMB to PMB or UNILAG to MAULAG (okay that last one didn’t stick).
My point is that regarding Nollywood, there’s really been no change; at least not the kind of change we would like to see. It’s almost as if we’ve taken a step back even though there’s a new name. Maybe I’m looking at our movie industry in the early days with rose-tinted glasses but it’s as if instead of growth, there’s been a regression. But if I name 10 old movies with a smile on my face, I’ll be hard pressed to do the same with the current crop of movies; same goes for the actors. Currently, there are only pockets of brilliance and the only area where today’s films clearly appear to fare better than the old ones is in terms of technical quality.
And I think that’s where our biggest problem is today: a lot of movie makers have become lazy. It’s easier to hide a poor script and bad acting behind fine makeup and good visuals these days, than it was back then. Yes, Nollywood is the third biggest film industry in the world. Isn’t it time for us to act like it? Hasn’t it occurred to us that every time this reference is made, the next thing that is mentioned is the quantity of movies being released and not the quality?
Before, we had really good stories but poor technical quality but it looks like the reverse is the case today. And I’m tempted to wonder if those old movie producers, directors and scriptwriters weren’t of the opinion that they had to work hard on their stories for their audience to pay attention. Because we were rarely awed by the visuals back then, we lived for the stories and would go on talking about a movie long after we’ve seen it because they weren’t forgettable. That isn’t the case today.
And it’s not even with our movies alone. Our music seems to have also gone the same route. We had great songs back then – really great lyrical content but production wasn’t so good. Now, artistes just hide under awesome beats with watery lyrics. The crazy thing is that current music videos to some extent offer more worthwhile viewing in comparison to movies.
Another crazy thing is that the movies produced using local languages offer more compelling stories than the ones produced using the English language. It’s as if we’re so much in a hurry to get more international recognition for our movies that we focus more on the superficial than what’s really critical – the story and the acting. The closer to home these things are, the better. Imagine a pretty movie like Fifty getting panned in the UK. What about Jeta Amata’s dud of 2014?
We seem to crave that western pat on the head so much that we’re forgetting who our movies are really being made for. Look at Bollywood; those guys just kept doing their thing while not losing sight of their core strengths. Now, the quality of their movies complement their stories. I believe we can learn from them.
We have the material. Heck, we have everything – okay, maybe we don’t have enough money but money wasn’t a discouragement back then and we did good. It shouldn’t deter us now. I believe it’s time to stop looking outwards and channel our search towards the right areas. Then we can move from having just flashes of brilliance and have the kind of consistency we’re capable of. That way, when the world refers to the quantity of movies we churn out, they wouldn’t forget to talk about our quality too – not just visually, but in the story/acting sense too.