BY KOFO OWOKONIRAN
Monday: “I thought this is how people dressed when they want to do things like this.”
Rambo: “Where did you get such a stupid idea?”
—an exchange from Ojukokoro (Greed), 2016
The story of Nigerian cinema is inextricably tied to technological and cultural innovation. By the late Eighties, movie theaters were one of the first remnants of colonial rule to be done away with, an intentional outcome of a governmental desire to see ownership of the stories told about Nigerians returned to Nigerians themselves. When that happened, the influx of foreign cinema slowed, and then trickled to a halt, as a fledgling country beset with low currency values and lack of production experience grappled with the task of establishing its own voice in the world of film. But as the theaters died, television production emerged as a force to fill the void; enterprising marketers and producers understood the mass-distribution opportunities of video technology. In the Nineties and early Aughts, Nigerian cinema would experience a boom so seismic that it would be propelled into being the second-biggest market on the globe, landing behind Bollywood but ahead of Hollywood in terms of volume of production.
To me, and to countless others like me growing up in Nigeria at the turn of the century, Hollywood was a long way away; Nollywood, simply, was cinema. Movie culture in those years was a revolving door of video parlors, cassette players, VCDs, and the colorful, tattered sleeves that cased them. An entire generation grew up on household names like Jide Kosoko, Patience Ozokwor, and Dele Odule.
But another revolution for Nigerian cinema was waiting in the wings. Where the first had been led by videocameras, this one would be led by the internet, the arrival of which birthed so-called cybercafes in which those with a voracious appetite could seek a knowledge of Hollywood beyond the pirated CDs that occasionally made their way into rental stores. The generation weaned on this online literacy triggered its own seismic shift in the Nollywood landscape, exchanging the charming DIY nature of early-video-era undertakings for higher production values and a change towards fewer but higher-quality films.
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