Article 4, Nollywood Project

Nigerian Film Industry Needs No Recognition – Oni

Date: Wednesday, August 1, 2007
Publication: Daily Independent, ARTS section, pE6

Stories by Ozolua Uhakheme, 

Contrary to views by some critics, the Nigerian video film and DVD industry does not require any recognition by any research group to be accepted as a thriving industry.

The sheer number of films produced, the number of people involved in the production, the marketing of the films across the country, the international acceptability of the films, the constant improvement in the quality of films being made and some shown on African Magic on DStv channel, all qualify Nollywood as an industry, according to Dr Duro Oni, Head, Creative Arts Department, University of Lagos.

He stated that notwithstanding erroneous impression of some critics, there are verifiable indices that qualify the Nigerian film sector an industry, noting that with time it would continue to grow and make more impact on the socio-cultural development of Nigeria.

Speaking on the forthcoming film workshop holding at the British Film Institute (BFI) on August 9, Oni disclosed that the workshop was a collaboration between his department, the Ferguson Centre/Open University to further research efforts from an academic perspective beyond the curiosity often associated by western scholars on Nollywood, which is certainly one of the areas of current research around the world. Nigerian filmmakers like Tunde Kelani and Amaka Igwe are participants at the workshop and their films would also be screened.

But from the management perspective, Managing Director of the Nigerian Film Corporation (NFC), Afolabi Adesanya, and Director General of the Nigerian Film and Video Censors Board (NFVCB), Emeka Mba, would also participate in the workshops and screenings.

On how the conference would help attract support from the British film establishment to Nollywood, Oni said: “We are certainly hoping that would happen with this workshop. The first part of the workshop is billed for August 9 and would be held at the British Film Institute (BFI). It is important that key film organisations around the world such as the BFI are mainstreamed into what is certainly going on in the Nigerian film and video world.”

“That way we can explore more collaborative relationships not only among scholars but also among film producers, directors and writers. Eventually, it should be possible for the organisations to also get involved with collaborative productions and training programmes.”

According to Oni, the organisers of the workshop would have loved to feature more Nigerian filmmakers beyond Tunde Kelani and Amaka Igwe as participants, but for logistic constraints. He explained that the organisers did make attempt to invite Sani Mua’zu, a filmmaker, but all the time “we were sending email messages to him, he was out on locations without access to the internet.

“It really would have been nice to invite a few more filmmakers beyond Tunde Kelanie and Amaka Igwe, considering the vast talent available in Nigeria. To some extent, though Kelani and Igwe are representatives of the film industry in Nigeria, not only for the length of time they have been there, but also in view of the serious nature of their work. It, however, would really have been nice to invite Zack Orji, the Ejiros (Zeb & Chico), Amatus (Zack & Jeb), Tade Ogidan, Andy Amenechi, to mention but a few.”

Reacting to critics’ views that Nollywood only attracts international attention because of curiosity, the varsity don explained that the London conference did not see Nollywood as a curiosity, but as an emerging phenomenon. The workshop, he stated, is looking at Nollywood from different levels and approaches, as the coordinators of the workshop are from different disciplines such as literary expert Prof. Suman Gupta, socio-linguist Prof. Tope Omoniyi, film scholar and critic, Dr. Francoise Parent-Ugochukwu, and himself, who is into design and aesthetics.

With this collaboration the Department of Creative Arts established 10 years ago, is making forays into the Nollywood project as a systematic ground testing for the ultimate goal of establishing two new departments of Cinematography and Film Studies and Industrial Design. At inception, the department offers three degrees at undergraduate and post-graduate levels in theatre arts, visual arts and music. Part of its vision for expansion at the take-off of the department is to eventually become a Faculty of Creative Arts with two new departments added to the existing three.

Oni hinted that the department would see UK, Nigeria and Indian’s support for hosting the next workshop in 2008 in Nigeria, hoping that Ferguson indicates support. To him, it would be nice for the next workshop to be brought to the base of the study because, as at the moment the department is working on the extension of the pilot programme beyond one-year for a further three years and seeking funding and support for this. He said “we expect the Ferguson Centre to remain at the forefront with the department of creative arts, University of Lagos. We will therefore, be seeking support from the UK, Nigeria and probably India as the next phase is expected to be on Bollywood, Nollywood and the UK disaspora, tracking the reception of films on UK audiences and around the world as they are increasingly drawing attention of global media, film critics and scholars.”

Despite impressive impacts of some alumni of the department in Nollywood, Oni emphasised that training is still needed in all spheres and that certain things should not be done from an apprenticeship basis alone. What is required, he said, is proper grounding in the theory of the profession before embarking on the practice, otherwise it would be like a man wanting to be come a pilot and believes that the way to go about it is by simply seating with a pilot while flying and hoping that would substitute for proper training. He therefore, maintained that artistes and technical people that have received some training end up as those with the greatest depth and sustainability, adding that this is not in anyway to say that talent is not important; instead talent should in fact be further developed by good training.

The department has produced many of the current actors in Nollywood including Kanayo O. Kanayo, Stella Damasus, Ann Njemanze, Victoria Inyama, Olisa Emeka, Mercy Aigbe and Jennifer Olisa.

On what informed the collaboration of the creative arts department with the Ferguson Centre/Open University on Nollywood conference, Oni revealed that it started as a personal effort while serving as executive director of CBAAC during which he established a relationship with the Ferguson, which led to an international symposium on “Identity Politics, Globalisation and Social Conflict in 2003”.

“The relationship with the Ferguson Centre has continued now I’m back at the University of Lagos as head of the department of creative arts. As the department is a teaching and research one, the current research is more of an academic venture for a university. However, the Ferguson Centre still maintains a strong relationship with CBAAC,” he added.

This article has been reproduced with the gracious permission of the author Steve Ayorinde and by the publishers: Punch online, the Daily Independent, Saturday Vanguard, Sunday Newspaper and Sunday Punch.