Nollywood eclipsing Hollywood

2010-05-15 09:25

It’s a paradox. As cinemas close across Africa, homegrown

blockbusters are actually eclipsing Hollywood on the African market as, for the

first time in 13 years, an African feature competes for the top award at the

Cannes International Film Festival.

This weekend, A Screaming Man by Chad director Mahamat-Saleh Haroun

joins 18 other movies selected to contend for the prestigious Palme d’Or, which

will be awarded on May 23 at the close of the 12-day festival.

Yet cinemas across the continent are pulling down screens,

converted to pentecostal churches, night clubs or warehouses.

The average rate of closure is estimated at one a month – an

endemic trend blamed on ticket prices too high for the average African as well

as on the proliferation of cheap pirated DVDs at any street corner.

Around 50 cinemas remain in business – most in South Africa and

Kenya with a few in Nigeria – thanks to mushrooming city shopping malls.

In Ivory Coast, west Africa’s cultural crossroads, “cinema is

dying, if it is not dead already”, said award-winning producer Roger Gnoan


In Senegal, home to some of the continent’s most renowned early

filmmakers such as the late Ousmane Sembene, cinemas have all but shut down.

“Senegal is one big black screen,” said local weekly La Gazette.

A vestige of film resistance in West Africa is the Oscars’

equivalent, Fespaco, Africa’s biggest film festival held every two years in

Burkina Faso.

But Africa’s most populous country, Nigeria, 18 years ago burst

into production with affordable movies now shot with digital cameras that shun

the more expensive classical 35mm format.

Nollywood, Bollywood, Hollywood

Known as Nollywood, the Nigerian movie industry has in recent years

galloped ahead of Hollywood to be ranked second in the world in production terms

after India’s Bollywood.

A Unesco study last year placed Nollywood second to Bollywood in

terms of the numbers of films produced, with Hollywood trailing in third


In 2006 for example, Nigeria churned out 872 productions against 485

in the United States.

Film-makers say the digital camera has helped boost African film

production, with Nigerians releasing what some dub “microwave” movies that can

be ready in under a month.

Nollywood “has taken over completely” from Hollywood, said

Nigeria’s film producer and director Teco Benson, saying it is the latest

“superpower” in the movie industry.

“It’s Africa’s new re-branding tool.”

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