On Nigerian Cinema

Hakeem Kae-Kazeem in “Man on Ground”(2011)

Nollywood is amazing.

When I moved back home to Nigeria after an early childhood in Kenya, I learned about absurdity by watching quick churn Nigerian films alongside the Hollywood-generated fare for easy and bewildering comparison. I told my siblings I was going to become a filmmaker so that I could make a parody of the Nollywood tropes that permeated them - witchcraft, rags to riches, village girl Juliet to rich man's son Romeo (or vice versa).

The bad CGI, hyper dramatic music, heavy handed morality tales, excruciating audio peaking and soap opera acting on steroids, not to mention the fact that a plot situation quite easily resolved in 90 mins would often be stretched to Part 2, Part 3, or Part 4 (?!) because the more VCDS/DVDs that could be hawked at the corner stalls, the more money the filmmakers could recover for more low budget works.

They were terrible, and I loved them.

When I moved to Toronto I realized - so did everyone else. Caribbean hair stores and salons would have racks of the latest Nollywood selections available for a buck or two. New friends from other African countries would instantly bond over a shared love of the hysterically so-bad-they're-good films, or confess an assumption that everyone in Nigeria was in a cult, or running juju, or presumably living out rags to riches stories over and over again.

I got a journalism degree, continued to playfully suggest that Nollywood parody film, and then I went to the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) one year and watched Man On Ground.

Fabian Adeoye Lojede as Femi in “Man On Ground”

My God.

*insert record scratch*.

A crowdfunded, Nigerian-South African co-production directed by Akin Omotoso, Man On Ground is an emotionally brutal exploration of the tragic results of xenophobic violence in in South Africa, seen through the lens of a Nigerian businessman (played by Hotel Rwanda and 24's Hakeem Kae-Kazim) searching for his estranged brother who’s gone missing. Man On Ground remains one of the most compelling films I've seen, period, and bar none the best Nigerian film I had seen to date.

I started digging more and discovered that while I was gone, somehow Nigerian movies had...changed. Gotten better. And then there’s the TV shows. TV had always had a bit of an edge over the movies - better acting, more production value, but even they had also gotten significantly more sleek with fun, modern, witty titles that were broadcast across the continent via the Africa-wide cable network DSTv (which I miss oh so dearly).

And then I realized that NETFLIX HAD NIGERIAN MOVIES.

Netflix: Sup, girl...

Sila's mind:

This year, TIFF's annual City to City spotlight is on Lagos, featuring an array of films by and about Nigerians, in what looks like an incredible selection of talent. This review by the ever talented writer and filmmaker Nikissi Serumaga-Jamo on the TIFF website encapsulates everything I am feeling about this.

I may have to shelve that parody idea and actually up my screenwriting game before I go back.

Just saying.