Nigeria houses arguably the second-largest movie industry in the world, Nollywood, but you search through streaming platforms and cinema titles every day and fall into a dilemma of which Nigerian movie is worth your time.
If it is not poor characterisation, it is crappy dialogue, or bad or locally unrealistic storytelling, or irritating absence of continuity…we could go on and on.
Interestingly, if you flip through pages of Nollywood titles, you will smile a bit and possibly vouch for the producer and director at a gathering. And these have come both in Old and New Nollywood. But why digest crumbs when you can have the whole icing on the cake? This is one reason Hollywood gets all the attention from this part of the world because the storytelling is top-notch.
Bollywood comes a bit later but the love and dancing are far-fetched on a global scale, even if it is peculiar to the Indian society.
Old Nollywood was a delight to many audiences, but the focus has usually been on the actors and actresses who come up with amazing performances and attempt to draw attention away from the poor storyline that was presented.
There were breakout production studios like Mount Zion that traumatised the childhoods of many millennial Nigerians who still refer to that period refer as anti-renaissance. It killed many pop cultures and made people ask anti-progress questions like “Why should I be rich when God wants me to be poor?”
I mean, the Nigerian audience has seen a scene where a snake entered a woman through her anus, and she was smiling through the process.
Let’s go deeper.
With movies like “Isakaba”, “Diamond Ring”, and “Glamour Girls”, “Living in Bondage”, Old Nollywood led the TV space. People will watch and watch and talk all day about the movies. The actors enjoyed some kind of immunity from the audience because they were overtly dramatic, and people loved the show.
No one was bothered about a wig showing on another wig, a red blouse that became green in the next scene, a car accident that was portrayed all the same way by different directors, prolonged boring dialogues with absolutely no substance, and messy action scenes where they used firecrackers to shoot guns.
Up Iweka merchants were the ones on everyone’s lips. All the executive producers and marketers came from there and solved the problem of accessibility. You may be surprised to know that the area was where distribution started and a centre for career pirates.
Old Nollywood brings nostalgia though – because we were used to the available (mediocrity) and not the best – and this may be why New Nollywood is doing remakes of the old content.
What about the remakes?
Remakes are good for the cultural impact, pays homage to the old order, and creates more jobs. But, when we put together the ones that have been done in the last few years, we can boldly say it has not been handled right, maybe because it has all been produced by one studio. Our expectations are low for the next one, except another studio produces it because the current one only cares about the spectacle and the money.Nigerian actor. Name withheld for obvious reasons.
The audience is just angry, and rightly so. But, they seem to forget that something has changed: The FX and even that conversation will have two sides. There is no other movie element that should make a headline.
You can say we have moved from extremely poor to poor though.
Nollywood just seems to be copying Hollywood and doing it the wrong way.
Since the record-breaking success of Ramsey Nouah’s 2019 remake of Living in Bondage, Nollywood has seen a frenzy of remakes and sequels of classics from the 1990s. The audience has been excited to see some of their favourite stories retold per contemporary times.
But, their excitement for them has quickly waned, and it is because the quality of the storytelling has been poor.
No doubt, most of the remakes seem like a cash grab for the producers, and you may argue that it’s because the budget is usually low. However, that’s not good enough excuse.
Old Nollywood arguably reflected some part of Nigeria’s cultural realities. Besides, that era raised generations of talented actors and actresses, who have now become the veterans of our time.
So, as much as there are many questions as to the quality of productions then, the remakes are supposed to be a long-range upgrade from what we saw before.
It is not enough to do a remake. The questions: ‘why?’ and ‘cultural relevance’ need to be answered. It is just that we may not be seeing that, even in subsequent sequels.
Hollywood does remakes because the originals have a built-in audience, and usually, the studios want to leverage that number. Also, the audience asks for them. And, when they are produced, there is a lot of the original in the remake with a heightened sense of creativity and the influence of contemporary pop cultures.
Nollywood does it for the money, you would say. Because nobody asked. And, as with attempts to produce action movies and lean into Hollywood-styled storytelling, the remakes have been stressful to see.
Nollywood has produced better, and it may be good to take a step to re-examine what the audience really wants and do it better than the request.
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