Did you know films exists outside Hollywood?

Growing up in the Western culture of Australia, heavily influenced by USA in the wake of political and military agreements following the Great Depression and WWII, Hollywood is my dominant film culture. In recent years I have realised there’s a shocking lack of reality to conventions that make up Hollywood cinema though. It’s less relatable from an Australian perspective, even a white female Australian such as myself. (This may be because the USA is becoming less relevant to the rest of the world. See this article one why their lack of diversity affects the Australian film industry. Global media and information communication technologies expose us to other cultures more diverse than the commercial forces driving Hollywood productions, but that’s for another blog post.)

For BCM 111, a course at University of Wollongong, I was asked to read ‘Nollywood: Spectatorship, Audience and the Sites of Consumption’ by Onookome Okome. This is literally the first time I’ve come across the notion of Nollywood, the cinematic phenomenon reported to be the “second largest movie industry in the world“. Unfortunately, Okome’s article is 21 pages and does not at any point actually define Nollywood, simply assuming I would know that it is a slang contraction of Nigerian Hollywood in the same style as that of Bollywood (Bombay + Hollywood).

[Nollywood audiences] are both defined by a strong desire by those left out of public narrative of life in Nigeria to be part of the story of the city and the nation (Okome 2007 17).

Nollywood films go straight to video without cinematic release, allowing them to produce 1, 844 films in 2013 alone and grossing $3.3 billion (Bright 2015). I have learned they characteristically look “inward”, discussing their own culture, which may be why it has not previously gained my attention. Form and content of these narratives inadvertently reflects the influence of global media (Okome 2007 3), something that need not be stated since art is not made in a vacuum. Overall the prevalence in film festivals and profit margins of the industry as proof of its success and cultural relevance. The article includes thorough media analysis of Domitilla, a 1997 example of Nollywood film.

I’m not sure if this is an example of Western mediation but, upon trying to actually watch a Nollywood film, most examples found in a YouTube search were low budget, relationship dramas that bordered on pornography. The following documentary as well as Okome’s article contradict these results.

Basically, as an outsider to the culture, even in this age of global media, it’s difficult for me to experience and understand Nollywood authentically. There is quite obviously a disconnect between Nollywood and the global film industry due to shoe string budget and what could be described as an over-saturated market (high production numbers mean a lot of content to sift through). Global media may inform Nollywood but Nollywood seems to be an example of a culture being absorbed into the homogenisation of globalisation.

Academic reference:

Okome, O 2007, ‘Nollywood: Spectatorship, Audience and the Sites of Consumption,’ Postcolonial Text, vol. 3, no. 2, pp. 1-21.

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