Nollywood is regarded as the film industry in Nigeria and it’s in fact the second largest movie industry globally in terms of output. Nigeria film industry is producing about 2,500 films in a year. This number surpasses Hollywood, and it is also second only to India’s Bollywood.
Bollywood and Hollywood are the two most known “woods” in the world, or at the very least, the top two film industries in the world. Actually, it depends on how we measure that statement.
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Nollywood is another industry that seems to be passing Hollywood in terms of the amount of movies it produces a year. How is this possible? It seemed to have happened overnight. But it’s not.
What is Nollywood and how did it become the second largest film industry in the entire world?
Early Start of Nollywood
In early 1990s, when a grassroots movement in Nigeria emerged and shaped the Nollywood that we have come to understand today.
The Yoruba people and their traveling theater tradition are a major player in the creation of Nollywood. The Yoruba are a group of African people living in the western part of Nigeria and Benin, who would put on plays as they traveled from village to village.
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They soon began filming these plays, and turning them into movies on VHS. It was fast, cheap, and a great way to share their stories.
Despite lack of funds and experience, self-made directors begin using commercial video cameras to shoot and sell their films for home viewing. Even though this resulted in movies with super low production value, the original, and occasional mythical themed stories, often lacking in Hollywood, instantly made them a hit.
By the mid-90s, people were actually making a living turning these plays into movies. Others, like the Igbo Group, an African group coming out of southeastern Nigeria, decided to do something similar. In 1992, Chris Obi Rapu directed Living in Bondage film in 1992.
Let’s talk about early 50s.
The history of Nigerian cinema is divided into several stages.
The Golden Age is at the end of the 50’s – the end of the 80’s and begins with the release the film “Fincho” directed by Sam Zebba in 1957, it was the first Nigerian film shot on color film. After gaining independence from Great Britain in 1960, in Nigeria began to shoot several films a year. This was mostly due to the decree of the head of Nigeria, Yakub Govon in 1972. As part of a policy of protectionism, he demanded that the cinemas show Nigerian films instead of foreign ones.
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The main themes of the films were AIDS, corruption, women’s rights, occultism, bloodthirsty law enforcement officers and prostitution.
Before this, the production of films was subsidized by the state, and often they were shown for free, no one thought that this industry could bring good money. Also authorities realized the significance of films and Nigerian Film Censors board was created to check all the movies before going to the cinemas. Many films were censored.
The films “Oh, grace” (2006) and “Statuette” (2009) became a kind of breakthrough and attracted media attention due to commercial success both in Nigeria and at international festivals. Film critics began to talk about a new wave of Nigerian cinema, which is characterized by the complexity of the narrative, attention to detail and higher budgets.
Nigerian films usually pay for themselves three weeks after the release. In 2007, the Government of Nigeria jointly with Ecobank began to finance more high-budget films that can compete with foreign ones. In 2009, Nollywood outperformed Hollywood in the number of films produced and ranked the second in the global film industry.
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Today, every Nigerian has his or her own list of the best Nollywood movies that are fun to watch and re-watch at any time. Of course, there are official tops that are ranked on other different criteria: the biggest budget, the best actors, and so on. Let’s take a look at several lists of the best Nollywood films that have ever existed.
Number 10: Domitilla
Released in 1996, this movie tells the story of a girl who eventually found herself in a big city without any idea how to survive in it. This movie has become a pioneer of the industry to show such a story where a young girl faces all the temptations of the big city and ends up completely morally broken.
Number 9: Blood Money
Released in 1997, this movie shows the story of a man who had had a good job in a bank but lost it and got caught by a whirlpool of rituals. He needed to survive by all means and the only thing he could do to overcome the situation was to take another person’s life.
Number 8: Glamour Girls
The title of this movie released in 1994 speaks for itself. It was a real breakthrough for the Nigerian cinema art at that time and the complicated interesting plot combined with bright memorable scenes has left a deep trace in the Nollywood movie history.
Number 7: Scores to Settle
A story of a woman and her long way through hardships and dark times after the death of her husband. Being rejected by his family, she and her two sons experience numerous trials of poverty, fear, grief and even death.
Number 6: Igodo
This masterpiece of 1999 was something quite unexpected for the Nigerians at that time. The movie featured special effects that created a really creepy atmosphere and turned the movie into something quite frightening. If you still haven’t watched it, you really should!
Number 5: Aki na Ukwa
This is a brilliant Nollywood comedy released in 2002. The main characters are two brothers who bring their school, their home, and the complete village where they live into the depth of chaos in an utterly hilarious way.
Number 4: Osuofia in London
Another comedy made in Nollywood dates back to 2003. 15 whole years have passed since the day of its production but the movie is still one of the most popular Nigerian films even today.
Number 3: Nneka the Pretty Serpent
One of the classic Nollywood movies to watch, this film is among a few Nollywood movies that got a remake. The home video was originally released in 1992.
Number 2: Most Wanted
This is a real Nigerian thriller (1996) about a gang of women whon were armed robbers pretending they were men. They were wanted by the police as a gang of male robbers and nobody ever guessed they were women. Everything changed in a moment due to a sudden romance between a gang girl and a police officer who got to know his lover was a criminal
Number 1: Living in Bondage
One of the oldest movies on the list, this one is also one of the most popular to watch. A man murdered his wife just to use her for his rituals. He wanted to become rich and was ready to do everything to reach his goal. In the long run, the horrible deed returned to him and drove him completely insane.