How Nollywood Became The Second Largest Film Industry

Nollywood is a nickname that originally referred to the Nigerian film industry, it was devised by the New York Times journalist Norimitsu Onishi in 2002 when he observed film-making activity in Lagos. 

Nigerian movies are mainly known to theme about love, power, money, religion, betrayal and conflict. These stories reverberate with the public because they reflect what goes on in the people’s daily lives. The films are often shot in offices and houses and are produced within a few days. Today an average of 2500 movies are produced yearly, which puts Nollywood second behind Bollywood (India) and ahead of Hollywood (USA). This is a remarkable achievement because they produce these movies on a budget between $8,000-13,000 compared to Hollywood’s $6.7 million budget.

Nollywood is now producing more genres like horror, period pieces, musicals, animations, and even nolly-noir at industry standard picture and sound quality.

It wasn’t until the 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.

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.

By the mid-90s, people were actually making a living turning these plays into movies. Others, like the Igbo Group, decided to do something similar. In 1992, Chris Obi Rapu directed Living in Bondage film in 1992.

Nollywood made it possible for Africans to view films made by fellow Africans on a huge scale for the first time. They cultivated a massive African audience as a result. This has not changed and has led to several other African countries, e.g., Ghana, Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, and South Africa, getting involved in this kind of film production.

Now, thanks to more funding and better quality productions from their contemporary counterparts, the film industry today is the largest employer after agriculture and makes up 5% of Nigeria’s GDP.

Today Nollywood films are available through Netflix, Amazon Irokotv and Shugaban media. Not only does it feature prominently in African film festivals, it has its own annual festival every summer in Paris called “Nollywood week”. Since the 2015 Oscars, the Academy of Motion Pictures and Science has approved Nollywood for the selection of Foreign Language Film.