What is Nollywood?
Everyone knows Hollywood and most people have heard of Bollywood, the Indian Hindi film industry based in Mumbai, but who has heard of Nollywood?
Nollywood is Nigeria's film industry. It is the second most prolific film industry in the world after Bollywood, producing around 2,500 films a year. Nollywood emerged in the early 1990s after a period of economic, political and social crisis. At that time, Nigerians mainly watched foreign films because there were few local films. Due to the economic situation, the Nigerian government imposed a ban on imports, including foreign films. This provided an opportunity for creative individuals to fill the void. But most Nigerian filmmakers could not afford the professional filmmaking equipment of the time - celluloid was expensive - and instead had to use cheaper options such as home video equipment and digital technology. Kenneth Nnebue is credited with making the first Nollywood film, Living in Bondage, in Lagos in 1992. The success of his film encouraged other filmmakers to jump on the bandwagon and start producing their own films.
Nigeria in West Africa
The Nigerian film industry has always been innovative. Obi Emelonye, born in 1967, is an award-winning filmmaker who has been part of Nollywood since early 2000 with his company, The Nollywood Factory. According to Obi Emelonye, this creativity was born out of necessity, and in an interview with the BBC World Service, he said: “Nollywood always had this what I consider to be self-starting resilience about it. And this because people are not making films as an elitist exercise, they are making films out of subsistence, they need to make films to survive.” He describes the birth of Nollywood in the following way: “Nollywood came from nothing. It came from an industry without training, without government support, without corporate support”.
Unlike the imported films shown in Nigeria, Nollywood films explored themes that reflected the realities experienced by Nigerians and to which they could relate: “Unapologetically Nigerian in content, they were produced and written by Nigerians for ‘ordinary Africans,’ in contrast to Francophone African films that appeared to cater to European audiences” (www.britannica.com). While the films of Nollywood's early years were not highly skilled, the industry has since become remarkably professional, producing a wide range of genres including political, crime, fantasy, horror and comedy. Even global companies in other parts of the world have started to take notice. Just a few months ago, Netflix planned to produce its first original series in Nigeria, but had to suspend it due to the Corona virus pandemic.
Heart 2 Heart - A short film made in Nollywood
In 2020, the Corona virus pandemic brought film production to a standstill around the world. As film and TV producers shut down and cinemas closed due to the
pandemic, the Nigerian film industry was hit hard. Filmmaking usually requires close contact between crew members, so new creative formats had to be explored to continue working under the rules
of social distance. Obi Emelonye showed his ingenuity by finding a way to make a short film without physical proximity. Filmmaking usually requires close contact between crew members so that new
creative formats needed to be explored to continue working under social distancing rules. Obi Emelonye showed his resourcefulness by finding a way of shooting a short film without physical
proximity. He describes how he got the idea of making a film remotely: "I thought to myself, 'What if I make a film from a distance? I can direct my actors and the filming from my home, without
spending a penny!'" (www.world-today-news.com)
Obi Emelonye filmed Heart 2 Heart over four days in London and Lagos using the Zoom videoconferencing system. The film features two actors and two crew members operating mobile phones. The critically acclaimed film is about two young lovers; the woman, Ada, played by Enobong Iyang, is in London and her future husband, played by Obioma Achufusi, is in Lagos. They are unable to get together and celebrate their wedding because the airlines have stopped operating due to the coronavirus epidemic and Ada cannot fly back to Nigeria.
Using Heart 2 Heart in class
Heart 2 Hearts is a great opportunity to explore some culture-related issues in the classroom for the following reasons:
Using a film that has been produced by a filmmaker within a culture allows viewers to gain an emic or insider’s
perspective rather than an etic or outsider’s perspective.
- The plot is straightforward and not difficult to understand for language learners, as Emmanuel Olabayo, a theatre and film researcher, states on Medium.com: “Straight plot. Zero conflict. Pure drama. And one that didn’t leave us asking for more. These are some interesting characteristics of the short film form, one that many filmmakers are yet to fully explore in their storytelling crafts. The very simple stories make the best of shorts.”
And, finally, the 8-minute-film has a length that is easily manageable for a lesson.
Ask students to do the following multiple choice quiz about Nigeria.
Nigeria is a country in
- East Africa
- Southern Africa
- West Africa
Its capital is
- Benin City
Nigeria is the Africa’s largest country. It has about
- 150 million inhabitants
- 200 million inhabitants
- 250 million inhabitants
Nigeria is a country located in West Africa. Its capital is Abuja. Lagos is the most populous city in the country and on the African continent, and one of the largest metropolitan areas in the world. Nigeria has been home to several indigenous pre-colonial states and kingdoms since the second millennium BC. The modern state emerged from British colonisation in the 19th century. The country became formally independent on 1 October 1960. Nigeria is the largest country in Africa and has a population of 206 million (2021) belonging to various ethnic groups. About half of them are Muslims, mostly living in the north, and the other half are Christians, mostly living in the south (based on Wikipedia).
The website indicated below features various interesting demographic data and provides students with the opportunity to learn some useful demographic terms. Students can compare the demographics or statistical data on the population of Nigeria with those of their country (see also downloadable worksheet). Depending on the interests of the students, apart from demographics, they can also compare the economy and/or the geography of Nigeria with that of another country.
After analysing the demographic statistics in small groups, students share the information and discuss the impact of the different aspects on each country and its inhabitants. For this task, they need to be able to make comparisons in English and modify them. The following website provides information on this English language topic:
An alternative to IndexMundi is the website My Life Elsewhere:
It allows you to compare the quality of life in two countries, for example Nigeria and Germany, based on some key facts.
After talking about the statistics, ask your students:
What can economic and demographic statistics tell us?
What can’t we learn from these statistics?
Statistics provide us with key economic and socio-economic indicators of a country and allow us to compare them with those of another country. This gives us an idea of how one country compares with another. However, these indicators do not give us an insight into the diversity of a country because the figures are averaged and do not take into account the different sections of the population and their living conditions based on factors such as social class, age, education and occupation, and whether the population is rural or urban.
More information about Nigeria can be found on the following websites:
Current situation: https://www.worldbank.org/en/country/nigeria/overview
Ask your students: What would you expect a film about Nigeria to be about?
It is likely that students will expect the film to be about an aspect of Africa that the Western media tends to focus on, such as emigration, poverty, hunger, violence and crime, and political instability, and may not be aware of the more positive aspects that are also part of the reality of Nigeria and other African countries. For example, Lagos is a hub for a number of increasingly successful tech start-ups and is considered Africa's Silicon Valley. Nigeria also has a thriving literary and children's literature scene, and plays a key role in the international music scene for its vibrant and creative Afrobeat scene, a musical genre that combines diverse influences such as West African musical styles and American jazz and funk.
In addition, most non-Africans are unaware that Africa is a continent of 54 countries and several sub-regions with very different populations and cultures. Nigeria is a case in point, with a population made up of different ethnic groups and over 500 languages spoken. Many Nigerians identify more with their ethnicity than with the country, as the country's borders do not correspond to the different cultures, ethnic groups and languages. English is the official language of the former British colony and Yoruba, Hausa and Igbo are the main languages of communication, but middle and upper class Nigerian parents increasingly speak English with their children.
Fourth step - While viewing the film
What problems do the lovers face?
Why are they in different places?
Why is Ada in London?
What job does her mother have?
What did you expect the film to be like?
Ada has travelled to London, where her mother lives and works probably in the health sector, to pick up her wedding dress there. Although it is only hinted at, the story also has to do with migration, which affects a lot of people around the world who are looking for a better life and opportunities or who flee from political instability, war and violence in their countries.
Fifth step - After viewing the film
Writing a film review
According to David Bordwell’s book Making meaning (1989), there are four key components when making a film review: a condensed plot synopsis, background information, a set of abbreviated arguments about the film (What makes the film good or bad) and an evaluation.
Ask students to write a short film review based on the following questions:
- What is the film about?
- What is the background of the film? When and how was it made?
- What elements are well-made (the plot, the actors, the camera work, the mood of the film…)? Is there anything you think could have be done differently?
Would you recommend watching the film? Why (not)?