Don’t get me wrong, I support the entrepreneurial spirit that pushed a bunch of not-so- literate, video-tape marketers, to forego the expensive but usual route of making movies on celluloid and instead shot straight on video, thereby birthing Nollywood. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t watch them home videos. They are mostly crap.
In the week where it was announced that the auction of the iconic piano from 1942’s Casablanca is projected to get over 1 million dollars from Sotheby’s, a stark contrast is thrown up of what film as art is supposed to represent, against the business model of Nollywood. Yes, Nollywood generates in excess of 20 million Euros per annum, but just making money is not the sole criteria for defining movies, which are first and foremost a work of art. The film industry started off initially as a novelty and distraction, with the ‘peeping hole’ Kinetoscopes and short, silent movies of seven to ten minutes, of the pioneers, but almost immediately quality was sought after and auteurs identified the potential of the new medium to make classics even before the advent of the ‘talkies.’ Today, seventy years later, Casablanca, a movie that won an Oscar for Best Picture in its day still holds a place in people’s hearts because it was well made, very well made; so well made that someone will shell out over a million dollars for a seventy year old prop from the production.
This is the challenge for Nollywood – to move beyond the comical, ‘peeping Tom’ stage and start making solid, creatively wrought and artistically driven motion pictures. It’s a long time since the trendsetting Living in Bondage and Nollywood must break the bondage of mediocrity, for quality still lasts long.