It has been a remarkable year for the Nigerian motion picture industry. In fact, if there was one year that Nollywood practitioners wished would not go away quickly, then 2016 is it. It has been the year of critically acclaimed and big budget productions. It has also been the year the industry recorded good box office returns even though some of the earnings ended up being mere hype.
It has been the year that two significant festivals – the Goteborg International Film Festival and Toronto International Film Festival provided access to Nollywood and its offerings. Although it looked prostrate at some point, the party to Sweden and then to Toronto, the provision of funding for film production and infrastructural development by the Bank of Industry through its special Nollywood funding scheme, the ability of some industry players to pull off some events, including awards and festivals, animated the sector. Also, there were collaboration among some key players in the sector, like the one between FilmOne, EbonyLife TV and Koga Studios, the determination of Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, as evidenced in some of the memoranda of understanding his ministry entered into on behalf of the creative industry, made 2016 a progressive year for the sector.
Clearly, there was a resolve on the part of the minister to depart from the past in terms of support for Nollywood. Unlike his predecessors, Alhaji Mohammed always found time to engage with Nollywood practitioners on issues that would advance the development of the sector. Each time he met with them, stakeholders always extracted a pledge from him to work with the industry in activating the Presidential directive on the war against piracy and in resolving the problem of distribution, which the regulatory agency National Film and Video Censors Board (NFVCB) has woefully failed to address.
They also got Mohammed to commit the two key movie regulatory bodies – Nigerian Film Corporation (NFC) and National Film and Video Censors Board (NFVCB) – to work within their given mandates and not to be seen as being in competition with practitioners. The other assurances were to fast track the formal establishment of Motion Picture Practitioners Council (MOPPICON), a body that would ensure proper organisational structure, define entry criteria, rules and regulations, discipline, and set standards, which would, in turn, drive the potentials for quality productions.
If there is any agency that should be held responsible for the plummeting fortunes of Nollywood, it is Nigerian Film Corporation (NFC). The agency has practically done nothing to help the motion picture industry in the year under review. Officials of NFC have been busy trying to transform from the status of a corporation to a commission. But for the intervention of some practitioners, the leadership of the NFC almost got the National Assembly to pass a bill that would have given it much powers, policing the industry and be in control of MOPICON. They also wanted to acquire and distribute films under the new arrangement. Clearly, NFC has shown a lack of capacity to impact Nollywood positively through intervention, capacity building, institutional and infrastructural development. It has continued to behave as if it exists only to supritend National Film Institute (NFI) in Jos.
Ironically, even the students of NFI have alleged that the institution is a shadow of its former self, a reason they staged a protest recently calling for a change in leadership. Most practitioners have found it hard to understand why NFC should be interested in acquiring and distributing films when they should be interested in providing easy access to facilities that can enhance professionalism in film production.
Practitioners also wonder why NFC has been dissipating official energy in organising festivals, when all they need do is to support the growth of existing industry festivals like Abuja International Film festival, INSHORT Film Festival among others.
BUT while it was not swift movement for the regulators, it was the reverse for some practitioners, who, in spite of a glaring glut, made efforts to produce films that sat well with both the home and overseas movie crowd. Movies like ‘The CEO,’ ‘76, 3 Wise Men, The Arbitration, The Wedding Party, Wives on Strike, Green White Green, Gidi Blues and the box office hit A Trip to Jamaica by Ayo Makun (aka AY) and a few others readily come to mind. AY’s A Trip to Jamaica,’ which is still showing in major cinemas across the country, reportedly broke the N150 million record AY set last year with his comedy film 30 Days in Atlanta.
At the last check, the movie, according to its promoters, has netted NI75 million in box office returns. No Nigerian film has achieved that feat before. The closest was N60 million and that was two years ago. Expectations are that with more screens and quality productions, filmmakers will be able to recoup their investments and much more from just cinema runs. However, a cursory look at the content of some of the movies released still showed a yawning gap in technical details and inconsistencies in such critical areas as editing, lighting and sound. Besides, a few of the offerings were spurious, superfluous as they explored naïve storylines.
Eventful as the year seems for moviedom, practitioners believe that the path of growth for the industry would be the pursuit of professional excellence in the organization of the industry, content and quality of movie offerings. Also efforts should be geared towards reinvesting in technologies and in the development of human capital.