We’ve all heard of Hollywood and Bollywood, the undeniably largest hubs for films on the planet. But I notice most people in the West have never heard of the world’s second largest film industry, one that sits in the heart of Africa’s largest economy. This hub, which has gained a surprising amount of momentum, is Nollywood.
Nollywood films first began coming out in the early 1960s, a respective fifty and seventy years after the founding of Hollywood and Bollywood. The first generation of Nigerian films arose just after Nigeria’s independence, with notable filmmakers being Hubert Ogunde, Jab Adu, Ola Balogun, and Moses Olaiya (a.k.a Baba Sala). They helped to modernize much of Nigeria’s film genres, including comedy, drama, and opera, but grew quickly frustrated with the high cost of production materials. After pushing to the government, who had begun funding Nigeria’s TV industry, they gained funding, helping the new industry grow and thrive.
The industry for a while centered around indigenous films, but in 1992, the film Living in Bondage by Ken Nnebue was released, going on to be considered Nollywood’s first big blockbuster release, setting Nigeria on the path of pushing out more commercial films. The first Nigerian film to gain international attraction was Osoufia in London, released in 2003, pushing Nollywood films to be released in standard quality.
In 2009, Nollywood had officially surpassed Hollywood as the second largest film industry in terms of production revenue, second only to Bollywood. As of 2014, Nollywood’s production worth is approximately $3.3 billion USD, although nowadays the industry faces a serious revenue bleed, as movie pirating the the lack of true global breakout has drained revenue, causing a serious drain on the formal economy. Still, Nollywood produces a whopping 1,500 films a year, greatly surpassing Hollywood’s annual production.
Nollywood greatly contrasts from Hollywood in that it is not made in a uniform pattern, with a single language dominating the industry. Rather, the industry is filmed throughout different regions, in over 300 languages, reflecting the many different cultures inside Nigeria. Despite their growing adoption of international uniform influence, they maintain a distinctive cultural difference, setting the industry apart from the two more well-known.
It is undeniable that the industry has the potential to become internationally renowned, although it has yet to. When it can and will finally make its breakthrough is uncertain. But it seems to be doing well for itself, and continues to grow each year.