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Around Nollywood December 24, 2010

Posted by Jason in Uncategorized.
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One of those classic Economist pieces- a look at the Nigerian film industry, which is wildly popular throughout Africa. The plots of the films give us a sense of where the popular mind is in Africa:

They often revolve around the travails of new arrivals in big cities—an experience familiar across the continent. The epic film “One God One Nation” portrays a Muslim man and a Christian woman who struggle to marry. “Caught in the Act” shows a wife who is wrongly accused by her own mother-in-law of abducting a child. Nollywood films depict families whose faith has been shattered, whose certainties have been undermined. They show ordinary people struggling to make sense of a fast-changing, unkind world. Aspirations are dashed. Trust is forsaken. The overarching theme of Nollywood films is Africa’s troubled journey to modernity. Because Hollywood films tend to show people at the other end of that journey, they fail to resonate.

So what does an African visual culture look like?

African elites sneer at the frequent displays of witchcraft in Nigerian films. Traditional curses are imposed, spirits wander, juju blood flows. The tribulations of modern life are often shown to be the result of shadowy machinations. Murder and the occult are never far from the surface. “It is the Nollywood equivalent of the Hollywood horror movie,” says Ms Isong, the producer.

Yet tormented characters often find salvation by turning to Christ. A church scene is de rigueur in a Nollywood film. This is hardly surprising. Christianity is on the rise in Africa. The number of evangelicals has grown from some 17m four decades ago to more than 400m. In countries like Liberia and Zambia, Nigerian “owner-operated” churches preach the gospel. Many Nollywood stars are born-again Christians. Film credits usually end with the invocation: “To God Be the Glory”.

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