This year, the United Nations announced that Nigeria’s film industry had surpassed the U.S. in numbers of feature films produced. Though many of the country’s movies are produced in local languages, a large number of English-language movies have helped Nigeria export the “Nollywood” experience abroad.
Explore the top film-producing nations in this interactive feature. Click on a country to learn about its film industry.
Below, read a Q&A on the growth of the Nigerian film industry.
* Data courtesy of the U.N. and UNESCO. Read more.
Jamie Meltzer, director of the documentary “Welcome to Nollywood,” joins Worldfocus to discuss Nigeria’s blooming film industry.
Watch a clip from the film, in which Nigerians discuss the rise of Nollywood:
Worldfocus: Films from so-called “Bollywood” and “Hollywood” often have distinct styles or themes. Is this true of “Nollywood” as well? Are particular styles/themes/genres popular?
Jamie Meltzer: Well, the interesting thing about Nollywood is that the genres and style keep evolving. It’s a very young industry (15 years or so), so there is no prototypical Nollywood film or genre. At first, films depicting cults and occult activity were popular, and an explosion of those kinds of films flooded the market, and then interest died down due to overexposure. Then, “epic” films — period films about tribes and West African history — were popular, and then the market was flooded, then interested waned…then love films, then action films. It is always in flux.
Worldfocus: How do the production and distribution of films in Nigeria differ from the U.S.?
Meltzer: Very different. Nigeria has the first all-digital film industry — all films are shot, edited and distributed through digital means. This is an industry that exists because of the democratizing effects of technology — cheaper and better video cameras and desktop editing systems allowed this industry to start and thrive. The productions are generally done on the cheap ($20,000 – 60,000 U.S.) and put out quite quickly. They are distributed through home video — DVDs and VCDs — through markets throughout Lagos and Nigeria. For a number of reasons, theaters aren’t popular in Nigeria, so people watch these at home mostly.
Worldfocus: Can you describe the culture surrounding movies?
Meltzer: There is a strong celebrity culture — a few stars that are known throughout the country and that are immensely popular and command large salaries. People love to discuss the films, and I found that they provide a real service to those in the diaspora, linking them to their home culture in a profound way. You can find Nigerian films in African and West African markets across the world. They have also spawned a host of imitators in other African countries, which is great because the success of Nollywood is pushing other nations and cultures to get into the act of making films by, for, and about themselves — a real antidote to the monoculture that often results from the disproportionate impact of American pop culture and Hollywood.
Worldfocus: As the U.S. film industry wrestles with the Internet and other changes, what challenges is the Nigerian film industry facing right now and what future do you envision for it?
Meltzer: As an all-digital industry, Nollywood is ahead of the U.S. in many respects, and even though most people in Nigeria have Internet access — though Internet cafes, etc. — there isn’t much of an online viewership for Nollywood, but maybe that will change.
– Katie Combs