Showing posts with label Moviedom. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Moviedom. Show all posts

Monday, December 20, 2010

How does a stargazer paint a star-studded sky?

Shaibu Husseini

How does a stargazer paint a star-studded sky?

Title: Moviedom…the Nollywood Narratives: Clips on the Pioneers
Author: Shaibu Husseini
Publisher: All Media International Ltd. [for African Film Academy: AFA)
Year of publication: 2010.
Reviewer: Professor Hyginus Ekwuazi

Moviedom…the Nollywood Narratives: Clips on Pioneers
is somewhat like a sponge or a compressed towel. Its inherent absorbent capability vis-à-vis its information density, is, on the whole, remarkable. For neatly tucked into its 166 pages are: 67 biographical sketches of Nollywood stars [13 in Part 1: In the Beginning; 54 in Part 2: Nollywood is Born]; and a roll call of 17 tars [It’s a Wrap!] if we remove the 67 profiled stars in Parts 1 and 2, the balance of 120 becomes the number of stars yet to be profiled. In other words, Moviedom…the Nollywood Narratives is, like Nollywood itself, a continuing project—not necessarily like the typical Nollywood story that is incomplete if it doesn’t run into part 2 and beyond.

This book carries with it the burden of experience—the experience comprising Shuibu’s beat in and around Nollywood and his years as the Chair of the AMAA College of Screeners. However, in no instance does the work sag under such a heavy under. Rather, this rarefied experience has been nuanced into the work in a laidback manner that makes the book as highly reader friendly as it is readable. What more does one ask of a book?

If it is indeed true that every book contains within it the argument for how it should be read, then the subtle argument within these pages is this: a more revealing close-up on the work can result only from the interrogation of two inter-related contexts. In the first place, the broader context of the work—its antecedents, so to say. In the second place, the significance. Since the latter proceeds from the former, both are, to that extent, coterminous.

One needn’t look too far to see all too clearly how Moviedom…the Nollywood Narratives happens to be at the centre of a widening gyre of irony. In the early 90’s, Nigerian filmmakers signed a petition against Jimmy Ate, then the General Manager, National Theatre, for allowing reversal films/home videos to be screened in the cinema halls of the National Theatre—the very same National Theatre in whose banquet hall Nollywood stars gathered on Friday, 17th Dec, 2010] for the launch of this work that is to all intents and purposes a celebration of the home video. And that other blockbuster of an irony: till the middle 90’s the Nigerian Film Corporation [NFC] was still shouting from the roof tops that its statutory mandate didn’t include the video—the very same NFC whose current head and whose one time chairman have been profiled here among the stars of Nollywood.

The point here is that from 1903 when the first movie was shown in the country to 2005 when Nollywood was rated the second largest film industry in the world, the Nigerian film industry has passed through four defining stages: the Colonial Film Unit stage [the cine was the only format and the documentary the major genre]; the post-Independence period [again, the only format was the cine and the feature virtually eclipsed activities in any other genre]; the SAP [Structural Adjustment Programme] stage [the feature continued to dominate but the reversal film took over from the cine]; and, finally, the Post-SAP period [the home video completely took over the industry].

True, in the movement from periphery to social centricity, no single film, not even Living in Bondage, has done for us what The Sound of Music did for the United States. However, its short history notwithstanding, the home video has managed to become the cultural property of us all. It has joined politics and football as the admission tickets into the marketplace of social intercourse.

Herein, then, lies, perhaps, the greatest significance of this work: it provides us the much needed backward glance over the roads we have travelled.

Okome, unarguably one of the leading scholars of Nollywood, is insistent in his argument that the Nollywood film is, in effect, a broad canvass for the social history of this day and age. If we accept this argument, Moviedom…the Nollywood Narratives automatically acquires the value-added significance as the compendium of the films of the period from which this social history has to be distilled.

Two structural factors killed the celluloid film in Nigeria. One: the march of technology which brought with it a rival and cheaper means of making and packaging films. Two: Babangida’s structural adjustment programme which beggared the Naira in the international marketplace—making it impossible to sustain the celluloid culture.

But even while it was thriving, the celluloid was, as it were, wrapped in an asphyxiating blanket of anonymity. For instance, the British Film Institute dossier on the African film, issued in the early 80’s, lists only one non-Francophone filmmaker: Ola Balogun. In contradistinction, the home video is being very adequately documented both in academic studies and in works that target the general reader. An example of the latter that quickly comes to mind is Orji Onoko’s Glimpses of our Stars. Shaibu’s Moviedom…the Nollywood Narratives is spun from the same thread.

It is in the light of the foregoing that we must locate the gaps and dents in the work. Each profile here is like a citation. There is really nothing bad in this; but, to my mind, each profiled personality here would have come alive if only some words had been put in their mouth—if each star had spoken, briefly, on, say, their life value and or on their view of the industry, in the context of their role.

I know it’s arguable—but Nollywood is not unlike the child who stands on the shoulders of a giant and is, thereby, able to see much further than his mates: without the work done by the celluloid filmmakers, would Nollywood have been this big? I doubt it. All I am trying to say is that the tripod of the celluloid period ought to have been included or given adequate space in this work.

The tripod I’m alluding to? Ola Balogun/Francis Oladele [whose works were the first to put Nigeria on the global map of filmmaking]; Eddie Ugbomah [who holds the record for the highest number—13—of celluloid films]; and Hubert Ogunde/Ade Love [in whose footsteps the Yoruba filmmakers of today are following].

If Shaibu’s consistent featuring of Nollywood on the pages of The Guardian on Saturday and Sunday and his painstaking activities in the African Film Academy haven’t by now removed any lingering doubts about his love for the industry, this book should do that. Take it for all in all, Moviedom…the Nollywood Narratives does come across as Shaibu Hussein’s passionate love song to an industry he ardently loves—Nollywood, that burgeoning industry that we praise and cavil in the same breath.

~ Hyginus EKWUAZI
Department of Theatre Arts
University of Ibadan