There is awed era for moviemaking which most Nigerians have forgotten; an era that has nothing to do with the classic 1992 movie “Living in Bondage” or recent “Trip to Jamaica.”
This captivating era dates as back as 1926 when the earliest feature film was made in Nigeria and also featured Nigerian actors in a speaking role.
In 1957, “Fincho,” became the first Nigerian film to be shot in colour. Following Nigeria’s independence in 1960, more cinema houses were established, and in 1972, the Indigenization Decree by Yakubu Gowon made possible the transfer of ownership of about 300 cinemas from their foreign owners to Nigerians, resulting in more Nigerians actively participating in the Nigerian film growth.
In 1984 “Papa Ajasco” by Wale Adenuga became the first blockbuster, grossing an estimate of 61,000 naira in three days. In 1985, “Mosebolatan ” by Moses Olaiya grossed 107,000 naira in five days.
Also in the 80s, filmmakers like Adeyemi Afolayan produced classics such as Kadara” (Destiny), “Taxi Driver” among others.
In 2016, during Ade Love’s 20th remembrance ceremony, his movie “Kadara” screened to a number of Nigerians.
Watching the classic movie, it is impossible to forget the artist imagery created by Afolayan as far back as 1980. More than the narrative structure, it was the images, shots and production quality that took the older generation through a nostalgic journey, and the younger generation through an enlightening journey.
The theatrical and cinematic efforts of the likes of Hubert Ogunde, Taiwo Ajai-Lycett, Olu Jacobs, Tunde Kelani, Adeyemi Afolayan, Ladi Ladebo, Moses Olaiya, Adebayo Salami, Sadiq Daba, Jide Kosoko, Afolabi Adesanya among others, played a pivotal role in shaping the film industry which is now popularly called Nollywood.
In 1992, the release of the classic “Living in Bondage” kicked off a new era in the Nigerian film industry. This era produced movies that are still referred to as classics. It produced actors that were and are still household names in Nigeria.
In the 90s, the Nigerian cinema culture faced a major decline as the home video market boomed. Alaba Market became a vital commercial domain – becoming the hub of video distribution, and finally, the center of piracy in Nigeria.
The 90s birthed movies like “Violated,” “Silent Night,” “Domitila,” “Nneka The Pretty Serpent,” “Hostages,” “Blood Money,” “Out of Bounds” and more.
In the 90s, Nigerians were introduced to actors who made an impact and are still relevant in the Nigerian film industry history. Actors like Genevieve Nnaji, Bimbo Manuel, Eucharia Anunobi, Tony Umez, Saint Obi, Ramsey Nouah, Rita Dominic, Kate Henshaw, Emeka Ike, Stephanie Linus, Chidi Mokeme, Liz Benson, Pete Edochie, Kenneth Okonkwo, Kanayo O Kanayo, Richard Mofe Damijo, Omotola Jalade-Ekeinde, Bob Manuel Udokwo, Funke Akindele, Bimbo Akintola, Joke Silva, Francis Duru among others.
In the mid-2000s, the home video era experienced a major decline with factors such as piracy and film rental shops playing a major role.
However, in 2004, a new cinema era began with the launch of a series of modern Cinema houses by The Silverbird Group. The first New wave film to be shown at a modern cinema was Kunle Afolayan’s 2006 “Irapada”, which screened at the Silverbird Galleria in Lagos.
Ever since then, high and small budget movies like “Ije,” “Suru L’ere,” “The Figurine,” “The CEO,” “93 Days,” “Half of a Yellow Sun,” “The Meeting,” “October 1,” “The Arbitration” have screened at various cinemas in Nigeria.
Since the launch of Silverbird cinemas, new cinemas like Ozone, Filmhouse and Genesis Deluxe have launched and are playing important roles in the evolution of the Nigerian film industry.
In the 2000s, the industry started witnessing the arrival of new actors including Nse Ikpe-Etim, Majid Michel, Yvonne Nelson, Susan Peters, Ini Edo, Mike Ezuruonye, Uche Jombo, Toyin Aimakhu, Mercy Johnson, Jim Iyke, Grace Amah, Desmond Elliot, Chika Ike, Chioma Chukwuka, Queen Nwokoye, Omoni Oboli among others.
Currently in the 2010s, the Nigerian film industry has grown and seen the arrival of a new set of actors including Adesua Etomi, Chacha Eke, Kiki Omeili, OC Ukeje, Blossom Chukwujekwu, Somkele Idhalama, Beverly Naya, Daniel K Daniel, Deyemi Okanlawon, Linda Ejiofor, Bayray McNwizu, Kunle Remi, Okey Uzoeshi, Uzor Osimkpa, Tomi Odunsi, Osas Ighodaro, Rahama Sadau, Kemi Lala Akindoju among others.
In recent years, the Nigerian film industry has gone from being just ‘Nollywood’ to being divided along regional, and ethnic lines, thus, the distinct film industries like Kannywood, Callywood and the Yoruba film industry.
Through the years of the industry’s evolvement, segregatory terms such as “New Nollywood/cinema movies,” “Asaba movies/actors” and “Old Nollywood” became popular.
One major difference between the ‘Asaba’ and ‘New Nollywood’ movies is the art. Most cinema movies have the perfect blending of cinematic style, technicality, beauty, and storytelling.
However, the cinema is considered a luxury, thus their availability to the mass audience is limited. Due to the limited availability of these cinema productions, the popularity of ‘Asaba movies’ are constantly on the rise, and readily available for mass consumption, and at a cheaper rate.
It’s 2017, and the advancement in sound technology, storytelling, technological special effects are proof that Nollywood has evolved.
The current era has seen the success of various genres including horror, comedy, action, thriller and romantic drama.
From conventional movie plots, the Nigerian film industry has moved on to experimental and innovative films. Popularly called Nollywood, the Nigerian film industry has become an intrinsic part of the global film sector.
Currently the largest film industry in Africa and producing more films than Hollywood, Nollywood has evolved into an industry with reputable film festivals such as Africa International Film Festival, Lights Camera Africa, Abuja International Film Festival, Eko International Film Festival among others.
Nigerian films are also screened at international film festivals such as the Cannes Film Festival, Berlin Film Festivals, Toronto International Film Festival among others.
The industry has become more profitable with movies like “The Wedding Party” grossing over 405 million naira in just two months, and “A Trip To Jamaica” earning a Guinness Book of World Record spot for its box office success.
The Nigerian film industry has also created quality TV series such as “Hush,” “Sons of Caliphate,” “The Governor” among others.
Over the years, web platforms like iRoko TV, iBaka TV and CixTV that provide paid-for Nigerian films on-demand have become affordable.
Pay TV entertainment platforms like Africa Magic have also invested in the Nigerian film industry, creating shows and award platforms that further projects the industry in a good light.
There are days when disappointing movies like “A Trip to Jamaica,” “Gold-digging,” “Blogger’s Wife,” “Keeping my Man” and “Three Wise Man” find their ways to Nigerian cinemas. There are days when filmmakers decide to create African adaptation of foreign series instead of our local stories. On those days, Nollywood disappoints thousands of its followers.
But, despite all of its disappointing moments, the Nigerian film industry is one that has evolved and is still evolving.