Opinion: Art mArtyr – Not On Your Nolly, Or Frequent Frugal Filmmaking

December 26, 2014



A good story usually takes really long to tell, and this is the case with Nigeria’s film industry, affectionately known as Nollywood. Give Nigerian directors, producers and actors enough time and they will do what they are doing in Yeoville, Hillbrow and the rest of the continent: dominate.

I was recently in Yeoville and the McDonald’s in the area was turned into a studio as a lone cameraman with a basic handheld camcorder, actors who all looked and sounded like extras and a director who did not seem to mind that there was insufficient lighting and a guy ordering a Big Mac with extra cheese went about their business.

Nollywood tells authentic Nigerian stories – some of which are true – that are not only important for that country but for the rest of Africa. Witchcraft, xenophobia, civil wars and dictatorships are just some of the topics that these films cover. Of course, as Africans we are not all about doom and gloom, which is why comedic tales about relationships, food and – way too often – sex, bring a smile to viewers’ faces.

Despite the lack of resources, Nollywood practitioners continue to persevere, and this has inspired other aspiring artists from the rest of Africa.

One of these is Uganda’s Anne Kansiime (kansiimeanne.ug),  the hilarious actress  and scriptwriter who is using social media to showcase her talent for making viewers weep with laughter. A few years ago she was only known in Nigeria, but she stepped up a gear by establishing a website and a YouTube channel, as well as setting the record straight that she, in fact, hails from Uganda.

Anne Kansiime

Anne Kansiime

It is rather unfortunate that the majority of African films are of poor quality, something that means they stand no chance of making it to the big screen, and eventually the box office, but this does not deter those who have a burning desire to remain creative, no matter what.

Fortunately, though, Nigerian films have always been consistent in one thing: the thought-provoking titles that sometimes have nothing to do with the story. Here are examples of some of the best ones so far:

  1. Sweet Potato – A love affair between a coffin maker and a beautiful village girl. (No sweet potatoes were harmed during filming, as they do not even feature.)
  2. Small Moving Parts – How can you not watch with a title like this?
  3. Yaws N Myn – SMS lingo is only just beginning to haunt Africa, clearly.
  4. Lies That Bind – A close family faces challenges such as losing the breadwinner, polygamy and family feuds.

Note: Trevor Noah is a South African comedian who now contributes to The Daily Show With Jon Stewart. Akin Omotoso is a Nigerian award-winning director and filmmaker who is shaping South Africa’s film industry. Omotoso’s most acclaimed role was in Lord Of War, alongside Nicolas Cage.

Akin Omotoso

Akin Omotoso

As a reader of this column, you’re probably impressed just because he worked with Nicolas Cage, and this is exactly the type of mindset that needs to be altered.