Dear Nigerian Movie Producers, There Are Over 200 Million Nigerians
The average Nigerian can probably say a few things about the United States of America. In fact, many who've never even gotten within 50km of an international airport can probably write an entire essay on the American people and their way of life.
Such is the power of America's movie and entertainment industry.
Hollywood has given us some insight into the lives of some exceptional people of our time such as renowned physicist Stephen Hawking; Apple founder, Steve Jobs and Facebook founder, Mark Zuckerberg. It also acquainted us with notorious former Wall Street stockbroker, Jordan Belfort in 'Wolves of Wall Street' and took us back in time in movies like 'Selma' and '12 Years A Slave'.
Through movies, America has managed to sell its history, culture, and people to the world by telling authentic stories that span nearly every facet of the American life (and beyond) from governance to interpersonal relations, history and everything in between.
Nollywood, it's time to up the game.
There's no doubt that Nigeria's movie industry has come a long way from the days of direct-to-video movies like ''Living in Bondage''. These days, Nollywood movies are better costumed, have crisp picture quality, proper soundtracks, and even highly anticipated cinema releases.
Unfortunately, though, many of the scripts still leave a lot to be desired and the bandwagon plot mentality doesn't appear to have changed much either.
Back in the day, there were 'seasons' where practically every movie released revolved around the same theme. There was the 'ritual/occult movie era' with movies like 'Blood Money' and 'Witches', then we had the 'epic era' with movies like 'Igodo' and 'Ijele', and in more contemporary times, movies centered around the intriguing world of runs girls - remember 'Girls Cot' and 'Blackberry babes'?
These days much hasn't changed. A quick scan of Nigerian movies showing in any of the major cinemas at any given point in time would reveal a pattern - nearly all of the movies are drama comedies. Furthermore, a significant number of said drama comedies would have their plot centered around love and relationships.
But that's not all that's wrong with our movies. What's even more disturbing is how unrelatable many of the movies are. Too many times we have movies that start off with good intentions but crumble under the weight of unrealistic scenarios and unnecessary dialogue. In fact, if cinema audiences had to donate N10 for every time they've encountered an unrealistic scene and/or dialogue (sometimes rendered in funny accents) in every movie that's ever been shown at the cinema, there'd be enough money to produce a whole new movie with an all-star cast.
Let's not even talk about how, going by most cinema-released Nigerian movies, a larger percentage of the Nigerian population lives in the fancy part of town and drives the latest model of SUVs.
There are no Nigerians who take public transport to work and experience a whole new set of challenges each day. There are no Nigerians who live outside Lagos and experience the peculiar things that come with those places, and we certainly don't have enough moments from our history worth revisiting in films.
Nothing could be further from the truth.
With a population of over 200 million people and 370 tribes, there are a vast number of stories that can be told. Stories that will not only resonate with the average Nigerian but also change the Nigerian narrative on the global stage, and it's important that our filmmakers realise the critical role they play as image makers, and begin to tell the right stories.
It's no longer enough to flood the cinemas with pointless comedies because 'Nigerians like to laugh'; not that there's anything wrong with a little laughter. But we must employ humour as vehicle to drive an already rich plot, and not just overcompensate a weak plot with humour.
'The Meeting' which is unarguably one of the best movies out of Nollywood was a big winner for a very simple reason - it was realisitc and relatable. Every Nigerian has encountered a Clara Ikemba; who for those who never saw the movie, was a cranky secrtary in a minister's office and exploited her position for material gain. She's in the university official who frustrated us as undergraduates, she's in the government official who makes even the simplest process like renewing a driver's licence seem like a Herculean task, she's in the overzealous petrol attendants who become gods at the slightest sign of fuel scarcity.
Dear Nollywood filmmakers, there are millions of people like this with all kinds of stories just waiting to be told. Let's make them heard.
Also watch: There's Money To Be Made In Nollywood - Lord Frank