This is my 4th winter in Utah and I finally got to see a Sundance film. My awesome friend ke had an extra ticket, and of course I obliged. We saw Nollywood Bablyon which gave an overview of the 3rd largest film industry in the world centered in Nigeria. The main focus is on the filmmaker Lancelot who has made more than 150 films. From there, interviews with Lancelot and others bring to light some of the issues and concerns in the Nollywood cinema business. Implications/influences included poverty, religion, a need for local film, and a desire for film as art.
More than anything the film gave rise to ridiculously deep conversations while trying to grapple with some of the issues the film raised. I'm still thinking, so here are some thoughts:
1. Can cinema as art exist without wealth? It seems that the beginnings of cinema and those in the avant-garde movements were independently wealthy. In such a poor nation/continent, can art for art's sake exist? Is it practical when money needs to be made? Is art an important commodity?
2. The film touched on religion being a focus in many Nollywood films. A mixture of traditional, Christian, and witchcraft seem to be regular themes. While the film obviously explored religion as a business in such a harsh economy that fueled the film's themes, is there something to be said about religion in film? While the Western world seems to be focused more on secular topics, aren't religious topics worthy of exploration as well? Will religion in film always look cheesy and cheapen religious messages?
3. Speaking of cheesy, honestly, many of the clips shown in the documentary from the films looked cheesy as hell. Like, Chuck Norris/Steven Seagal film cheesy (that you pick up at The Dollar Tree) with a dash of Lifetime. I wonder if they look cheesy to the intended audience and if that matters.
4. Technology dates films terribly. That's why sci-fi rarely holds up. Many of the film clips showed special effects (of mystical/religious significance) that looked terrible. Just imagine McGyver explosions. Again, does that poor technology matter for the intended audience?
5. I am extremely Eurocentric and know little about Africa. I think I boiled down my knowledge of/exposure to Africa to this documentary, Hotel Rwanda, the beginning of Roots, and The Poisonwood Bible. What I know: Africa is poor and corrupt. Colonialism ruined everything. There is no obvious/easy solution.
I would like to learn more, but the implications of trying to actually "know" anything about such a different place is discouraging. So summarize, the whole list of Stuff White People Like.
6. I think expressing yourself through any medium is important. I think what Nollywood is doing now is important. I don't know if it's "lasting" (such a quick and prolific industry), but there's something about creating your own anything that is part of humanity. Being able to identify with something outside oneself is helpful, builds communities, and asserts one's importance as a person.
7. This film is fascinating, full of information and a culutre I've never known about, and for that, it's worth viewing.