What Is New Nigerian Cinema? The Definitive Guide

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    Matt Guest

    What Is New Nigerian Cinema?

    What Is New Nigerian Cinema?


    “What is new Nigerian cinema?” is a question I am often asked. My answer: It is so new that it has yet to be defined!

    New Nigerian Cinema isn’t a genre or a movement; it’s not a style or a trend. It’s not even a category, but rather a process – an ongoing conversation between filmmakers and their audience that has been taking place over the last decade.

    The term “New Nigerian Cinema” was coined by filmmaker Kunle Afolayan in 2003 to describe his own work and that of emerging filmmakers such as Jeta Amata, Tade Ogidan, Keke Ezuakya, and Tunde Kelani.

    The films under this banner share some common characteristics. They are set in Nigeria and reflect on Nigeria’s culture, history, politics and its people; they are shot on location and use local actors; they are mostly produced independently with little or no government funding; their budgets range from N500 000 to N10 million at most; their production period ranges from four weeks to two years – all depending on the ambition of the creators, the availability of resources, and the involvement of corporate partners.

    In many ways New Nigerian Cinema has challenged old-fashioned ideas about African cinema by breaking conventions about what constitutes




    What Is New Nigerian Cinema?


    There is a lot of confusion about what exactly New Nigerian Cinema entails. Some people wrongly believe it is a rating system for movies or that it is somehow affiliated with Nollywood, the name given to the Nigerian film industry.

    The truth is, there are no definitive answers to these questions because New Nigerian Cinema itself is whatever the audience wants it to be.Tunde Kelani, the godfather of Nigerian Cinema and one of the first filmmakers to adopt the “New Wave” aesthetic in his works says, “As a pioneer in this new school of filmmaking I feel that my job is to make good films.

    I don’t really like labels but if you must have one then call me a filmmaker.” So what makes a film qualify as New Nigerian Cinema?The use of natural light, actors’ improvisation around the script, location shooting and independent financing are some of the key features associated with New Nigerian Cinema.

    But beyond those technical details there lies an aura that cannot be defined; it’s something intangible that only comes when you have passion for your work and are willing to take risks.By its very nature, New Nigerian Cinema rejects commercialism and seeks to create a better cinema that appeals to all segments of society.

    A filmmaker may decide to shoot a film on.


    New Nigeria Cinema’ Sparks Nollywood Renaissance


    Nollywood is the nickname of Nigeria’s ever growing and evolving film industry. A long way from it’s humble beginnings and at times controversial, Nollywood is today an industry that is as equally loved as much as it is hated.

    Nigerian films have gone from strength to strength in recent years with a new wave of films coming out of Nigeria. This has caused a renaissance in the Nigerian film industry known as the New Nigerian Cinema.

    The New Nigerian Cinema has caused a lot of excitement in the film industry and amongst movie goers in Nigeria and beyond. This new wave of filmmaking has brought about a new form of storytelling, a more dramatic approach and more world class production values.

    The New Nigerian Cinema may be about to take Nollywood to the next level, but there are many people who believe that this new wave of cinema is over hyped and does not hold water when compared to older films produced by filmmakers such as Ola Balogun and Tunde Kelani among others.It’s quite a claim to make, but one that could be true.

    Filmmakers, producers and actors are returning to Nigeria in droves, bringing with them fresh ideas, new production methods and the promise of a cinematic boom.


    History Of New Nigerian Cinema


    In the late 1980s and early 1990s, Nigeria’s film industry was experiencing a renaissance. New, young directors were experimenting with camera angles, lighting and cinematography to create new styles of filmmaking.

    While the 1980s were dominated by Yoruba-Nollywood films, a new genre called Igbo-Nollywood was beginning to gain prominence.With the coming of multi-channel television broadcasting in the early 1990s came a more diverse range of content.

    Nigerian TV stations began producing their own shows and soap operas.The explosion of media houses led to an increase in the number of Nollywood productions.

    As it became easier for people to watch movies at home via video cassettes, cinema attendance dropped and video sales increased.The introduction of VCD (Video Compact Disc) players allowed people to watch movies at home on their television sets for the first time.

    These VCD players also had digital sound systems as opposed to analog sound systems used on VHS players, which caused some Nigerians to buy VCD players instead of VHS players.In 1983, Chief Olu Falae established the House of Hits which later became known as Sound City Studios in Lagos.

    The studio made available recording facilities for upcoming artists whose works were mainly done on tape recorders.


    Essential Filmmakers Of New Nigerian Cinema


    I remember the day I walked into a store and came across a film called Tunde Kelani’s “Tales of Tikilia” (1989), and was amazed by what I saw. Here, in front of my eyes, were stories about people who looked like me.

    This was not an easy thing to find in Nigeria’s movie theaters in the early 1990s. A lot has changed since then, with the number of Nollywood movies produced annually increasing from around 20 to more than 1,000.

    But even today, I still find myself struggling to get my hands on films by women directors from the continent.So it was with much excitement that I read a story on The Guardian’s website that announced the release of “Makers,” a documentary that features filmmakers from across Africa as they tell their stories and share their visions for change.

    The documentary is part of The Makers series, which highlights women who make things—a fitting tribute to women filmmakers on African soil.The film features interviews with directors Akin Omotoso (“Life is Beautiful,” 2009), Wanuri Kahiu (“From a Whisper,” 2007) and Lulu Wangari (“In Transit,” 2015).

    It also sheds light on other female African filmmakers such as South Africa’s Zola.


    Essential Films Of New Nigerian Cinema


    New Nigerian Cinema is a term used to refer to the emergence of a new generation of filmmakers in Nigeria since the late 1990s.The term is often used interchangeably with Nollywood, which refers to the infrastructure of filmmaking in Nigeria.

    For decades prior to the New Nigerian Cinema movement, Nigerian films were mostly shot on analogue video formats such as VHS, and distributed on video cassette that would play in local video parlors across the country.Whether due to increased exposure to foreign films via television or cinema, or just an increased desire for Nigerians to consume homegrown content, the demand for films steadily increased throughout the 1980s and 1990s.

    To meet this growing demand, producers began making films on a larger scale. They started shooting films on film instead of video, and distributing them on VCDs (Video CDs), which were cheaper and easier to duplicate than VHS tapes.

    The films made in this era are sometimes called “Nigerian Video Films”, as opposed to “New Nigerian Cinema”. Unlike their predecessors, they had budgets large enough that they could afford professional actors, writers, directors and producers.

    However, these films were still mostly shot on location and without scripts; actors just responded to the situations presented before them. The history of Nigerian cinema is a complex one, with an abundance of audio-visual productions created and/or produced in the country over the years.


    Importance Of New Nigerian Cinema


    New cinema is a term used to refer to the cinemas of Nigeria. It is also referred to as New Nollywood, Nigerian cinema or Nollywood.

    Brief History of Nigerian Cinema: The history of Nigerian cinema dates back to the late 19th century when the first film was introduced in Nigeria. The first film screened in Nigeria was a silent film by the Lumière brothers, who pioneered motion-picture technology in 1895.

    The screening took place at the Glover Memorial Hall, now known as the Muson Centre, Lagos Island on August 14, 1896. The film presented that evening was L’Arroseur Arrosé (The Waterer Watered).

    It was this film that sparked interest in motion picture and led to the setting up of several cinematograph clubs within Lagos by 1897.”The Picture Palace”, a popular cinema hall on Broad Street, was one of these cinematograph clubs.

    There were other cinemas such as the “New Era Picture Palace” and “Star Picture Hall”.These cinemas served as venues for regular screening of films accompanied with music and commentary by native news readers known as Balancers who commentated on current events through song.

    These news readers were usually members of the Egba tribe who spoke English with.


    New Nigerian Cinema Theory


    New Nigerian Cinema theory also tries to explain the function of the film in society. It argues that the films produced and shown to audiences in Nigeria are intended to do more than just entertain.

    The films are also meant to change, or reinforce, the values of Nigerian people.Tade Ogidan’s film “Binta And The Great Idea” (1991) is used as a primary text for analysis in New Nigerian Cinema theory because it does this effectively.

    Binta And The Great Idea is a story about how Binta, a young girl from an uneducated family, goes from being a victim of her own culture to someone who is able to help change it for the better.The film has many elements, including music and dance, that make it aesthetically pleasing.

    These elements appeal to the audience’s aesthetic sensibilities while at the same time encouraging them to consider new ideas about the roles women play in society.The film shows how Binta becomes independent, leaving her home and following her own dream despite her mother’s strong objections.

    This demonstration of female independence is so striking because it is so rare in African films. Usually, women have no control over their own lives; they simply obey their parents’ wishes and then marry whomever they are told.


    The End Of New Nigerian Cinema


    It is no longer news that the Nigerian film industry is currently undergoing a bit of a rough patch. It is also not news that the industry is in full panic mode on what to do about it.

    Some people have argued that this is an end of a cycle, but I beg to differ. I think we are witnessing the death of a genre and the birth of another.

    The Nigerian film industry has always been a two-headed hydra: one head was the Nollywood that produced the regular melodramas, romances, comedies, etc., while the other was devoted to socially conscious and political films that were more akin to documentary than narrative cinema.

    The former was made possible by cheap video cameras, while the latter relied on expensive 35mm cameras and professional crews.There has never been much crossover between these two streams, with filmmakers preferring either camp and audiences identifying with their favorite genres and staying away from others.

    The audience for Nollywood is primarily home video viewers who tend to be interested in light fare, while audiences for New Nigerian Cinema are cineastes who go to theaters for more substantial fare.However, even within these two camps there were distinct differences in approach and aesthetics between filmmakers.

    While Nollywood filmmakers eschewed professional equipment in favor of home.


    New Nigerian Cinema – Wrapping Up


    The Nigerian Film Industry, Nollywood, is one of the most prolific film industry in the world. It is now home to over 700 studios and produces over 3000 movies a year.

    That’s approximately 24 movies per week!Towards the end of March, 2017, the first ever International Nollywood Week was held in London by UK based events company EKO Events.

    The event showcased some of the top Nigerian actors, actresses and film producers and also gave an insight into what makes the Nigerian Film Industry so successful.Tens of thousands of people attend Nollywood events every year in cities such as London, New York, Los Angeles and Paris.

    This is how successful Nollywood has become.Nigerian movies are now being exported to countries including France and China and this is through dedicated cinemas showing nothing but Nigerian films.

    So it is no surprise that Nigeria overtook India as the world’s “biggest” movie-making nation recently.Nollywood has created many millionaires including its biggest star Jim Iyke who was featured in Forbes magazine as one of Africa’s highest grossing actors.

    He will be speaking at next year’s International Nollywood Week which takes place on 19 – 22 March 2018 at Wembley Arena London.


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