Tag Archives: Nollywood

Lagos fieldwork fantasy actualized

When I imagined doing fieldwork in Lagos, I figured I would become best friends with P Square. They would invite me to their concerts and request ideas for a forthcoming album. (Potential song titles: “This one oyibo is different from the rest” and “Naija, no more air freshener,” the latter which would make air freshener forever uncool across Africa.)

This vision of Lagos has largely not come to pass. Except for last night, when a friend invited me to the Nollywood premier of “The Meeting,” (trailer here) a comedy about a businessman whose meeting with a minister keeps getting delayed, and the obstinate, corrupt secretary he has to deal with. The secretary, played by Rita Dominic, was so perfect, with the limited eye contact and passive aggressiveness. At one point she suddenly announced to the waiting room “I sell recharge cards.” One of the people waiting to the see the minister got up and bought a 400 Naira recharge card, giving her 2,000 and saying “it’s ok,” one of the only things that appeared to make the secretary happy.

At the VVIP tables (yes, this is a thing) sat the actors, Nigeria’s Petroleum Minister, and the Rivers State Governor. 2Face arrived 5 hours late, but just in time for the film. Everyone got a bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon when leaving.

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Cast and crew.

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Nigeria's Petroleum Minister, Diezani Alison-Madueke (right).

Why Nollywood films often come out in several parts

[...] piracy is a response to poor distribution networks. One of our participants explained that capital is so scarce within the Nigerian film industry that distributors usually produce 50,000 copies of a film in a first run – all they can afford – and hope to issue a second run using revenues from the first run. But the audience for Nollywood films is massive: one participant tells us that the least successful films sell 30,000 copies. So when a film is a hit, it’s quickly pirated. The pirate copies aren’t necessarily cheaper than the legitimate copies – often, they sell at a similar price and they’re chosen simply because they are the only copies available.

Filmmakers know they’re going to need to recover costs by selling the first 50,000 copies. As a result, some are releasing their films in two, three or four parts, hoping to sell an initial 50,000 copies of each. A few days after the film has been released, the film is likely to start appearing either as a pirated copy, or as part of a compilation. Compilations, one of our participants told us, are generally produced in China and can include up to 100 low-quality films on a DVD.

That’s Ethan Zuckerman summarizing a recent Berkman Center event.