6th LSA conference takes off virtually, honours avid Nollywood documentarist, Jonathan Haynes

‘To celebrate Haynes’ retirement, the LSA has set up three panels which themes revolved around the various scholarly contribution that he has made to the studies of African films’

THE  6th annual conference of the the Lagos Studies Association, LSA begins today, and continues till Saturday June 25. It holds virtually and will feature over 100 panels and conversations around various interdisciplinary subjects.

A highlight will be the celebration of the American humanities Scholar, Professor Jonathan Haynes, who is reputed to have contributed so much in internationalising the West African movie industry through his countless publications on the video production industry, with special focus on Nigeria’s Nollywood.

Haynes retired recently from his Long Island University, New York, USA, where he had served for decades as a professor of English, with, however, a robust research appetite for film and media studies and the society. His research interests were in African studies; African film, video, and literature; colonialism and postcolonialism; English Renaissance literature.

To celebrate Haynes’ retirement, the LSA has set up three panels which themes revolved around the various scholarly contribution that he has made to the studies of African films.

The sessions are:

THURSDAY, June 23: Session 1C

3:00pm – 4:30pm (Lagos); 10am-11:30am (New York)

Theme: CELEBRATING JONATHAN HAYNES (Part I)

To join:  https://us06web.zoom.us/j/85861960093

Chair: Moradewun Adejunmobi (University of California-Davis) [email protected]

PRESENTATIONS

  • Through Nollywood’s Lens: African Cinema and Beyond by Alessandro Jedlowski (Sciences Po), [email protected]
  • Jonathan Haynes and the Changeable, Fertile, Dynamic World of Film in Africa, by Brian Larkin, (Barnard College-Columbia University) [email protected]
  • The Nollywood Epic in Jonathan Haynes’s Scholarship, by Folakemi Ogungbe (National Film Institute, Jos) [email protected]
  • Dan Iya Samaru: Jon Haynes and the Making of Nollywood, by Onookome Okome (University of Alberta) [email protected]

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FRIDAY, June 24: Session 6C

5:30pm – 7:00pm (Lagos); 12:30pm-2pm New York))

Theme: CELEBRATING JONATHAN HAYNES (Part II)

To join the session: https://us06web.zoom.us/j/87387186821

Chair: Duro Oni (University of Lagos) [email protected]

PRESENTATIONS:

  • Nollywood and the Framing of “Occult Economies”: Jonathan Haynes in Perspective, by (Chijioke Azuawusiefe, Catholic Institute of West Africa, Port Harcourt) [email protected]
  • Shoulders and Coattails: Following Haynes from Expeditions to Debates, by Mathew Brown (University of Wisconsin-Madison) [email protected]
  • Jonathan Haynes: Theorizing the Subjects of Nollywood;  by Tolulope Ibikunle (National Institute for Nigerian Languages, Aba) [email protected]
  • When Theory Meets Practice: Jonathan Haynes and Filmmakers, by Femi Odugbemi, (Filmmaker) [email protected]
  • The Popular Arts Paradigm: African Film Studies after Jonathan Haynes, by Connor Ryan, (University of Bristol) tol) [email protected]

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SATURDAY, June 25: Session 8A

1:00pm – 2:30pm (Lagos): 8am-9:30am (New York)

Theme: CELEBRATING JONATHAN HAYNES (PART III)

To join the session: https://us06web.zoom.us/j/81984600050

Chair: Hyginus O. Ekwuazi (University of Ibadan), [email protected]

PRESENTATIONS

  • Engaging with Jonathan Haynes as Nollywood Historian: New Approaches to the Foundation of the Industry; by Alexander Bud (The Africa Initiative), [email protected]
  • Redefining African Cinema Studies: The Work of Jon Haynes, by Carmela Garritano (Texas A & M University) [email protected]
  • Keeping Track, Three Decades Running: Reading Jonathan’s Haynes’s Nollywood, by Babatunde Onikoyi, (University of Regina) [email protected]
  • Writing Nollywood: Jonathan Haynes’s Perspectives, by Olusegun Soetan (Penn State University) [email protected]
  • Jonathan Haynes and the Rise of Nollywood Studies, by Paul Ugor (Illinois State University) [email protected]

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‘…There’s no organization by which I’d prefer to be honored

IN responding to the honour done him by the LSA, which he attended consistently every year until the Covid pandemic lockdown halted the physical gathering of the Association, Jonathan Haynes a true, and genuine friend of Lagos and Nigeria’s creative industry, wrote in his Facebook page:

“I don’t have words to express how deeply touched and grateful I am for this, and I thank everyone involved, beginning with the LSA’s President Saheed Aderinto, the prime mover in this and so many other things. The LSA has been brilliantly successful under his leadership, and there’s no organization by which I’d prefer to be honored. My only regret is that the conference this year will be virtual: the Nigerian national unions of university academic and non-academic staffs are on strike — a strike I whole-heartedly support — so the conference can’t be held at the University of Lagos as planned.

“The LSA is something of a victim of its own success: it’s grown so large – 10 concurrent sessions! it’s now the largest annual academic conference in Sub-Saharan Africa, I believe – that no place else in Lagos could accommodate it. But there’s a huge advantage to the virtual format, of course: anyone who likes can tune in online by following the links below. Please do!

******

PROFILE

(Extracted from https://www.liu.edu/Brooklyn/Academics/Faculty/Faculty/H/Jonathan-Haynes)

JONATHAN Haynes is interested in how literature, film, and other arts are related to the cultures and societies that produce them. At first English Renaissance literature was the main focus of his studies, but then his attention shifted to Third World film and literature and African studies. Since the early 1990s he has closely followed the growth of the Nigerian film industry.

He came to Long Island University’s Southampton College in 1998 and to the Brooklyn Campus in 2004. In 2001-2002 he was the founding director of the West African Center of the Friends World Program (now LIU Global) in Kumasi, Ghana. He has also taught at the American University in Cairo (Egypt), Tufts University, Albion College, Bennington College, and Columbia University; four times he has been a Fulbright Lecturer in Nigeria (at the University of Nigeria-Nsukka, Ahmadu Bello University, the University of Ibadan, and the University of Lagos); and he was a guest professor at the University of Cologne in Germany.

He has been the keynote speaker at conferences at the University of Johannesburg, Humboldt University in Berlin, and at half a dozen Nigerian universities and film festivals.

Specialties

African studies; African film, video, and literature; colonialism and postcolonialism; English Renaissance literature

Publications

Books

Nollywood: The Creation of Nigerian Film Genres. Chicago: U of Chicago P, 2016; Ibadan: Bookcraft, 2017.

Nigerian Video Films. Ed. Jonathan Haynes. Athens: Ohio UP, 2000.

Cinema and Social Change in West Africa. By Onookome Okome and Jonathan Haynes. Jos, Nigeria: Nigerian Film Corporation, 1995.

The Social Relations of Jonson’s Theater. New York: Cambridge UP, 1992. 

The Humanist as Traveler: George Sandys’s “Relation of a Journey begun An. Dom. 1610.” Rutherford, NJ: Fairleigh UP, 1986.      

Journal
Journal of African Cinemas 4.1 (2012) (guest editor of special issue).

Selected articles and book chapters

“Les paradigmes universitaires face aux métamorphoses de Nollywood.” Politique Africaine 153 (2019): 129-141.

“Between the Informal Sector and Transnational Capitalism: Transformations of Nollywood.” A Companion to African Cinema. Eds. Kenneth W. Harrow and Carmela Garritano. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley-Blackwell, 2019. 244-268.

“Diop Mambety’s Fables of the African Economy.” Camera, Commerce & Conscience. Eds. Ayobami Ojebode, Tunde Adegbola, Alemayehu Debebe Mekonnen, and Emily Comfort Maractho. Ibadan: Greenminds, 2019. 29-66.

 “Keeping Up: The Corporatization of Nollywood’s Economy and Paradigms for Studying African Screen Media.” Africa Today 64.4 (2018): 3-29.

“Anglophone West Africa: Commercial Video.” African Filmmaking: Five Formations. Ed. Kenneth W. Harrow. East Lansing: Michigan State UP, 2017. 81-115.

“Nollywood and Nollywood Studies: Thoughts on the Future.” Media Studies in Nigeria: Genesis & Detours. Eds. Onookome Okome and Marcel Okhakhu. Ibadan: Stirling-Horden, 2016. 67-88.

“Neoliberalism, Nollywood and Lagos.” Global Cinematic Cities: New Landscapes of Film and Media. Eds. Johan Andersson and Lawrence Webb. New York: Wallflower/Columbia UP, 2016. 59-75.

“Ola Balogun’s Lost Classics Aiye and Orun Mooru.” The Magic of Nigeria: On the Cinema of Ola Balogun. Ed. Gary Vanisian. Frankfurt am Main: Filmkollektiv Frankfurt, 2016. 177-85.

“La fondazione di Nollywood: Living in Bondage.” Lagos Calling: Nollywood e la reinvenzione del cinema in Africa. Eds. Alessandro Jedlowski and Giovanna Santanera. Ariccia, Italy: Aracne, 2015. 25-42.

“‘New Nollywood’: Kunle Afolayan.” Black Camera 5.2 (2014): 53-73.

“Foreword.” Auteuring Nollywood: Critical Perspectives on “The Figurine.” Ed. Adeshina Afolayan. Ibadan: University Press, 2014. vi-xii.

“The Nollywood Diaspora: A Video Genre.” Global Nollywood: Transnational Dimensions of an African Video Film Industry. Eds. Matthias Krings and Onookome Okome. Bloomington: Indiana UP, 2013. 73-99.

“Reflections on Nollywood: Introduction to the Special Issue.” Journal of African Cinemas 4.1 (2012): 3-7.

“A Bibliography of Academic Work on Nigerian and Ghanaian Video Films.” Journal of African Cinemas 4.1 (2012): 99-133.

“African Cinema and Nollywood: Contradictions.” Situations 4.1 (2011): 67-90.

“What Is to Be Done?  Film Studies and Nigerian and Ghanaian Videos.”  Viewing African Cinema in the Twenty-First Century: FESPACO Art Films and the Nollywood Video Revolution. Eds. Ralph A. Austen and Mahir Saul. Athens: Ohio UP, 2010. 11-25.

“A Literature Review: Nigerian and Ghanaian Videos.” Journal of African Cultural Studies 22.1 (2010): 105-120.

“Nollywood.”  International Encyclopedia of Communication. Ed. Wolfgang Donsbach. Oxford and Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell, 2008.  Vol. 7: 3322-3324.

“Nigerian Videos, at Home and Abroad.” Global Civil Society 2007/8: Communicative Power and Democracy. Eds. Martin Albrow et al.   London and Los Angeles: Sage, 2008. 204-207.

“Media: Cinema.” New Encyclopedia of Africa. Second Edition. Eds. John Middleton and Joseph C. Miller. Detroit: Scribner’s, 2008. Vol. 3: 516-518.

“Nollywood in Lagos, Lagos in Nollywood Films.” Africa Today 54.2 (2007): 130-150. Rpt. in Neoliberalism and Global Cinema. Eds. Jyotsna Kapur and Keith Wagner. London: Routledge, 2011. 309-327. Trans. as “Nollywood en Lagos, Lagos en las películas de Nollywood.” Archivos de la Filmoteca 62 (June 2009): 72-97.

 “Nnebue: The Anatomy of Power.”  Film International 28 (5.4) (2007): 30-40.  Rpt. in Critical Interventions 8 (2011): 204-17.

“Video Boom: Nigeria and Ghana.”  Postcolonial Text 3.2 (2007). Postcolonial.org.  <http://journals.sfu.ca/pocol/index.php/pct/article/view/522/422> 1-10.

“TK in NYC: An Interview with Tunde Kelani.”  Postcolonial Text 3.2 (2007). Postcolonial org.  <http://journals.sfu.ca/pocol/index.php.pct/article/view/659/409>  1-16.

“Political Critique in Nigerian Video Films.”  African Affairs 105/421 (2007): 511-533. 

“‘I Was Born at the Right Time’: Ojaide’s Autobiography.”  The Guardian (Lagos) August 26, 2005. 

“Nollywood: What’s in a Name?”  The Guardian (Lagos) July 3, 2005: 56, 58.  Rpt. ITPAN News 2.6 (2005): 11-12, Film International 28 (5.4) (2007): 106-108.

“Il Boom del video: La Nigeria e il Ghana trasformano la cinematografia Africana/ Le Boom de la vidéo: Le Nigéria et le Ghana transforment la cinématographie africaine/ Video Boom: Nigeria and Ghana Transform African Film.”  15o Festival Cinema Africano d’Asia e America Latina.  Ed. Alessandra Speciale.  Milan: Editrice Il Castoro, 2005.  176-93.

“Africans Abroad: A Theme in Film and Video.”  Africa & Mediterraneo 45 (December 2003): 22-29.

“Mobilizing Yoruba Popular Culture: Babangida Must Go.”  Africa 73.1 (March 2003): 122-38.

“Le boum de la vidéo au Nigéria.”  CinémAction 106 (1er trimester, 2003).  Cinémas africains, une oasis dans le désert?  Special number ed. Samuel Lelievre.  165-72.

“Devaluation and the Video Boom: Economics and Thematics.”  Money Struggles and City Life: Devaluation in Ibadan and Other Urban Centers in Southern Nigeria, 1986-1996.  Eds. Jane I. Guyer, LaRay Denzer, and Adigun Agbaje. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann, 2002.  207-17.        

“African Filmmaking and the Postcolonial Predicament: Quartier Mozart and Aristotle’s Plot.”  African Cinema: Postcolonial and Feminist Readings.  Ed. Kenneth Harrow.  Lawrenceville, NJ: Africa World Press, 1999. 23-43.   Rpt. in Cinema and Social Discourse in Cameroon.  Ed. Alexie Tcheuyap.  Bayreuth, Germany: Bayreuth African Studies, 2005.  111-36.

“Evolving Popular Media: Nigerian Video Films.”  By Jonathan Haynes and Onookome Okome.  Research in African Literatures 29.3 (Fall 1998): 106-28. Rpt. in  Nigerian Video Films.  Ed. Jonathan Haynes.  Ibadan, Nigeria: Kraft Books for the Nigerian Film Corporation, 1997. Revised and expanded second edition, Athens: Ohio UP, 2000. 51-88.

“The Pan-African Film Festival.”  Post Express, March 26, 1997: 27.

“Perspectives on the African City: Les Guerisseurs.”  Glendora Review 2.1 (1997): 71-4.

“Returning to the African Village: Sango Malo and Ta Dona.”  Jump Cut 40 (1996): 62-66.

“Nigerian Cinema: Structural Adjustments.”  Research in African Literatures 26.3 (Fall 1995): 97-119. Rpt. in Cinema and Social Change in West Africa by Onookome Okome and Jonathan Haynes, Jos, Nigeria: Nigerian Film Corporation, 1995, revised edition 1997; and in African Cinema: Postcolonial and Feminist Readings.  Ed. Kenneth Harrow.  Lawrenceville, NJ: African World P, 1999. 143-75.

“Structural Adjustments of Nigerian Comedy: Baba Sala.”  Passages 5.1 (Fall 1994): 17-20.

Honors/Awards

Guggenheim Fellowship

Fulbright Senior Scholar Teaching and Research Fellowships

Lagos Studies Association Distinguished Scholar Award

Abraham Krasnoff Memorial Award for Single Scholarly Achievement

Lifetime Achievement Award, Nigerian Film Corporation

Life Member, Society of Nigerian Theatre Artists

National Endowment for the Humanities Summer Stipend

Rockefeller Foundation Bellagio Study and Conference Center Residency

American Council of Learned Societies Grants-in-Aid


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Nollywood is an expression of grassroots, popular culture, a true revolution

(Being excerpts from an interview Jonathan Haynes granted OLATOUN WILLIAMS, of Borders Africanist and Global Interviews, as published in The Guardian of June 17, 2018)

Jonathan Haynes had firsthand experience with Nigerian film industry at its early days and fell in love with it immediately. He has gone on to write a great book on the industry, The Creation of Nigerian Film Genres. In this interview with OLATOUN WILLIAMS of Africanist and Global Interviews, Haynes gives rare insight on Africa’s revolutionary film tradition.

Your research into Nigerian Film started in 1991. Talk to us about this genesis. How and why and with which important collaborators, did it begin?
When I first arrived in Nigeria as a Fulbright lecturer in 1991, I had already begun writing about African cinema, but of the kind I’d seen at the FESPACO Film Festival. I’d never seen a Nigerian film. I was lucky to meet Onookome Okome, then a recent PhD holder in film studies (now an eminent professor in Canada), who drew me into the world of Nigerian film studies. He persuaded me to go to a workshop on film policy sponsored by the Nigerian Film Corporation in 1992, where I met many people, including Amaka Igwe and Zeb Ejiro, Baba Sala and Ade Love, Afolabi Adesanya and Hyginus Ekwuazi, whose book, Film in Nigeria, I had been poring over.

This was a few months before Living in Bondage inaugurated Nollywood—the people I was meeting worked on celluloid film or in television. Nollywood interested me immediately as an expression of grassroots, popular culture, and as a true revolution in Africa’s relationship with cinema. It’s hard to remember how hard it used to be for Africans to see any kind of African film. I was very lucky to be a witness to the transition from one era of Nigerian media to another and to participate in establishing Nollywood studies as an academic field, which now has many hundreds of people in it, around the world. I’ll mention Okome again, for his strenuous efforts at organising conferences over the years that have been immensely important in creating that academic community.

You describe Okechukwu (Okey) Ogunjiofor’s film, ‘Living in Bondage’ as the inaugural Nollywood film. Tell us a little about the film. What makes it seminal in Nollywood?
Living in Bondage wasn’t the first Nigerian film on video, but it ‘opened the market’, showing that a video-based industry was possible — and potentially lucrative. It was the product of collaboration among three men, and I read their collaboration as a sort of allegory of the essential constituents of Nollywood. Okey Ogunjiofor was a promising graduate of the NTA Television College, whose television career was blocked by the SAP crisis; he had the germ of the story, and saw that it would be possible to shoot it on video. Chris Obi Rapu was the top director at the NTA, and was brought on board for his experience and authority—the first of a large cohort of directors and other personnel who came over from television and shaped the aesthetic of the new form. Kenneth Nnebue provided the money and the business sense. He came out of the informal sector, where he’d been selling cassettes of Hollywood, Bollywood, and Chinese films—he was already an important figure in what Brian Larkin has called the “infrastructure of piracy.” I also take Nnebue seriously as an artist with a powerful social vision, which would be revealed progressively in subsequent films.

Living in Bondage was also important because it took the idiom of television soap operas and spliced into it the ‘money ritual’ theme — something that previously had circulated as rumour, but couldn’t be shown on television. This marked the new form as ‘popular’, in the sense that it conveyed a grassroots, unofficial view of things.

Give us a window into the film genres you present in very interesting detail, in your book. How do we recognise the genres?
Each genre is a collection of characteristics in various dimensions. Sometimes, the visual dimension is the most immediate and striking key to recognition, as with the cultural epic, or the campus film, or the movies shot overseas; sometimes it’s costumes, as with royal films or the vigilante films made in response to the Bakassi Boys; or it could be the social setting, like the family films set in middle class households; or the faces of actors associated with a genre, such as the comedies of Osuofia or Mr. Ibu. For romantic comedies, it’s the plot form. Narrative forms are what I’m most attuned to, which is probably related to my training in literature, but I take a flexible, interdisciplinary approach to describing genres. I understand genres—types of stories that people want to hear over and over—as being motivated by some kind of social or emotional tension. Such tensions are historical, so genres arise at a certain moment and change constantly, sometimes quickly, sometimes slowly.

You write that, ‘the stories Nollywood tells… are mediated by the complex nature of the film industry itself.’ What do you mean by the ‘complex nature’ of the industry?
From the beginning, Nollywood was based on an uneasy collaboration between Surulere and Idumota—between the television-trained professionals often based in Surulere, who are mostly graduates and influenced by the culture and values promoted by the NTA and the universities, and the informal-sector marketers, who often have much less education, but have been smart enough to build and control the market through their business skills and their acute sense for the stories people would want to see. Over time—and with the development of video technologies— some marketers freed themselves from the expertise of the Surulere professionals and set up on their own, on the Asaba-Onitsha axis; and some of the film professionals now have business plans based on the multiplex cinemas and satellite and internet distribution—they may not bother with the disc market at all. One formation tells stories about women tying up the wombs of their daughters-in-laws, the other about the romantic tribulations of bank managers in Lekki. (Of course, I’m simplifying everything to the point of caricature.)

But the collaboration also continues, and it formed the heart of Nollywood film culture, so that Nollywood typically argues both sides of questions such as whether you need a psychiatrist or a dibia, or whether the past was a time of strict moral codes and legitimate rulers or an epoch of darkness waiting for deliverance by missionaries. This is what gives Nollywood its vitality as a forum in which pressing issues get expressed and debated. I link this duality historically to the nationalist political alliance between modernisers like Zik and Awolowo and traditional rulers—actually it goes even further back, to the British colonial policy of indirect rule in some places and direct administration in others, and it continues up to today. Nollywood is comfortable with contradictions, which is indispensable when representing this vast nation. Obviously, there are ethnic and linguistic complexities, too.

You talk about Nollywood’s business model being in a ‘perpetual crisis’. Please identify a few of the challenges thwarting the development of the Nigerian film industry.
Piracy has always been the main problem, video being especially prone to unauthorized reproduction. It’s the government that must address this problem, and it has never been interested in doing so. Nigeria is also participating in the global volatility in media business models. As Nollywood—or a sector of it— becomes progressively integrated into the global media economy, I think it’s very important that everyone in the industry organizes to get contracts that give them a continuing stake in their creations, rather than the flat fee payments that made sense in the informal sector.

How successful are Nigerian films on the international film festival circuit? What can be done to improve their success rate?
Nollywood films don’t fit naturally into the international film festival circuit—they aren’t made to be art films, and international festival audiences will have a limited interest in low-budget commercial films from an unfamiliar culture. Given these obstacles, Nollywood hasn’t been doing badly. By now the film world has at least heard of Nollywood, and sometimes Nollywood really makes a splash, as at the 2016 Toronto International Film Festival, where eight Nigerian films were shown. I think it’s a mistake for Nigerian filmmakers to spend too much energy chasing after foreign recognition—they should make the best films the Nigerian market will support, and international fame will come when it comes.

In the book’s preface, you write ‘… the basic character of the Lagos urban fabric (is) the same as the structure of the film industry’. Could you shed light on this parallel, which you draw?
In the first half of the Preface I try to show the ground that Nollywood springs from by describing Lagos—Surulere, mostly—highlighting infrastructural issues that shape the film industry. It occurred to me that the buildings of Lagos resemble Nollywood in that they are mostly individual, unregulated, small-scale initiatives in a modernist vernacular, with the occasional postmodern bank and clusters of older buildings that wouldn’t have been out of place in colonial Ibadan or Osogbo.

You decry Nigeria’s recklessness with its history. How does this recklessness with our history impact Nollywood?
There’s a real crisis with the preservation of the films themselves. VHS tape and VCD discs are both unstable media that deteriorate rapidly, and nobody has amassed a comprehensive collection of Nollywood films, let alone digitised the films in a way that would preserve them. Nigeria’s important heritage on television and celluloid film sets a chilling precedent: much of it has been irretrievably lost, and no one seems to be serious about addressing the problem. In Nollywood, everybody is necessarily focused on making their next film and making money, and most Nollywood production companies are small and don’t have the resources to preserve their own productions. So there’s a serious problem with archiving. There’s another serious problem with availability. A reaction I’ve been getting to my book is, ok, you’ve convinced me that Glamour Girls is an important film, but how do I get to see it? And I don’t know what to say. Younger filmmakers have a hard time learning about their own tradition…. Millions of Nigerians have the history of Nollywood in their heads, but it needs to be saved for the future in permanent forms.

How was Nigeria able to create one of the largest film industries in the world in just a little over 20 years? (1992—2018)? What factors assisted its growth?
It’s a truly remarkable accomplishment. Video technology and the amazing Nigerian entrepreneurial spirit are the two main factors. The size of the country and consequently of the market for films is also crucial, as is the heritage of the NTA, which assembled a national, multicultural audience for audio-visual entertainment in English. The fact that Nollywood is predominantly in English helped it to spread abroad.

The Nigerian Film Corporation succeeded the British Colonial Film Unit. What is the NFC’s mandate and in your opinion, how effective has it been in carrying out that mandate?
I think the Nigerian Film Institute is the most important accomplishment of the NFC—a number of excellent filmmakers have trained there. But it’s hard to pretend that the NFC has been particularly effective in relation to Nollywood. It should be taking the lead on the preservation issue, if nothing else. In 1992, I attended the official opening of the film archive facility in Jos, but it hasn’t preserved anything.

I have noticed that France is far more supportive of the film industries of its ex-colonies than Britain is of the film industries in her own former colonies. Your thoughts on this discrepancy.
French support was responsible for the emergence of a whole branch of African filmmaking, and I love a lot of those films. But who wants the British around? When I first arrived in Nigeria I was coming from Francophone West Africa, and among the first things I found to like about Nigeria was it didn’t have the neo-colonial mentality that had been bothering me in those other countries. Of course it’s good if Nigerian filmmakers can access foreign, non-profit sources of funding, but Nollywood’s dependence on a Nigerian paying audience is key to its character.

Despite recognising that these films were incredibly condescending, you nevertheless talk about the importance of the legacy created by colonial films from Britain, France and Belgium. Why do you consider the legacy of colonial films important to Africa?
Those films are more or less racist, and I wouldn’t want to overstate their importance. But they planted the idea that addressing the population with improving messages was a central aspect of cinema. This idea passed into Nigerian television, and from there into Nollywood. It’s gotten mixed up with the fundamental African idea that stories should carry a message, but occasionally it appears in something like its original form, as in the scene in Tunde Kelani’s Arugba where a health worker gives a little lecture on oral hydration therapy.

You dedicate an entire chapter in the book to two notable filmmakers from different generations: Kelani and Afolayan. Shed light on the contributions of each man: the older and the younger. How do the two filmmakers compare and contrast in light of the New Nollywood with which Afolayan is so closely identified?
I believe Tunde Kelani and Kunle Afolayan are the two most important Nigerian filmmakers, and they are bound together by close personal ties. Kelani is a living link with the history of Nigerian television and celluloid filmmaking, and he has no peer in his dedication to preserving and revitalizing Yoruba culture or in the depth and breadth of the cultural resources that are integral to his filmmaking: literature and orature, music, dance, the visual arts, crafts, and so on. The man himself and his films express an unparalleled integrity and moral seriousness, without being solemn or pretentious in the least.

Afolayan is the heir and crown prince of the Yoruba filmmaking tradition, but he expresses his generation. Unlike Kelani, he’s as brilliant as a businessman as he is as a filmmaker. “New Nollywood,” of which he’s the standard bearer, was made possible by the new multiplex cinemas, and the media environment has continued to expand and diversify as satellite and internet corporations have become important sponsors of media production and Nollywood is being integrated into the global media system. Afolayan has been a nimble and creative pioneer in this new terrain. He’s an excellent actor as well as a director and knows what to do with his celebrity status. The audiences he addresses and the environments he works in don’t encourage Kelani’s kind of rootedness, but Afolayan remembers where he’s from and carries compelling versions of Nigerianness into new dimensions.

In six words, what do you see as the future of Nollywood in the next 20 years?
Bigger, better, more diversified, new talents!

• Williams is of Borders Africanist and Global interviews

https://guardian.ng/art/nollywood-is-an-expression-of-grassroots-popular-culture-a-true-revolution/
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