Exactly three years ago I stayed at an aunt’s place. At some point, I decided to watch a movie. As I ruffled through her movie collection, I saw some new releases from Hollywood. Slotted in among those DVDs, were a few with familiar (and not-so familiar) Nigerian names. I flipped past them, reached for a Hollywood movie and then hesitated. Curiousity got the better of me and I picked up what I thought was a Nollywood video, at least it had the name, Rita Dominic on it. That was the beginning of my romance with what I’ve now come to realize was the New Nigerian Cinema.
The New Nigerian Cinema or New Nollywood
Since then I have watched a number of Nollywood movies, on DVD and on cable and the production is always amazing. For those who are used to the old Nollywood movies with predictable plots, disjointed scenes and dialogues chuck full of traditional Igbo proverbs, you are probably wondering what on earth I’m talking about. And it’s perfectly understandable. Before I encountered the new movies, I generally stayed away from Nollywood, no matter how hard my mum tried to convince me to watch them.
So what exactly is the new Nigerian cinema?
These are movies that are made for cinema. They are generally of higher quality than the average Nollywood movie, and a lot of time and money is spent in shooting and producing the movies. There is a new crop of Nollywood directors and producers who are pushing this movement. Some of the more notable ones are Emem Isong and Kunle Afolayan.
These producers have funding and so they are able to get top technology for their movies. Beyond that, social media has provided a larger platform through which they can market their movies.
What is Different About the New Movies?
If you watched the old Nollywood movies and then encountered one from the New Nigerian cinema, you would immediately see the difference. These are the three we noticed:
Watching Two Brides and a Baby I was awed by the quality of the cinematography. You could tell that some top quality cameras were used and unlike traditional Nollywood where a single camera was used to shoot an entire movie, several angles were captured in a single scene. This is typical of movies from the New Nigerian cinema.
If you watch Tinsel, you’ll know exactly what I mean. The dialogue is witty, sharp and really intelligent. In some cases, if you’re not following closely, you could easily miss the punch line and I really love that.
Movies like 30 Days in Atlanta and A Trip to Jamaica (both from Ayo Makun’s stable) make use of exotic locations. It’s not like those days when a single location was used for Nollywood movies and in some cases, the same house disguised as three different houses. Now we also get to come along for the trip and see other places just by watching the movies.
What of the Old Nollywood?
If you are a fan of the old Nollywood (like my mum), never fear it’s still there. While we have the new wave movies, they are considerably more expensive to produce and so the number of those movies that come out each year are few. Many Nigerians still crave the original Nollywood movies with the witch doctors and polygamous homes. We have nothing against them. They have a huge fan base across Africa and interestingly, we see more actors and actresses crisscrossing between the old and new Nollywood productions.
It is really great to see Nigerian movies pushing the boundaries. Several are being premiered in other countries and a few are shown at international film festivals.