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Americans don't watch Nigerian movies, says Wishengrad: Faults the name Nollywood

Posted by The Vanguard on 2005/08/05 | Views: 1738 |

Americans don't watch Nigerian movies, says Wishengrad: Faults the name Nollywood


JUST when practitioners of the nations home video sector popularly called Nollywood are rolling out drums in celebration of the perceived success of Nigerian movies in places like the United States and Europe, they may be taken aback with the information that Americans don't watch our local movies!

JUST when practitioners of the nations home video sector popularly called Nollywood are rolling out drums in celebration of the perceived success of Nigerian movies in places like the United States and Europe, they may be taken aback with the information that Americans don't watch our local movies!

Marc Wishengrad, Emmy nominated Director of Photography, one of the resource persons at the just concluded SHOOT 2005, a cinematography workshop organised by the Nigerian Film Corporation in collaboration with UK based Refuge Island Media and sponsored by FujiFilm International, in his rather blunt manner declared at the Hill Station Hotel, Jos, Plateau State, where he stayed during the workshop, that "an average American does not give a damn about Nigerian movies. They don't watch your movies and that is the truth."

Why? But there are claims that Nigerian movies are selling like 'hot cakes' in the United States. If the movies are not popular in America, why would a body like Filmmakers Association of Nigeria, United States branch, led by veteran filmmaker Tony Abulu, come to the country and strike a deal with movie producers on how to effectively distribute their works in the United States?

Deputy governor of Plateau State, Chief Michael Botmang, during the closing ceremony of the three-day workshop, excitedly said "Nigerian movies are selling like hot cakes overseas. I was in London recently; you need to see how people were coming from America and all over Europe to get our films. It is a sign of good things to come." Wishengrad who was sitting close to Botmang smiled broadly.

So, whom are the people demanding for Nigerian movies in the US?

"The African community", Wishengrad retorts adding, "because of the heavily accented English of Nigerians, no American will understand what the actors are saying, and nobody enjoys any movie when he has to strain his ears to hear what the actors are saying."

After about a week in the country, the filmmaker had this opinion about local home videos. "I have watched a bit of quite a few, and to me they all look episodic, like a television serial. A movie is not supposed to be so and the acting is pretty too loud for the camera, you know, its like they are on stage."

For Americans to appreciate Nigerian movies "it must be subtitled, that is if the actors must speak English at all. Viewers in the States would just read the subtitles and enjoy the movie," Wishengrad said adding that movies in indigenous languages would be appreciated more in the US.

The Director of Photography also took a swipe at the reference to the movie sector as Nollywood, fashioned after America's Hollywood describing it as "senseless". His argument stems from the fact that Hollywood is a name of a town in the United States known for film production. "It would be stupid against this background to refer to your local film industry as Nollywood. It would more understanding if it is called Lagos, because I understand that it is the nerve centre of film production in Nigeria, but not Nollywood. New York, where I come from, has its own film industry, it is not referred to as Hollywood."

Kunle Junaid, chief executive officer, Refuge Island Media, producer of the workshop for the Nigerian Film Corporation, agrees with Wishengrad. "I don't know how that name came about, but I would comment on that," the UK based filmmaker said.

The name Nollywood reportedly came up in an article in New York Times some couple of years ago, in reference to the growing film sector in the country. It stuck thereafter.

However, some film practitioners do not seem to see anything wrong with it. Francis Onwochei, a notable director, actor and producer in an interview declared that there is "nothing wrong in the name Nollywood. Agreed that Hollywood is a name of a town in the US, which has turned out to be a name the US film industry has come to be known, Nigeria's industry can be called anything since there is rule that an industry must be given a particular name."

The producer of Claws of The Lion that was premiered at the just concluded Independent Television Producers Association of Nigeria ITPAN's film and television forum in Lagos, said initially, the name as used in the New York Times article came across as 'offensive and derogatory' "but after sometime, it was accepted and now Nigerian home video industry is known world-wide as Nollywood. I don't have any problem with it."

Same for producer Opa Williams, who asked, "what is in a name? It could be any name for all I care. The basis thing is that we are doing our own thing. If the West decides to call us Nollywood, so be it. I hear now that same industry is being referred to as Naijawood. Just bring them on."

No matter what Wishengrad and other Americans may think, the name Nollywood, critics believe, may have come to stay.

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Comments (3)

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Abieyuwa(Edo, Nigeria)says...

Otasowie means evening life is better than morning life. There is an error in your “evening life is better than evening life”?

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Naija g(Houston, Minnesota, US)says...

Sokari doesn’t mean joy. Joy is Biobela. Go to the village and ask the meaning of the name.

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Fay(Katy, Texas, US)says...

Actually translates to bravehearted.