Nollywood and How The Internet Changed The Game For Global Media

Nollywood, the colloquial term for the Nigerian film industry, is now the world’s third largest film industry, producing over 1500 films a year. Technological advancements in both digital media and the internet are creating new ways for new generation Nigerian film makers to fund and globally circulate their work according to Ugo Ben Ebelebe’s research article titled “Reinventing Nollywood: The impact of online funding and distribution on Nigerian Cinema”. Ebelebe’s research points out a very interesting point on a positive outcome of pirated films popularising Nollywood films, ‘media piracy and transnational informal circulation made Nigerian films travel all over Africa and the world, transforming them into a pan-African and global form of popular culture’. Web based platforms are continually changing the game for all screen content producers, Ebelebe mentions the emergence of Nigerian-owned platform, IROKO TV, screening content both local and international. ‘Internet-based distribution – mostly streaming services – are particularly and increasingly popular with Nollywood audiences in places where fans are likely to have the ability to easily stream full-length movies without data or power interruption’. Henry Jenkins theory of media convergence, a topic which I am very familiar with as a BCM student is used to further explain how the development of media technology is benefiting Nigerian film. Jenkins three concepts, ‘media convergence, participatory culture, and collective intelligence’ are brought much attention to by Ebelebe. “The flow of content across multiple platforms, and the online marketplace is becoming increasingly important for access to transnational audiences” New opportunities and challenges for film distribution have been created by this interactive online and social media environment. People are actively seeking out, making connections, personalizing content and contributing to producing their own media across a range of platforms.

 

PBS News Hour article by Elizabeth Flock titled “Inside Nollywood, the booming film industry that makes 1,500 movies a year” similarly describes media convergence and the rise of the active consumer- transitioning from watching media to creating it and participating in it. Flock uses a quote from an interview with Nigerian documentary filmmaker Femi Odugbemi which sums up Henry Jenkins theory spoken about by Ebelebe “People who were the consumers began to become the storytellers”. The films being created now are being to voice beliefs, values and traditions of true Nigerian culture, recognizing their existence as a “as a distinct culture, as a distinct civilization, a distinct aspiration”. Interviewing Emily Witt writer of “Nollywood: The Making of a Film Empire”, Flock has Witt explain how the industry came out of an extremely difficult time in Nigeria, “where all the movie theaters closed, state television networks couldn’t pay anybody and the currency had tanked so they couldn’t import movies anymore. Out of that they started shooting movies on VHS and copying and distributing them on the street because the hunger for local entertainment was so strong”. Flock goes on to explain that now Nollywood films are being made in 300 languages, being watched in both urban and rural areas, distributed on both the streets and online, and finding their way into international festivals which is quite revolutionary. All this made possible from the rise of technology and media. Nollywood films are even now available on Netflix- these new digital platforms have allowed Nollywood to be more available. Where will it take us next!

 

 

Ebelebe, U. (2017). Reinventing Nollywood. Convergence: The International Journal of Research into New Media Technologies, p.135485651773579.

 

Flock, E. and Flock, E. (2018). Inside Nollywood, the booming film industry that makes 1,500 movies a year. [online] PBS NewsHour. Available at: https://www.pbs.org/newshour/arts/inside-nollywood-the-booming-film-industry-that-makes-1500-movies-a-year

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