With 1,770 films produced in 2008, ahead of India and its 800 annual films, Nigerian cinema has been given the nickname « Nollywood », in reference to « Bollywood » and « Hollywood ». It is estimated that over 10,000 fictional films have been produced and videotaped in Nigeria over the past fifteen years. The movie market is considerable in this English-speaking country where nearly two out of three households have a video player (for VHS, VCD or DVD formats).

Indeed, film consumption is no longer done in cinemas – most of which disappeared at the end of the 1990s – but at home, in bars or in popular restaurants. In 2001, the figure of 600 films produced each year was already staggering. Since then, the pace of Nigerian audiovisual production has tripled.
According to information gathered from the cooperation and cultural action services of the French Embassy in Abuja, Nigerian action films, which generally combine themes such as jealousy, heartbreak in polygamous families and witchcraft. , meet with extraordinary popular success in Africa and not only in English-speaking countries. These films are, in fact, the subject of television broadcasts, in their original version (without dubbing or subtitling), in at least six French-speaking African countries.

Nigeria’s extreme audiovisual productivity – with 35 films released each week – contrasts with the small amount of French-speaking productions. Only Burkina Faso and Côte d’Ivoire are making a sustained commitment to the production of fictions, mainly through television series, then, more recently, through video films. Everywhere else in French-speaking Africa, productions can be numbered at best by a few dozen.

If for fifteen years, Nigeria has made virtually no artistic contribution to major festivals, this country has had the merit of taking up a challenge where French-speaking African countries have not dared to step forward: to provide images. local people, telling stories that are popular and close to a low-income audience, while using very modest means of production, from 15,000 to 30,000 euros per film.
By ignoring international standards, Nigeria has managed to create a very active and fully autonomous production sector that directly and indirectly generates 300,000 jobs. Today, the Nigerian film sector represents a market exceeding 300 million euros. If this Nigerian economic success represents an example for other African countries, French-speaking production – in particular film production – remains qualitatively much higher than that of Nigeria, in technical and artistic terms in particular.

The French Ministry of Foreign Affairs, through the support of the cinema office of the former foreign audiovisual directorate, has encouraged quality Nigerian production. Between 2004 and 2008, around two-thirds of Nigerian producers requesting the “African Images Fund” obtained funding to support production, post-production, dubbing and subtitling in French. This success rate demonstrates the vitality of Nigerian cinema.
Thus, during this period, some fifteen Nigerian directors were able to access more than 600,000 euros in production aid allocated by the “African images fund” of the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
the delegation visited the studio shooting location of a historical television series, mixing documentary and fiction, entitled Head of State, and produced and directed by filmmaker Mr. Jimmy Odumosu at the request of the governor from Lagos, Mr. Babatunde Fashola. This visit made it possible to observe the considerable creativity and dynamism of Nigerian cinema professionals, despite two main obstacles: the extreme weakness of resources, in particular due to the virtual absence of support from both the State federal than federated states, and generalized piracy still insufficiently combated by the public authorities.

The delegation’s meeting with Mr. Odumosu made it possible to take stock of the problems encountered by Nigerian cinema professionals, particularly in terms of financing and distribution.
The distribution circuit is suffering from the gradual disappearance of cinemas – today there are only five cinemas in a metropolis like Lagos – and the rise of piracy. In order to combat clandestine distribution, the federal government has gradually put in place a system of granting official operating licenses which, today, allows around forty people or associations to distribute films protected by copyright. author. This measure, if its effects are still limited, gives hope to Nigerian filmmakers that the phenomenon of massive piracy will be better controlled in the future.
The extreme weakness of the means of production of Nigerian cinema also strongly struck the delegation. However, she noted that Nigerian filmmakers were not ready to muzzle their projects for lack of resources, even if it means showing sufficient inventiveness, by « recycling » certain fairly artisanal decorations…

Nigerian cinema has three main sources of funding: support provided by the producer, the distributor and institutional support. It is common for certain projects, particularly television projects, to be abandoned during production but once again retain the interest of distributors once the success encountered has demonstrated the quality and potential of the program concerned. This was the case for the Head of State series, whose total budget reached 126,000 euros, including 45,000 from the French “African images fund” alone.

Sandrine Ndoumbe

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