The comparison of Nollywood to Hollywood by major media outlets has many thinking that Nigerian movies are some kind of big deal. Well, I’m here to tell you that Nigerian movies suck. In fact, I wonder why anyone watches them.
Seriously, to say that movies from the West African country are bad would be an understatement. Those that have watched their fair share know what I mean; those that have yet to experience the terribleness will just have to force their way through one. They are inexcusably bad in a number of key ways:
- Poor production value in the form of grainy visuals, laughable special effects, terrible sound mixing and quality that sometimes completely ruin the viewing experience, and jarring lapses in continuity. Then again, what do you expect from an industry that still shoots many, if not most, of its films using a camcorder?
- Predictable and unoriginal story lines that seem to have been made on the fly, ones filled with excessive melodrama, displays of materialism, catfights and evil mothers-in-laws.
- Cheesy and uninspired acting.
I can’t say I have watched a single Nigerian movie that doesn’t suffer from at least one of these ailments. Have you? Yet Nollywood rakes in hundreds of millions of dollars every year and employs over 1 million people.
Researcher Emily Witt attributes the popularity and proliferation of Nigerian movies throughout Africa to their simplicity and relatedness to everyday urban life, hence the prominent role granted the supernatural, romance, corruption and crime. While this increasingly has less sway over Generation Y, Gen X remains very much addicted.
Still, it’s difficult to understand how an industry as large, wealthy and prominent as Nollywood can be so complacent in such notoriously nightmarish quality. It doesn’t matter if you’re Gen X or Gen Y, not being able to hear what the actors are saying or see clearly what they are doing should be indications that the producers and directors care little about their work. It’s either that they are lazy or just downright incompetent. Regardless, they lack the foresight to realize that better quality generally means more viewers and more of what they seem to only care about — money!
It doesn’t help that you have major media outlets like Forbes and the New York Times falling for the unfounded hype. But there are signs of change. Half of a Yellow Sun goes against convention. Based on an award-winning novel by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie about Nigeria’s 1960s civil war, the film stands out as having a relatively large budget of $8 million, the largest in Nollywood history. Remember those ailments I mentioned above? Well, this movie is free of them. It’s watchable; it’s makers have some dignity.
Half of a Yellow Sun should be a benchmark for future Nigerian movies, not necessarily in terms of budget or story, but with regards to meeting basic film-making requirements. Most, if not all, Nigerian movies should not look or sound as if they were made by a 12 year-old using a Camcorder! Nollywood should not be compared to Hollywood or any other respected film industry until it delivers the bare essentials.