Nollywood Babylon

Canadian Doc Goes Inside the Nigerian Film Industry

The Nigerian film industry is supposedly the third largest in the world (after the US and India). So why haven't I ever seen a Nigerian film? Watching clips from Evil Genius, End of the Wicked, and Toronto Connection, it seems pretty obvious that Nigerian filmmakers are producing direct-to-DVD movies for their domestic market (and not for international film festivalgoers like me).

Ben Addelman and Samir Mallal take a closer look at this thriving industry in Nollywood Babylon, premiering in Toronto this Tuesday, August 11th at the NFB Mediatheque. Taking their cameras onto movie sets and street markets, the Montreal docmakers survey Nigerians who make, buy and sell these cheap and hugely popular films.

157 films into his career, Lancelot Oduwa Imasuen is self-taught, self-financed, and a successful working director. We follow him on the set of his latest movie Bent Arrows, which begins its production day with a prayer to ensure that everything runs smoothly and that the equipment holds up. By the end of Nollywood Babylon, Lancelot has already moved on to his 158th feature.

Lancelot's films, like many in the Nollywood genre, combine elements of folklore and modern life. Addelman and Mallal use a lot of time in the film interviewing theorists who point to instant wealth, Christianity and the occult as key (and very sellable) themes.

Of course, Nollywood Babylon profiles a very new industry that really just emerged in the 1990s. It could be an interesting time capsule (albeit from an outsider's perspective) if filmmaking in Nigeria adapts to its growing budgets and if Nollywood's audience comes to expect higher production values.

Having seen this doc, I am a little curious to know what all the fuss is about and am on the lookout for a copy of Toronto Connection.

Nollywood Babylon screens August 11, 12 & 13 at 7 pm at the NFB Mediatheque, with co-director Samir Mallal in attendance for a Q&A on August 11th. $6, $4 for students, seniors, NFB and DOC members.

Photo by Don Lobel courtesy of the NFB.

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