In the early 90s, a rapidly increasing number of films started to be made on video and distributed on VHS cassettes or VCD. In less than ten years, while the Nigerian film industry had disappeared (no theatres, no films), Nigeria produced several hundreds fiction videos a year. These were often cheap productions expected to make quick profit. Aimed at the domestic market (Nigeria is the most populated African country with 120 million inhabitants), these videos are also increasingly exported all over Africa and within the Nigerian diaspora. Commercial success and guaranteed profit were such that production became so excessive that, at the beginning of 2002, producers decided to stop production for three months to make the market healthier. Today two to three thousand films a year are made.
Mass-produced fiction films and some major figures
Funded mostly by distributors, ignored by international coproduction and television, Nigerian videos are definitely commercial genre films with a wide variety of influences, from Brazilian telenovelas to Indian and Hong Kong films. Production conditions are often very poor: a few days shooting, uncreative filming, outdated special effects, non-professional actors… Stories are just as basic: extra-marital affairs, violence, magic.
Yet there’s an energy that sometimes could be related to early Hollywood. This strand has a few films which cleverly mix story-telling and a reflection on the Nigerian reality. Tunde Kelani’s “Thunderbolt”, for example, is a vivid chronicle with a remarkable actress. A new future for African cinema could grow from this nascent industry with a unique strength compared to the rest of the world.