Nollywood is Nigeria's answer to California's Hollywood, and India's Bollywood. What began with a single film in the late 1990s, now dominates the African film market. The Economist recently reported on the Nigerian film-producing powerhouse.
It is hard to avoid Nigerian films in Africa. Public buses show them, as do many restaurants and hotels. Nollywood churns out about 50 full-length features a week, making it the world’s second most prolific film industry after India’s Bollywood. Only the government employs more people.
In contrast with Hollywood, Nollywood makes money off the purchase of DVDs instead of ticket sales. There are only a few movie theaters in Nigera and the ticket price is more than the average Nigerian can afford, but a deep-reaching distribution system allows people to buy dvds at fraction of the price for a movie theater ticket, reports The Economist. Though the circumstances under which Nollywood films are made are by no means fancy. According to The Economist, "[s]tudios, both in the physical and the corporate sense of the term, are unknown. There are no lots, no sound stages and no trailers for the stars."
Still, Nigeria's Nollywood has become the envy of the continent. Neighboring governments and the African elite fear the impending 'Nigerianisation' of their cultures via Nollywood says The Economist. Some critics have even gone as far as to make comparisons between Nollywood's rapid growth and the AIDS virus. African elite complain about Nollywood's use of themes like voodoo and religious fundamentalism. The Economist points out many Nigerians are born-again Christians and religion holds a heavy sway on Nollywood film topics.
Despite the backlash, one thing is certain; Nollywood has created something entirely new in the African entertainment industry. Its success is fueled by the fact that Nollywood has almost no competition, operates on consistently low budgets, and theme-wise appeals to Nigerians on a level that Hollywood films fail to.
To learn more about Nollywood, check out Italian Film maker Franco Sacchi's TED video to hear interviews with Nollywood actors, producers and viewers.