Let's Drain Out the Negative Stuff...
(AllAfrica Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) Nollywood goes to school (3) Let's drain out the negative stuff...
It is amazing how many Nollywood productions disappear into the annals of oblivion simply because (aside from quality issues) their owners fail to invest the same financial and creative commitment in marketing as they did in production (unlike Hollywood where marketing budgets frequently outstrip the cost of producing the movies themselves).
The choice of a cinema (as opposed to DVD) release strategy at the outset automatically transfers the burden of promotion from the traditional marketers to the content originators themselves who are frequently unprepared for the hard graft involved in bringing their products to the awareness of the public and successfully persuading them that they constitute a worthwhile investment of their time and money.
But despite the confident strides the Nigerian music industry has taken over the last few years, there are also a few professional missteps noticeable in its march toward global recognition that its film counterparts will do well to avoid. The most prominent of these include:
The Copycat Syndrome: It is human nature to jump on the bandwagon of a successful formula and replicate it without variation. Our artistes are no different; every song these days seems to include the ubiquitous phrase 'go down low', as if it were the requisite admission pass into the heavily guarded hall of fame and fortune. The beats are beginning to sound monotonously similar, the video storylines remain intellectually and spiritually unchallenging, and what remains to be seen is the exact extent of the public's appetite for this particular diet of music, before its stomach revolts and it seeks more balanced nutrition elsewhere.
In similar vein, a frequent complaint from consumers of contemporary local films is their lack of originality; copious --in some cases, wholesale-- adaptations of story plots from popular Hollywood fare has engendered a lack of respect amongst the target audience for 'Made in Nigeria'. No doubt it takes considerably greater time and effort to achieve a work of originality, but its reward more than compensates for the sacrifices made, and no other foundation can support sustainable success in the industry.
But this undesirable tendency assumes far more serious dimensions when it ventures into the terrain of cultural values and morality. Because in their quest to replicate the same sort of success and notoriety as their peers overseas and hopefully gain acceptance into their community, several of our artistes have plunged heedlessly into the same fervid swamp of gratuitous booty-shaking and crass spectacles of ostentatious living that characterizes modern hip hop today. Values alien to our cultural and spiritual sensibilities are adopted without discrimination, all in a bid to tap into that proven formula of success (no matter how morally questionable) and milk it for all it is worth.
Truly, you cannot serve God and money. You will indeed follow one and despise the other. The free (or discounted) gig performed now and then for the local church is no compensation.
And interestingly, this strategy of imitation may already be proving counterproductive. We cannot outdo those iron-pumping, tattooed Americans at what they invented; they will simply take it to a different level and leave us floundering. So it is no surprise that the few crumbs thrown out to acknowledge Afro Pop at their glitzy award ceremonies are presented off-air to empty halls and to the indignation of several viewers back in Africa who denounce the implied disrespect.
And make no mistake about it: It is a lack of respect. And rightly so. Despite our African flavour, to a large extent, we are simply doing what they are already doing -- only, not quite as good. To bulldoze our way into the primetime segment of the ceremony, we need to bring something new to the table; something fresh, original; something actually superior that they can learn from. Something they can't ignore. Not a rehash of their own vices which they themselves, deep down inside, do not respect.
So the lesson for Nollywood as it stands poised at the edge of the Promised Land is this: By all means imitate the best. But let's exercise restraint. Let's use our discretion. Let's adopt their best practices, particularly the technical and professional excellence. Take what is positive; adapt it to our way of life, be uncompromising on quality, and achieve something original. Let's drain out the negative stuff --the dregs, the chaff, the things that corrupt and pollute and have nothing worthwhile to contribute to efforts at shaping the productive and exemplary society we all want to live in.
The horizon is indeed bright. In other news (aside from the recent plaudits for Half of a Yellow Sun), Focus Features, Universal Studio's arthouse film division with several Oscar-winning productions under its belt, has just appointed a Nigerian filmmaker to direct the long-awaited 'Fela Kuti' feature film, with another Nigerian attached in the lead role. A leading Nigerian actress is cited in Time Magazine's coveted 100 Most Influential People in the World list. Another prominent film personality is invited all the way to Japan to showcase his latest works.
All this in the last 6 months.
So it is not entirely unreasonable for us to look forward to that day (possibly in the not-too-distant-future) when a story conceived, developed and produced by Nigerians in Nigeria, about Nigeria, makes it to the list of nominees for a major Academy Award. Maybe then, we can finally boast that Nollywood has truly arrived.
Or for diehard Man U fans, maybe just the day that Rio Ferdinand admits to owning one on his I-pad.
Copyright Vanguard. Distributed by AllAfrica Global Media (allAfrica.com).
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