We love weddings. But too much of a good thing is bad and we think we’ve had enough Nollywood wedding narratives to last a decade. Nigerian weddings are carnivals and while we are intrigued by the glamour, fanfare, and paraphernalia that come with wedding ceremonies, we think it’s about time filmmakers explored different themes and deeper stories that show the Nigerian context.
The industry is suffering from a lack of diversity. While Nollywood comedies are able to break box-office records, it is unfortunate that there are Nigerian audiences that Nollywood does not create content for at the moment. A huge percentage of this target audience ignore Nollywood films and will rather use the time watching foreign TV shows and films.
Nollywood has improved technically but the stories are safe stories that cater to the mass audience, which proves that the only interest to make films on this part is to make money. The problem is because Nollywood concentrates on a particular audience, it is losing opportunities for even more profit.
In an effort to create more diverse stories, the early success of Tinsel can be used as a guide. Africa Magic was projecting wealth and the lack of it. It was projecting strife and the lack of it, it was projecting people from different upbringings. It was also giving an opportunity to new and young faces. Dimbo Atiya is doing with “Sons of the Caliphate” what has never been done on Nigerian TV. The show has projected Northern Nigeria without the usual stereotype. It also proves that a new culture on screen is not impossible for the Nigerian audience to handle. While the lack of diversity in our stories is one of the problems in the industry, there are many more.
In 2016, “The Arbitration,” “Oloibiri,” “76” and “93 Days” were all released to critical acclaim but did not enjoy the same level of success, commercially. A number of critics do well to write honest reviews on the generic comedies that hit the cinemas but this has not stopped the audience from going to see them. These comedies feature a lot of stars who are ready to support the films by showing up at the cinema to sell tickets. Drama on the other hand might get bright reviews from critics but the restrain in marketing limits reach. The stars have also proven to have more interest in promoting films with a lot of celebrity fanfare (the comedies) than they do for dramatic narratives.
“Green White Green” proved an impossible success story for cinema owners. They rejected Abba T. Makama’s project, with claims that the Nigerian audience will not be interested in seeing that type of feature. Risk is not something cinema owners are ready to take in many parts of the world, but worse, in Nigeria.
“Ojukokoro” had a similar wittiness but was able to triumph and find its way to the Nigerian cinemas; but for Nigerian cinema owners, there can be only one “Ojukokoro” in 5 years.
While “Green White Green” has found a home on Netflix, it was a film that was capable of mobilizing a new Nigerian audience to pay attention to the messy state of the nation. It also had prospects at dominating pop culture due to the witty dialogue Abba T. Makama writes – it had a chance at true success if only cinema owners were ready to use as much effort to promote it, as they do every other comedy that goes to them.
On the list of the top 10 grossing Nigerian films, 7 are comedies, while the top two are comedies that concentrate on weddings. If you have watched five out of these seven, you will find that there are a lot of similarities in these stories.
“The Wedding Party” has broken a number of box office records. The interest the film garnered earned it a sequel that was released in 2017. While that is an easy example of filmmakers capitalizing on trends, there are a number of us demanding for more from producers.
The filmmakers producing content have a duty to influence what we see and how good what we see is. Unfortunately, we have had an overflow of similar stories. While some reflect the interest of Nigerians; impactful Nigerian stories have not been properly explored.
2018 looks quite different and might be the year we consume content that is diverse and those we can genuinely celebrate.
There are a number of reasons to expect a difference in 2018: Kemi Adetiba is making “King of Boys,” Izu Ojukwu with “Queen Amina” Tolu Soga with “Lara and the Beat,” and Genevieve Nnaji’s “Lion Heart”. These are all strong projects that have been able to build anticipation for taking advantage of narratives we have ignored.
2018 is the year we expect to go to the cinema and embrace stories that are not only relatable but stories that we will remember in the long run. Stories that create an experience in the way we see them and in how we use the lessons they project.