In the past decade, a new wave of Nigerian filmmakers has emerged, producing films that have won awards around the world.
These films, known as Nollywood, are produced in Nigeria’s leading film industry and have made major strides in both production quality and international recognition.
The term “New Nigerian Cinema” refers to the latest wave of Nollywood films that have been able to achieve widespread acclaim due to high production value and the use of well-known actors.
New Nigerian Cinema
What Is New Nigerian Cinema?
New Nigerian cinema is a film movement that has begun to make waves in the Nigerian film industry.
The term “New Nigerian Cinema” was coined by one of the driving forces behind the movement, Chika Anadu, to describe the new wave of filmmakers who are involved in creating films that tell stories about Africa and are made in Africa by Africans.
Not only is this movement changing the standards of filmmaking in Nigeria, but it also reflects how far African cinema as a whole has come.
What Is New Nigerian Cinema?
The New Nigerian Cinema is a movement that has been eclipsed by the Nollywood phenomenon.
One that is only now being rediscovered by younger audiences, who are more interested in exploring African cinema beyond the confines of the continent.
For those unfamiliar with it, New Nigerian Cinema is a movement started in the 1990s by filmmakers like Tunde Kelani (Kongi’s Harvest), Chika Okpala (The Boy Is Good), and Ola Balogun (Festival of Fire).
It was a period when Nigerian filmmakers were drawn to more sophisticated film aesthetics and storytelling techniques.
The movement was characterised by high production values, cinematic music scores, better visual and sound quality, more complex story structures, and competent acting.
Nigerian cinema has also been traditionally known as Nollywood.
Nollywood has had a bad reputation for releasing low-budget films with poor production value, and more often than not, these films were made with no actual plot or structure.
So when people speak about New Nigerian cinema, they’re specifically talking about an improvement in the quality of production and storytelling within Nigerian cinema.
However, the New Nigerian cinema movement isn’t just limited to Nigeria.
It’s also becoming popular in other countries across Africa, such as Ghana and Kenya, where many local directors use this newer style of filmmaking to tell stories that highlight their specific cultures and histories.
New Nigeria Cinema Sparks Nollywood Renaissance
Nollywood is the nickname of Nigeria’s ever-growing and evolving film industry.
A long way from its humble beginnings, and at times controversial, Nollywood is today an industry as equally loved as it is hated.
Nigerian films have gone from strength to strength in recent years, with a new wave of movies coming out of Nigeria.
This has caused a renaissance in the Nigerian film industry known as the New Nigerian Cinema.
The New Nigerian Cinema has caused a lot of excitement in the film industry and amongst moviegoers in Nigeria and beyond.
This new wave of filmmaking has brought about a new form of storytelling, a more dramatic approach and more world-class production values.
The New Nigerian Cinema may take Nollywood to the next level. Still, many people believe this new wave of cinema is overhyped and does not hold water compared to older films produced by filmmakers such as Ola Balogun and Tunde Kelani.
It’s quite a claim to make, but it could be true.
Filmmakers, producers and actors are returning to Nigeria in droves, bringing fresh ideas, new production methods and the promise of a cinematic boom.
History Of New Nigerian Cinema
In the late 1980s and early 1990s, Nigeria’s film industry was experiencing a renaissance.
New, young directors experimented with camera angles, lighting and cinematography to create new filmmaking styles.
While the 1980s were dominated by Yoruba-Nollywood films, a new genre called Igbo-Nollywood was beginning to gain prominence.
With the coming of multi-channel television broadcasting in the early 1990s came a more diverse range of content.
Nigerian TV stations began producing their own shows and soap operas.
The explosion of media houses led to an increase in Nollywood productions.
As video cassettes became more accessible for people to watch movies at home, cinema attendance dropped, and video sales increased.
The introduction of VCD (Video Compact Disc) players allowed people to watch movies at home on their television sets for the first time.
These VCD players also had digital sound systems instead of analogue sound systems used on VHS players, which caused some Nigerians to buy VCD players instead of VHS players.
In 1983, Chief Olu Falae established the House of Hits, later known as Sound City Studios, in Lagos.
The studio made available recording facilities for upcoming artists whose works were mainly done on tape recorders.
Essential Filmmakers Of New Nigerian Cinema
I remember the day I walked into a store and came across a film called Tunde Kelani’s “Tales of Tikilia” (1989), and I was amazed by what I saw.
In front of my eyes were stories about people who looked like me.
This was not an easy thing to find in Nigeria’s movie theatres in the early 1990s.
Since then, a lot has changed, with the number of Nollywood movies produced annually increasing from 20 to more than 1,000.
But even today, I still find myself struggling to get my hands on films by women directors from the continent.
So it was with much excitement I read a story on The Guardian’s website that announced the release of “Makers,” a documentary that features filmmakers from across Africa as they tell their stories and share their visions for change.
The documentary is part of The Makers series, highlighting women who make things—a fitting tribute to women filmmakers on African soil.
The film features interviews with directors Akin Omotoso (“Life is Beautiful,” 2009), Wanuri Kahiu (“From a Whisper,” 2007) and Lulu Wangari (“In Transit,” 2015).
It also sheds light on other female African filmmakers, such as South Africa’s Zola.
Essential Films Of New Nigerian Cinema
New Nigerian Cinema is a term used to refer to the emergence of a new generation of filmmakers in Nigeria since the late 1990s.
The term is often used interchangeably with Nollywood, which refers to the infrastructure of filmmaking in Nigeria.
For decades before the New Nigerian Cinema movement, Nigerian films mainly were shot on analogue video formats such as VHS and distributed on video cassettes that would play in local video parlours across the country.
Due to increased exposure to foreign films via television or cinema, or just an increased desire for Nigerians to consume homegrown content, the demand for cinema steadily increased throughout the 1980s and 1990s.
To meet this growing demand, producers began making films on a larger scale. They started shooting films on film instead of video and distributing them on VCDs (Video CDs), which were cheaper and easier to duplicate than VHS tapes.
The films made in this era are sometimes called “Nigerian Video Films” instead of “New Nigerian Cinema”.
Unlike their predecessors, they had budgets large enough that they could afford professional actors, writers, directors and producers.
However, these films were still mostly shot on location and without scripts; actors just responded to the situations presented before them.
The history of Nigerian cinema is complex, with an abundance of audio-visual productions created and/or produced in the country over the years.
Importance Of New Nigerian Cinema
The new cinema is a term used to refer to the cinemas of Nigeria. It is also referred to as New Nollywood, Nigerian cinema or Nollywood.
Brief History of Nigerian Cinema: The history of Nigerian cinema dates back to the late 19th century, when the first film was introduced in Nigeria. The first film screened in Nigeria was a silent film by the Lumière brothers, who pioneered motion-picture technology in 1895.
The screening took place at the Glover Memorial Hall, now known as the Muson Centre, Lagos Island, on August 14, 1896.
The film presented that evening was L’Arroseur Arrosé (The Waterer Watered).
This film sparked interest in motion picture and set up several cinematograph clubs within Lagos by 1897.
”The Picture Palace”, a famous cinema hall on Broad Street, was one of these cinematograph clubs.
Other cinemas such as the “New Era Picture Palace” and “Star Picture Hall”.
These cinemas served as venues for regular screening of films accompanied by music and commentary by native news readers known as Balancers who commentated on current events through song.
These news readers were usually members of the Egba tribe who spoke English with.
New Nigerian Cinema Theory
New Nigerian Cinema theory also tries to explain the function of the film in society.
It argues that the films produced and shown to audiences in Nigeria are intended to do more than just entertain.
The films are also meant to change or reinforce the values of the Nigerian people.
Tade Ogidan’s film “Binta And The Great Idea” (1991) is used as a primary text for analysis in New Nigerian Cinema theory because it does this effectively.
Binta And The Great Idea is a story about how Binta, a young girl from an uneducated family, goes from being a victim of her own culture to someone who can help change it for the better.
The film has many elements, including music and dance, that make it aesthetically pleasing.
These elements appeal to the audience’s aesthetic sensibilities while at the same time encouraging them to consider new ideas about the roles women play in society.
The film shows how Binta becomes independent, leaving her home and following her own dream despite her mother’s strong objections.
This demonstration of female independence is so striking because it is so rare in African films.
Usually, women have no control over their lives; they simply obey their parents’ wishes and marry whomever they are told.
The End Of New Nigerian Cinema
It is no longer news that the Nigerian film industry is undergoing a bit of a rough patch.
It is also not news that the industry is in full panic mode on what to do about it.
Some people have argued that this is an end of a cycle, but I beg to differ. I think we are witnessing the death of a genre and the birth of another.
The Nigerian film industry has always been a two-headed hydra: one head was Nollywood, which produced the typical melodramas, romances, comedies, etc.
While the other was devoted to socially conscious and political films that were more akin to documentary than narrative cinema.
The former was made possible by cheap video cameras, while the latter relied on expensive 35mm cameras and professional crews.
There has never been much crossover between these two streams, with filmmakers preferring either camp and audiences identifying with their favourite genres and staying away from others.
The audience for Nollywood is primarily home video viewers who tend to be interested in light fare. In contrast, audiences for New Nigerian Cinema are cineastes who go to theatres for more substantial food.
However, even within these two camps, filmmakers had distinct differences in approach and aesthetics.
While Nollywood filmmakers eschewed professional equipment in favour of the home.
New Nigerian Cinema – Wrapping Up
The Nigerian Film Industry, Nollywood, is one of the most prolific film industries globally. It is now home to over 700 studios and produces over 3000 movies a year.
That’s approximately 24 movies per week! Towards the end of March 2017, the first-ever International Nollywood Week was held in London by UK based events company EKO Events.
The event showcased some of the top Nigerian actors, actresses, and film producers and gave insight into the Nigerian Film Industry’s success.
Tens of thousands of people attend Nollywood events every year in London, New York, Los Angeles and Paris.
This is how successful Nollywood has become. Nigerian movies are now being exported to countries including France and China through dedicated cinemas showing nothing but Nigerian films.
So it is no surprise that Nigeria recently overtook India as the world’s “biggest” movie-making nation.
Nollywood has created many millionaires, including its biggest star Jim Iyke who was featured in Forbes magazine as one of Africa’s highest-grossing actors.
He will be speaking at next year’s International Nollywood Week on 19 – 22 March 2018 at Wembley Arena London.