By Funke Osae- Brown
The quest for quality has seen Nigeria’s film industry, Nollywood, produce its most expensive movie ‘Half of a Yellow Sun,’ which costs about N1.27 billion ($8m) to make. The movie, an adaptation of Chimanmanda Ngozi Adichie’s novel, ‘Half of a Yellow Sun,’ was shot at Tinapa Film Studio, Cross River State, and in the United Kingdom.
The yet to be released film, directed by Biyi Bandele, has most of its cast and crew flown from abroad. The cast comprised Britons and Nigerians such as Chiwetel Ejiofor (Kinky Boots, American Gangster, 2012, Salt); Thandie Newton (Mission: Impossible II, Crash, The Pursuit of Happiness); Anika Noni Rose (Dreamgirls, The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency, For Coloured Girls); Joseph Mawle (Women in Love, Game of Thrones); John Boyega (Attack the Block); Onyeka Onwenu, Nigerian singer and actress; Genevieve Nnaji and Zack Orji.
The production quality of the film indicates the growing professionalism in Nollywood. The industry, in the last five years, has been growing in terms of output and quality. Little wonder it has been rated the third most valuable movie industry in the world, behind Hollywood and Bollywood.
The development has also impacted on returns. Just as it has ranked third globally in terms of quality of production, it has grossed revenues that placed it third in the world.
Robert Orya, managing director, Nigerian Export-Import Bank (NEXIM), says Nollywood ranks third globally in revenue. According to him, the revenue the film industry has generated in the last three years is between $300 million and $800 million.
‘The global film and entertainment industry generated about $90.6 billion revenue in 2010,’ Orya explains, saying ‘the revenue increased to $102.7 billion in 2012. Most of these revenue streams are largely from theatrical distribution. North America contributed the largest market share of about 40 percent. Europe, Middle East and Africa accounted for 24 percent, Latin America 20 percent, and Asia Pacific made only 3 percent contribution.’
Victor Okhai, film maker, says a new crop of film makers began to bring professionalism into the industry, which explains the improvement in the quality of films produced lately. Those who fall into this group are Tunde Kelani with movies like ‘Thunderbolt’ (‘Magun’), Tade Ogidan with ‘Dangerous Twins,’ Richard Mofe Damijo’s ‘Out of Bounds,’ Ego Boyo with ‘30 Days,’ the Amstel Malta Box Office series, to mention but a few.
‘It is expected that the quality of films will improve,’ says Okhai. ‘We are at a stage where we can no longer play the mediocre anymore. We have discovered that when we attend film festivals, we realised that nobody pays attention to Nollywood films. They look at the industry with disdain at these film festivals. Then local film makers came back home to do some serious work. Many film makers are challenged by what they see at film festivals,’ he says.
Before the emergence of ‘Half of a Yellow Sun,’ ‘Tango with Me’ produced by Mahmoud Ali-Balogun, ranked the most expensive film. Shot with the latest Kodak 35mm camera, ‘Tango with Me’ costs over N50 million to make, says Ali-Balogun. In a bid to make a difference in an industry populated by poorly produced films, Balogun travelled to Bulgaria to master film technology. The end product of the trip was an outstanding film that ‘Half of a Yellow Sun’ has rivalled.
Meanwhile, practitioners of the industry say the return of the cinemas has offered a veritable platform for film makers to escape the open market that has been largely taken over by pirates. By first showing their movies at the cinemas, film producers are assured of getting returns on their investments. But Okhai observes that this will not be possible with a bad production quality.
‘Cinemas cannot project poor quality films,’ explains Okhai, as ‘your flaws as a film producer are blown in proportion to the size of the screen. Film makers in the Diaspora are returning home to show how good films are made abroad. Their films are changing the way local film producers are making films.’
Truly, not a few well-produced films have been commercially successful at the cinemas. In 2009 for instance, Stephanie Okereke’s movie, ‘Through the Glass,’ premiered at the cinemas making over N10 million. This was followed by Kunle Afolayan’s ‘The Figurine’ becoming the first local film to make over N30 million in the cinemas.
Chineze Anyaene’s film, ‘Ije,’ also recorded tremendous success at the cinemas, making over N57 million and viewed by an estimated 14,000 people. In 2010, ‘Ije’ was reputed to be Nigeria’s highest selling movie in the cinemas, returning to the cinemas three times that year. Its success was next to Hollywood’s ‘Avatar.’ ‘Anchor Baby’ produced by Lonzo Nzekwe also made over N17 million