By Tambay A. Obenson | Shadow and Act December 5, 2012 at 10:42AM
I was reading THIS piece on Nollywood superstar actress Omotola Jalade Ekeinde (her new reality TV show, The Real Me, premieres tomorrow in Nigeria), and this closing paragraph got my attention, and I thought was worth sharing:
Omotola being fully aware of the existing commercial disparity between Nollywood and Hollywood, revealed that Nigerian actors are quite comfortable with the success of Nollywood. “The typical Nollywood actress does not want to go anywhere, we believe in ourselves and we believe in our industry. We have done collaborations with other countries and different artistes from other countries, and that is where we wanted to take it. In truth, I don’t think any of us want to move to Hollywood. We don’t think it’s necessary, we actually feel like we are doing a good job and they will come to us. But I don’t see any of us packing our bags and heading there,”Omotola said.
I love the confidence she exudes from reading that segment - confidence in Nollywood as a self-sustaining industry that essentially doesn't need the most dominant cinema in the world, Hollywood's recognition to thrive. I also love what she said about other industries - specifically Hollywood - coming to them, and meeting Nollywood on its own terms, acknowledging its power and influence, instead of the other way around.
So despite all the criticisms of Nollywood's "sub-par" cinema not being able to compete on the international stage, and the push by some Nigerian filmmakers for a Nollywood cinema that is recognized internationally as a cinema to be reckoned with, there are those who aren't necessarily living with big Hollywood dreams.
On the otherhand, I suppose one could argue that from the POV of a Nollywood star like Omotola, who appears to be doing very well enough, she certainly doesn't need to succumb to the pull of Hollywood, when she's already a superstar in her own country. Moving to Hollywood, where she isn't as well known, might actually mean starting over from scratch. And given the well-documented challenges black actors and actresses in Hollywood are facing, she'd find herself fighting quite a struggle - a small fish in a very large pond.
The question is whether Hollywood is even calling. But I suppose, as she said, "they will come to us;" meaning, when there's interest, it'll come from Hollywood, which, as I suggested, would put Nollywood in a position of power.
But we've seen a few Nollywood/Hollywood collabs in recent times - most of them we've profiled on this blog, and as I noted in my review of Doctor Bello, a week or so ago, the overall impression I got was that the intent with the film, and we could say with this new movement in Nollywood cinema that's being spearheaded by a handful of Nigerian directors, is not to necessarily change what Nollywood cinema is in order to suit international audiences, but rather to acclimate international audiences to what Nollywood cinema is - in terms of it's style and structure especially - an idea that it inline with what Omotola says above.
Regardless, I'm sure we'll continue to see these Hollywood/Nollywood collaborations, each industry influencing the other. And as I noted in my Tyler Perry comparison, I won't be surprised if, some day, a Hollywood studio recognizes the lucractive Nollywood market, globally, and, as Lionsgate has done with Tyler Perry, gets into bed with a Nollywood filmmaker (or filmmakers) to produce Nollywood-style films with Nollywood stars (just on bigger budgets, although still a fraction of typical Hollywood budgets), targeting that market.
As I said previously, in this country - the USA - Nollywood cinema is still very much niche cinema, and I'd say still largely an unknown entity, despite recent documentaries and news reports from prominent media about the industry. I'm not sure if it'll ever become part of the mainstream; but I don't know if it needs to (or even wants to) in order to survive and grow over the long term. And there will likely always be those from Nollywood tradition who are actively working towards that kind of recognition/affirmation, or at least, who seem to want to challenge the status quo; while there will be those who could care less about how the rest of the world sees Nollywood cinema.
I also wonder if there's something to be said about what we could call the fight for the preservation of key aspects of culture (in this case cinema language, style, structure) - the fact that indigenous people all over the world continue to experience loss of culture (and all that the word implies), in part because they've been excluded from the *international conversation*, and have been subjected to discrimination, as their cultures (specifically, their cinemas in this case) are seen as inferior, primitive, or irrelevant.