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Nigerian Actress Omotola Ekeinde On Nollywood Talents Having No Interest In Heading To Hollywood...

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by Tambay A. Obenson
December 5, 2012 10:42 AM
7 Comments
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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.

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7 Comments

  • cola | April 25, 2013 12:40 AMReply

    I am from America and also an actress here. I use to see African movies/soap operas while I was getting my hair braided. I never knew that there was more to it. I was recently introduced to "African movies" aka Nollywood. I laughed and blindly thought that Hollywood and Bollywood exisisted. I am now hooked and have stayed up all night and day watching so many movies. I am learning the accents and the actors names. I am seeing the amazing Chelsa Gabriel, her, Van Vicker, Patience, ect. I dont think Nollywood needs Hollywood. Hollywood is so cliche and tired. I admire how my African people have created their own movies and work. So many of us black women actress here in America complain and audition for small roles its sad. Hollywood clearly favors white people and you know what, if Nollywood would come to Hollywood maybe Black Americans will get inspired and work more. I love watching Nollywood movies. I rarely watch American movies now.

  • cola | April 25, 2013 12:37 AMReply

    I am from America and also an actress here. I use to see African movies/soap operas while I was getting my hair braided. I never knew that there was more to it. I was recently introduced to "African movies" aka Nollywood. I laughed and blindly thought that Hollywood and Bollywood exisisted. I am now hooked and have stayed up all night and day watching so many movies. I am learning the accents and the actors names. I am seeing the amazing Chelsa Gabriel, her, Van Vicker, Patience, ect. I dont think Nollywood needs Hollywood. Hollywood is so cliche and tired. I admire how my African people have created their own movies and work. So many of us black women actress here in America complain and audition for small roles its sad. Hollywood clearly favors white people and you know what, if Nollywood would come to Hollywood maybe Black Americans will get inspired and work more. I love watching Nollywood movies. I rarely watch American movies now.

  • Ekenyeremgozi Michael Chima | January 2, 2013 1:52 PMReply

    If I don't know her, I would have swallowed that candy. But heaven knows the dream of Omotola Jalade-Ekeinde, Genevieve Nnaji, Rita Dominic and other Nollywood stars is to land even a cameo in a Hollywood movie, because it is really embarrassing for these Nollywood super stars to come to the Oscars and nobody notices them or go to Cannes and be gazing at Angelina Jolie and other Hollywood stars from behind the railings of the red carpet. Dangle a Hollywood carrot to Omotola and I bet you that she will flip over to grab it!

  • Blackman | December 6, 2012 1:42 AMReply

    What is Nollywood again? No seriously? How much do they get paid? "all they want to do is STAY" in ONE place? LOL, she says that NOW, that she landed a NEW job a/k/a role to play. Hit us back in 5 years when another NEW BEAUTIFUL smooth skinned Nija girlie catches the Eye of all of Nollywood. LOL. Even Bollywood knows better. If anything, Nollywood need to get CREATIVE and produce a "slum-dog" movie that takes America by storm to PUT Nollywood on the mind. right now, its only a lagos-slum industry. question? Do she have a passport?

  • Nicole | December 5, 2012 7:55 PMReply

    Her comment reminded me of an article I read in the NYT about Aishwarya Rai. Hollywood has been trying to get her for years to no avail. She's a megastar in Bollywood and doesn't feel the need or pressure to "go Hollywood". The article said that she was Will Smith's first choice to play his love interest in Seven Pounds which eventually went to Rosario Dawson. But there was an important Hindu festival taking place at the same time she would be required to film the movie. She turned the role down. She said it wasn't her time and it would come. But she wasn't overly concerned about it. I thought that was impressive because I can't think of ONE actress, superstar or not, who would turn down the opportunity to act opposite Will Smith. Or more importantly turn down the exposure being in a 'Will Smith' movie can bring.

    So, I'm thinking Omotola and some of the other Nollywood actresses feel the same way.

  • Boomslang | December 9, 2012 5:21 PM

    Um.. Aish has done those cheap hollywood romcoms ( 2 of them ) and a aubpar remake of the Pink Panthere . She was just being uppity. Her acting skills are lacklustre anyway. she's getting all that dough and exposure because she is lite skinned.

  • getthesenets | December 5, 2012 12:14 PMReply

    Her comment makes complete sense and is only notable for those who perhaps have never lived in an all Black country.
    Her own film industry validates her, she doesn't seek out validation from others.

    I'm reminded of the acceptance speech by the late Heavy D at a Soul Train Awards ceremony. His album Big Tyme had blown up but he didn't win any of the establishment awards....

    His speech "You know what, is's good to Black.....grammy....nah.....ama..nah..I GOT SOUL!!!"

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