South 2 North

Welcome to Nollywood

As Bollywood celebrates 100 years, we look at how the Nigerian film industry is stepping up to challenge its dominance.

The world is celebrating one hundred years of Bollywood, the triumph of an industry that continues to challenge the status quo of western storytelling. 

But Bollywood might have to watch its back, as the Nigerian film industry, Nollywood, steps up to challenge the eastern industry for the title of most productive film industry.

The fast-paced, high-turnover industry of Nollywood is revolutionising the movie-making model, and all without foreign aid or government subsidies.

Nigerians are telling their own stories and making movies their way. So, what has this meant for the Nigerian people?

Franco Sacchi, an Italian filmmaker whose fascination with the industry led to him making his award-winning documentary, Welcome to Nollywood, says:

“These filmmakers are incredibly courageous, and at some point in time, in the early, mid-90s they really felt they had no other options, [but] to just grab the available tools and start telling their stories.”

Sacchi explains how the digital revolution dropped the entry level for filmmaking, making it accessible to many storytellers who could film and edit their movies with affordable technologies. The low level of investment meant that the filmmakers also had space to experiment, explore and make mistakes.

Our second guest, Yewande Sadiku was an executive producer on the film Half of a Yellow Sun, adapted from Chimamande Ngozi Adichie’s award-winning book of the same name. Sadiku is an investment banker who used her skills to finance the bulk of the film locally.

“Because of my day job I understood what investors would like to see, I mean the word investment means you put money in something and you expect to get something back. The challenge with many Nollywood productions is distribution. It is extremely difficult to explain to anyone, to articulate how the returns will come back to them.”

A part of making the investment viable involved bringing in British actors Thandie Newton and Chiwetel Ejiofor – their star power made the film more appealing to an international audience.

Born in Nigeria, Biyi Bandele started working on his first novel in his early teens. He has been internationally hailed as an important literary figure and has written several plays as well as novels. Bandele decided he wanted to be involved in turning Half of a Yellow Sun into a movie after reading the book.

“The moment I read [Half of a Yellow Sun], about six years ago, I just fell in love with it. And I was paranoid that if it was done by anyone coming from the outside they would make a kind of movie about Africa, and I watch them and I want to hide under the seats. I wanted a movie that depicted Africans as human beings, and not just statistics from NGOs.”

In this episode of South2North, Redi Tlhabi asks about the future of Nollywood, and what to expect from the new generation of movie makers.

Sadiku says, “I think the future of Nollywood is very bright …. It has demonstrated what is possible …. If you write with a blunt pencil, and you write with a sharp pencil, your handwriting is exactly the same but it looks very different. That’s what Nollywood needs to move to – the next level.”


South2North  can be seen each week at the following times GMT: Friday: 1930; Saturday: 1430; Sunday: 0430; Monday: 0830.