Breaking Into Nollywood the Write Way

By Isabella Akinseye (Nigeria)

My journey into cultural reportage started with books. During a gap year after my first year of university, I worked in a publishing firm in Nigeria. I went on to review books on TV, started The Bookaholic Blog with a friend and published reviews in newspapers and magazines. When I returned to university in the UK, I got an annual pass to the cinema. Since then, I have swapped the written word for moving pictures. As a writer, it was a natural step to review my new past time, and a new magazine back home provided an outlet. I wanted more – to engage with Nigerian material for my dissertation on film studies but my supervisor said I would not find enough academic material. A trip to the British Film Institute proved her right.

When I returned home, I wanted to do something; contribute my own quota to the discourse on African cinema with a focus on Nigeria’s film industry, popularly known as Nollywood. Things were looking up as Nigerian filmmakers were beginning to pay attention to plot and production values. They were no longer afraid to move into unchartered territory in terms of subject matter. There were still issues, of course, and filmmakers such as Kenneth Gyang, Izu Ojukwu, Amaka Igwe and Kunle Afolayan were in a class of their own. The gap between them and the “home video” directors was glaring because they were in it for the money.

I wanted a situation where I could take a friend to the cinema to see a Nollywood movie and not have them walk out (which has happened before). I started with movie reviews for websites and blogs. I followed up with a weekly column tackling topical issues in one of the national dailies. At the same time, I was hosting red carpet of movie premieres and industry events. All this culminated into founding my online platform and digital magazine Nolly Silver Screen. Finding contributors was hard enough, and critics, almost impossible. Most people did entertainment reporting without a deep appreciation for film. I reached out to Shaibu Husseini of The Guardian, who has not only mentored me, but has been a sounding board throughout my career as a film journalist and publisher.

National cinema is on the rise, albeit slowly, from one cinema in 2004, to over 25 cinemas in 2015 and more underway in 2016.