Friday, January 4, 2013



By Shaibu Husseini

 ONE reason it may be difficult to clearly define the accomplishment of Nollywood, as an industry, last year, is the perceived inability of practitioners and leaders of the guilds and associations to set their priorities right at the start of 2012.
So they walk into a year without a clearly stating how they intend to put Nollywood on the path of growth. Even if there were plans at all, they were so unrealistic that mid way into the year, they were abandoned. So rather than spend time on schemes that would lift the industry, improve the content of offerings, and guarantee effective copyright and distribution system, much of the time last year was spent on chasing crumbs, on hauling insults on themselves and issuing threat of court action.
Save for some individual efforts that have kept the turf busy particularly few practitioners who have continued to crank cameras inspite of the complete collapse of the distribution system and the discouraging activities of pirates, much of the time in the year under review was spent on settling controversies and disputes including intra and extra guilds and association wranglings.
  President:Actors Guild of Nigeria.

In fact, to conclude that year 2012 was characterized by mounting bickering and needles disputes will be stating the obvious.  For instance, needless was the controversy that preceded the election of Ibinabo Fiberisma as the first female President of the Actors Guild of Nigeria (AGN). But for good reason that was later allowed to prevail, the major actors in that AGN election would have been struggling it out in court. The issue of who was eligible to contest and who was “ordained to succeed” the immediate past president of the AGN, Segun Arinze dragged and almost split the group. Thankfully, its Board of Trustees (BOT) promptly stepped in and affirmed Ibinabo as duly elected President.

Zik Zulu Okafor
  President Association of Movie Producers

Needless too is the raging controversy over the right to commemorate the much-hyped 20th anniversary of Nollywood. In the controversy ring, are the leadership of the Association of Movie Producers (AMP) and the organizers of the African International Film Festival (AFRIFF).
The AMP claimed it had since 2011 mooted the idea of commemorating Nollywood at 20 in 2012, since in their estimation, Nollywood came into being in 1992 and would want to anchor the grand celebration of the anniversary. In fact, talks around the event began as soon as Zik Zulu Okafor assumed office as President of the AMP, but by September of 2012, the actual month that marked 20 years of the release of the phenomenal Living in Bondage — the movie that spurred interest in the commercial production of movies, the group announced a shift in the date of the anniversary party to 2013. “We have moved the Nollywood at 20 event to 2013,” Zik Zulu Okafor said on the grounds of the 9th edition of the annual Abuja International Festival (AIFF) which was dedicated to a celebration of “the phenomenon Nollywood at 20.”
In fact, the AMP President was a part of the panel at the AIFF on Nollywood titled Nollywood: 20 years after — the good, the bad and the ugly. Besides, as a way of drawing attention to the success story of Nollywood as it clocked 20, the organizers of the African International Film Festival (AFRIFF) then decided to include the hosting of a conference on Nollywood in their programming of the third edition of the festival, which was planned to hold in December 2012. A similar conference and award ceremony held in Germany on December 8 under the direction of Isaac Izoya of Ehizoya Golden Entertainment. The AFRIFF conference on Nollywood was intended as a side event.  The organizers had invited speakers including the AMP President to undertake a retrospective on the industry and proffer solution to its multi-dimensional challenges. They had also as part of the conference planned to present a book of Nollywood Icons, a promotional publication they hope will be widely circulated. Observers felt that those events would have been an appropriate way to kick-start activities commemorating the 20th anniversary. But the organisers had hardly sent out invites when they were reportedly ordered by the leadership of the AMP to hold their festival but to steer clear from hosting any event around Nollywood at 20.
The AMP insisted that it was anchoring an industry celebration of the anniversary of Nollywood which its leadership has fixed to hold in June 2013 and as such they would not want energies dissapiated on organising any event that will likely make their planned grand commemorative event appear anti-climatic. The AMP stressed that the celebration was ‘an industry affair ‘ and must be seen as such. That directive was to later pitch the directors of AFRIFF against the leadership of AMP. Text, emails and black berry messages, most of them disparaging, started circulating. The matter is likely to be resolved in court, as the directors of AFRIFF have threatened court action unless the disparaging comments allegedly credited to the leadership of the AMP are withdrawn. But the AMP insisted it would not be distracted. It recently announced that it would start its programme of commemoration with a world press conference and close with a grand dinner and award ceremony in June 2013.
But the leadership of the AMP may need to still look at the composition of its organising committee if it truly intends to have an industry celebration. Already the leadership of Association of Nollywood Core Producers (ANCOP) have protested their exclusion from the organising committee. President of ANCOP, Alex Enyegho in a press statement described as a “grand game of deceit the attempt by AMP to railroad unsuspecting stakeholders and Nigerians into believing that the planned Nollywood at 20 event was a product of consensus by all Nollywood associations, guilds and practitioners.’’ Comrade Eyengho further stated that the planned commemorative event was “an AMP event and cannot be said to be an event by the whole industry.” Questions have also been raised on why folk associations like the Association of Nigerian Theatre Arts Practitioners (ANTP), the Motion Picture Practitioners Association of Nigeria (MOPPAN) which represents the movie industry in Kano called Kannywood and the current chairman of the Coalition of Nollywood Guild and Association (CONGA) Bond Emeruwa are not represented on the organising committee of the planned industry event.

 Ms Patricia Bala
Acting Director General,
Nigerian Film and Video Censors Board
Even though observers don’t see anything wrong with institutions celebrating an industry that has become a significant part of the nation’s popular culture, they think that there is more work for the leadership of AMP to do including facilitating access to funding for its members than spend time on needless controversies and disputes. They want the guild and association heads to direct energies on monitoring the way some regulatory agencies like the National Film and Video Censors Board (NFVCB) and the Nigerian Film Corporation (NFC) have been discharging their mandates. The observers reasoned that things have continued to slow down in Nollywood because the agencies have left the core issues of lack of a definite film policy, absence of a practitioner’s council, poor distribution network, piracy and the absence of a film fund unaddressed. In 2012, it was the agencies to their supervising Minister and Nollywood to themselves. In fact, the practitioners related more with the Presidency last year than they related with the NFVCB and the NFC. Even now, the practitioners have become so disenchanted with the operations of the agencies that they have been calling for the heads of the chief executives of the agencies. They say they cannot point a finger to what the NFVCB has achieved last year apart from the little success they recorded with their ‘Nigerian in the movies’ initiative and their recent road show initiative to Scotland and India.

 Afolabi Adesanya
MD Nigerian Film Corporation
But the NFC faired well in the estimation of informed observers during the year under review even though the complaint has been that the NFC, its leadership especially is  far removed from developments in Nollywood. The NFC has in spite of budgetary constraints continued to ensure visibility for the industry locally and internationally. It has also continued to impact positively on the Nigerian motion picture industry through industry interventions.
But there are those who think that the NFC should do much more than signing memoranda of understanding and hosting film festivals with foreign missions in Nigeria. They wonder why it is taking the NFC so much time to work on a legislation that will provide the practitioners easy access to facilities like airports, court rooms, police and military formations that can enhance professionalism in film production. They also think that Nigeria is too ripe for a policy that will guarantee the provision of incentives and tax rebates for acquisition of professional equipments including exhibition equipments and wonder why the NFC as a film developmental agency cannot secure such legislation for the industry including legislation that will support the establishment of the National Film Fund.
They wonder why the NFC has not followed up on the promise made by the Minister of Information Mr. Labaran Maku at the 2012 Zuma International Film Festival to have the bill establishing the much talked about Motion Picture Practitioners Council (MOPPICON) passed. They also wonder why the NFC has all these years, not made a case for the provision of a production grant and also a grant to support industry activities such as festivals.
However, regular features such as the African Movie Academy Awards (AMAA) have continued to lift the banner of Nollywood at national, continental and international levels. Founder of AMAA, Peace Anyiam Osigwe has also continued to be a leading voice to get the National Film Policy implemented. Specifically, she wants the NTA to be compelled to commission programmes and not wait for practitioners to buy airtime before their programmes will be shown on television. Osigwe also wants government to initiate a policy that will encourage corporate Nigeria to support the entertainment industry and a policy that will compel advertising agencies to advertise on local programmes.
Another positive point is in the area of release of movies. Moviedom witnessed more releases in 2012 than in 2011. There was a noticeable effort to produce something substantial in spite of these challenges. Movies like  ‘Hoodrush’, ‘Hereos and Zeroes’, ‘Okon goes to Lagos’, ‘Tobi’, ‘Last Flight to Abuja’, ‘Phone Swap’, ‘Scores to Settle’, ‘The Meeting’, and ‘Dr Bello’ which benefitted a lot from the creative industry fund provided by NEXIM readily come to mind. These films were premiered and they screened at major cinemas in the country.
Also a number of practitioners including Tunde Kelani and Emem Isong were honoured and applauded for their enterprise during the year. Similarly, the Federal Government conferred national honours of Member of the Federal Republic (MFR) on two notable motion picture practitioners - Peace Anyiam Osigwe and Teco Benson. The award was in recognition of their individual effort, dedication and service.
In addition, the year witnessed some landmark events that were reputed to have put Nollywood on the path of growth. The intervention by the Lagos State government through the Nollywood Upgrade initiative readily comes to mind. Also iREP has continued to intervene through its annual documentary film festival and film screening. The 2nd edition of the yearly Light, Camera, Africa, a 4-day film, talk and music feast organized by the Life House, Lagos in partnership with The African Film Festival, Inc (AFF) added colour to the robust profile of 2012 in term of staging of film events such as the BOBTV; AMAA, the Eko International Film festival (EIFF), Abuja international Film Festival, the IN-SHORT film festival and the Gospel film festival.
As practitioners went on location, they also found time to raise funds for some of their colleagues who were bedridden. The last of such fund raising efforts was the N6.5 million Naira raised for the ailing stage and screen actress Ngozi Nwosu. The actress who until recently was a star of the popular sitcom, Fuji House of Commotion was reportedly diagnosed of Kidney complications. But she got substantial help from the Lagos state governor Babatunde Raji Fashola who donated N4.5 million.  She had earlier received N1 million from the communication giant MTN and another N1 million from contributions coordinated by Seun Olukoteyi of Best of Nollywood magazine. The actress should be on the way to India for further treatment. Also practitioners found time to mourn some of their colleagues – popular actor Pete Eneh; stage and screen actor Enebeli Elebuwa; popular Yoruba actor Lekan Oladipupo (aka) Lekkinson; and emerging Yoruba actress, Bisi Komolafe — who passed on during the year.
Indeed, observers are of the opinion that a lot still has to be done in terms of bridging the gap regarding support for the creative industry by government. Industry critics have however predicted a boom for the entertainment industry in 2013 but they say this will be possible if Nollywood re-invents itself, if government creates the enabling environment for the industry to thrive and if practitioners will stop playing “dirty politics” and focus on being more professional in 2013.

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