Nigeria’s Nollywood film industry reels in foreign investors

A man passes by Nigerian movie billboards at a cinema in Lagos. (File/AFP/Cristina Aldehuela)
Updated 07 July 2019

Nigeria’s Nollywood film industry reels in foreign investors

  • US giant Netflix, France’s Canal+ and China’s StarTimes are among those making moves in the globe’s second most-prolific film industry
  • Rampant piracy and the widespread circulation of unlicensed copies has eaten into profits and put off investors from increasing funding

LAGOS: Nigeria’s film industry, dubbed Nollywood, has long kept viewers entertained with tales of romance and riches, and now foreign investors are increasingly looking for a part of the action.
US giant Netflix, France’s Canal+ and China’s StarTimes are among those making moves in the globe’s second most-prolific film industry, which churns out more than 2,500 films each year and is topped only by India’s Bollywood.
At an event in Nigeria’s economic capital Lagos this week potential investors from France mingled with local directors and politicians as they heard about the possibilities on offer.
“The revenues from the box office rose by 36 percent between 2017 and 2018 from $17.3 million to $23.6 million,” Chijioke Uwaegbute, an expert on the industry at PwC Nigeria, told those gathered.
“Nowhere in the world will you see this kind of opportunities and growth.”
Traditionally, Nollywood films have been low-budget productions, often shot in just a couple of days at a cost of several thousand dollars and marred by poor sound and image quality.
Rampant piracy and the widespread circulation of unlicensed copies has eaten into profits and put off investors from increasing funding.
But higher quality Nigerian-made films have in recent years been having far more impact at the box office in a nation with a potential market of almost 200 million people.
The Wedding Party and its sequel Wedding Party 2 released by director Kemi Adetiba in 2016 and 2017 generated over $2 million, beating out US blockbusters for the first time.
Following up on that success the comedy Chief Daddy by Niyi Akinmolayan brought in some $600,000 last year.
The figures remain minuscule compared to the vast sums grossed by Hollywood hits, and the Oscars are a distant dream, but increasingly upper and middle class Nigerians who can afford the tickets seem willing to pay to go see local productions.
And it is these films with higher production value that are attracting the investors from overseas.
Canal Olympia, a subsidiary of French media giant Vivendi, runs cinemas and entertainment venues across the continent and includes at least one Nollywood film in its programming each week.
The group will next year open two cinemas in Nigeria, a country with only one screen per million people where power shortages and high land-costs have made such ventures complicated.
“It is very important for us to be close to Nollywood,” Simon Minkowski, development director at Canal Olympia, told AFP.
“But beyond just distribution, there is a real appetite to produce the content made by Africans in Africa.”
Laurent Sicouri, head of acquisitions at Canal+, said he was in Lagos to “evaluate the production” of Nigerian cinema.
The chain has already upped its interest in films from the country and offers Nollywood TV to its subscribers in Francophone Africa.
While there is interest from Europe, most of the attention for directors and producers in Nigeria is focused on trying to attract Netflix.
The online entertainment provider has already acquired the rights to a string of Nollywood productions and in January released the first Netflix Nigerian original film, Lionheart by actor-director Genevieve Nnaji.
Those involved in the industry are hoping that the influx of foreign interest will help push their output to a new level.
But Serge Noukoue, founder of the Paris-based Nollywood Week film festival, warned that the industry needs to wise up to take full advantage.
“Now that Nollywood is attracting investors the Nigerians have to learn to better protect their interests so that there is not just a pure exploitation of their content,” he said.
“At the moment, they sell to Netflix and that is the end of the story.”


The Arab films submitted for the 2021 Oscars

Updated 26 November 2020

The Arab films submitted for the 2021 Oscars

DUBAI: One of the toughest contests at the Oscars is for the honor of Best International Feature Film. Competing with the best movies from all over the world, it is a tremendous accomplishment to be named one of the five films that make it into the final round. 

This year, these Arab films have been submitted for the Oscars at the 93rd Academy Awards set to take place on April 25, 2021. From Jordan to Tunisia, here are the homegrown films to root for. 

‘200 Metres’ (Jordan)


Palestinian director Ameen Nayfeh’s first feature film tells the story of a Palestinian father trapped on the other side of the separation wall who is trying to reach the hospital for his son. This is Jordan’s fourth film submission for the Oscars.

‘You Will Die at 20’ (Sudan)


The award-winning feature from Sudanese filmmaker Amjad Abu Alala was submitted as Sudan’s official nomination for the Best International Feature Film category at the 2021 Academy Awards. It is the country’s first Oscars submission.

‘Gaza Mon Amour’ (Palestine)


Palestinian filmmaking twins Tarzan and Arab Nasser’s second feature film tells the story of a 60-year-old fisherman who is secretly in love with a market dressmaker. As the story unfolds, the fisherman discovers an ancient Greek statue that troubles him. The film premiered at the Venice Film Festival and later screened at the 2020 Toronto International Film Festival where it won the Netpac award. It will be the 13th film to represent Palestine at the Oscars.

‘Heliopolis’ (Algeria)


Directed by Djaffar Gacem, the Algerian drama is based on the real-life events of May 8, 1945 where French colonial forces attacked thousands of Algerians in the city of Guelma (called Heliopolis in ancient times). If “Heliopolis” is selected, it would be Algeria’s first entry since Costa-Gavras’s 1970 film “Z,” which was also the first Arab film to win an Academy Award. 

‘The Man Who Sold His Skin’ (Tunisia)

Starring Monica Belluci, Kaouther Ben Hania’s film will represent Tunisia in the Oscar race for best international feature film. The movie, which premiered at the Venice Film Festival where it won the best actor award for Yahya Mahayni, tells the story of a Syrian man, who desperate to reach Europe to be with the love of his life, gets a large Schengen visa tattooed on his back by a famous artist, thus becoming a human artwork to be displayed at a Brussel’s museum. It is Ben Hania’s second film to be submitted for the Oscars.

‘Broken Keys’ (Lebanon)

On Tuesday, the Lebanese Ministry of Culture announced in a statement that award-winning filmmaker Jimmy Keyrouz’s movie has been officially selected to represent Lebanon in the foreign film category of the 93rd edition of the Oscars. The film, which was meant to premiere at this year’s Cannes International Film Festival, revolves around Karim, a young pianist who lives somewhere in Iraqi and Syrian lands occupied by Daesh terrorists, and dreams of fleeing to Europe to become a musician. If selected, it would be the third Lebanese film nominated for an Oscar following Ziad Doueiri’s “The Insult” in 2017 and Nadine Labaki’s “Capernaum” in 2018.