A few weeks ago, I attended Jonathan Haynes’s lecture at Tufts University on the themes most commonly found in Nollywood films produced outside of Nigeria. As a pioneer of the academic discourse surrounding Nollywood, Haynes has closely followed the industry since its origin in the early 1990s. In his lecture, he noted that foreign filming locations have become increasingly popular in Nollywood after Osuofia in London (2003) became the highest grossing movie in the industry’s history.
The most striking features of these films are their consistent alignment with the Nollywood style and their “complete lack of interest in the foreign,” despite their cross-continental settings. Because these “foreign” films are ultimately distributed in Nigerian markets, they must maintain the same costs as domestic productions. This economy is made possible with the support of local Nigerian expatriate communities, which often provide funding for the production and housing for the cast and crew during the shoot. As a result, we notice frequent scenes of characters eating in Nigerian restaurants and patronizing Nigerian businesses in films set throughout Europe. Even the establishing shots contribute little toward an atmosphere of travel. The tall buildings seen in the background of these scenes can be transposed to any continent.
Even in dual productions between Nollywood and Hollywood, we find no sense of cultural hybridity. The plot of Close Enemies (2008), the first Nollywood film shot entirely in Los Angeles, revolves around the popular Nigerian themes of fertility and patriarchal anxieties. The same topics also dominate the Dangerous Twins franchise, which was shot in London and Lagos.
What should this tell us about the genre? That no matter how well Nollywood becomes integrated into mainstream culture–an inevitability–it will still retain its local flavor.
Dangerous Twins (2006) Trailer
*Thank you to Ms. Nackman for her editorial finesse.