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Posts Tagged ‘NollywoodNYC’

Recovered Illegal DVDs at the "Operation Access Nollywood" Press Conference in Brooklyn, NY, Photo courtesy NollywoodNYC

On November 4, 2010, Kings County District Attorney Charles J. Hynes announced the seizure of 10,000 counterfeit Nollywood DVDs from nine Brooklyn video stores. The recovery, named “Operation Access Nollywood” is the start of an investigation into the counterfeiting and illegal sale of Nigerian movies in the United States. According to the New York Post, the American market for Nollywood films is estimated at $20 million per year, compared to the $250 million African market.

Per Hynes, ““The sale of bootleg and counterfeit goods deprives the city and state of New York of millions of dollars in sales tax revenue, at a time when we all need it most, and it deprives the artists who made the movies of their well-deserved proceeds.”

The seizure was precipitated by a complaint to the District Attorney’s Action Center from Tony Abulu, President of the US-based Filmmakers Association of Nigeria. Abulu said, “The sweat and blood of Africa, both on the continent and in the U.S., will not go to waste.”

Now that US law enforcement officials have prioritized protecting the intellectual property of Nollywood filmmakers on American shores, all eyes are turning to their Nigerian counterparts. What is stopping a raid on this scale from happening in Lagos, where the impact will be ten-fold?

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As part of their new initiative to make public art in a global context, Creative Time commissioned the Scandinavian artist Jakob Boeskov to make a film within the Nollywood community. The result was Dr. Cruel and the Icelandic Liberation Front, an eight-minute short that premiered in May 2010 at the New York African Film Festival of New York.

The film, which Boeskov wrote and co-directed with the Nigerian director Teco Benson, recalled traditional Nollywood productions with its grainy film quality, elementary special effects, and supernatural plot twist. The storyline revolves around a Scandinavian terrorist (played by Boeskov), who arrives in Africa to “start a revolution.” He kidnaps a white oil executive (played by Boeskov’s brother) and demands as ransom the participation of the entire Nigerian police force in anti-violence training.  When negotiations are thwarted, the terrorist resorts to an absurd escape plot, effectively abandoning the spirit of his original goals. The film closes with a somber voice-over: “Our man didn’t change Africa, but Africa changed him.”

While the artistic intent and underlying political message of the film are too complicated to address summarily, it is easy to identify the overall significance of the project. Dr. Cruel is the latest in a recent wave of collaborations between the international arts community and Nollywood (which includes the 2009 Pieter Hugo photography exhibition and the 2004 AFFNY Tunde Kelani film retrospective). This film was funded by Creative Time and the Danish Arts Agency, and the screening was organized in collaboration with AFFNY and NollywoodNYC.

The global recognition of the Nigerian video film industry means that the medium is finally getting its deserved respect. Boeskov openly states his admiration for Nollywood’s DIY culture, contrasting the accessible  nature of its democratic film-making with the arduous three-year-long funding process for his first project.  As Boeskov commented to the audience during the premiere, “Cinema is the only universal language that we have.”

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