Friday 6 April 2012

Nollywood faces foreign cinema challenge

By Tajudeen Sowole
(First published in September 15, 2005)   

Leading Nollywood (Yoruba) actress, Bukky Wright.
Cinema-going culture which was the staple in the country in the 1960s up to 80s may be staging a comeback.
The management of the country's first multiplex cinema, Silverbird Cinemas, has disclosed that it is currently being engaged by some state governments across the nation to build same in their states.

Speaking to The Guardian on this development recently, the general manager of Silverbird Cinemas, Chris Konyils, said that Kwara, Kano, Jigawa and Cross River are states currently working with Silverbird to have such state-of-the art cinemas following its success in Lagos.

"Cinema culture is back for real. The market speaks for itself not just in Lagos, but across the nation as well," he said of the development, adding, "for cinema to have generated such an interest within the year that Silverbird started the revival only shows that there is no going back."

He stressed that work was already at the advanced stage in Ilorin, Kwara State. Also in the pipeline for Silverbird is additional eight cinemas to the existing five, and they are going be located on the same Ahmadu Bello Way, Victoria Island.

The manager said the company intend having another multiplex in Yaba and 12 cinema multiplexes in FCT, Abuja just as that of Port Harcourt was underway.

Responding to the implication of this development for the home-video industry if fully in operation nationwide, Konyils said that Silverbird was ready to do business with the indigeneous producers "if they meet up with our standard."

Reminded that the cinemas Silverbird has in mind for now are only suitable to screen 35mm and 70mm films which is lacking in the local industry, Konyils said even at that, "we have bent backward to accommodate the local films."

Silverbird has for the sake of the indigenous producers, installed DVD projectors in all the five cinemas at the Galleria, but yet they (the producers) still fall short of that standard, he explained.

In their reactions to the possible return of cinema culture as being revived by Silverbird, a cross section of the local practitioners commended the Ben Bruce-led organisation and others in that business for this laudable step, but expressed fear that it could be another weapon in cultural imperialism. One of the leading names in the country's video theatre business, Adebayo Salami (Oga Bello), said sustainable cinema culture must carry the local industry along, particularly the Yoruba language sub-division. "It's good to have cinema back, but it would not get anywhere if you do not give Yoruba films prominence. As far as cinema is concerned, one cannot contest the supremacy of the Yoruba audience," he said, supporting his position with the mammoth crowd Yoruba films attract to the cinema halls of National Theatre, Iganmu, Lagos every weekend.
Silverbird Galleria, Lagos, Nigeria's first multiplex cinema.

Veteran filmmaker, Chief Eddie Ugbomah, who has over 10 celluloid films to his credit, would want to see Silverbird screen old celluloid films produced by Nigerians.

"If celluloid is their standard, I have them, why can't they show my films," Ugbomah said, disclosing that he has applied for the screening of his films.

Another producer/director, Tunji Bamishigbin said, cinemas must not be operated based on celluloids alone. For him, celluloid is too expensive, and perhaps not nececessary. "I don't believe in celluloid. Even in London, there are cinemas showing video," he said, while urging state governments to build cinemas and provide security as well.

"It is not the medium that matters, but the content. And as for the content, we are up to the task as it has been proven over time that Nigerian videos are more in demand than American and Indian films," Bamisigbin explained, noting that at video rental outlets, the local films go for N50 while the foreign ones are N25.

The first Nigerian video that premiered at the Silverbird Cinema last year, Zeb Ejiro's The President Must Not Die, recorded a very low turn out. While recalling that disappointment, Konyils however noted that the doors of the cinemas are still open for those who can meet up with the standard.

On celluloid, he also said that it has not come to his notice that Ugbomah applied but disclosed that it would have been a huge success and victory for the indigenous producers.

The late Hubert Ogunde's classic film, Aiye, a 35mm film was to be shown recently, but was cancelled at the 11th hour, he said, explaining that the print brought forward for the show had worn-out due to prolong screenings.

Top Nollywood producer, Zeb Ejiro
"The organisers brought bad print that fell below any standard. Also, the copy was not sub-titled in English," he said.

For a film like Aiye which he observed could be a crowd puller from the polls conducted by the cinema, Silverbird would have invested in it to get a good copy if the organisers had made the cinema aware of developments ealier, the Silverbird boss said.

To further demonstrate that Silverbird is not out to aid cultural imperialism, he said he is planning a programme he termed "Film Week ". This week long event, according to him, will have Nigeria films shown in Silverbird Cinemas with prominent art personalities in attendance.

"At the end of the day, the opinions of these people on each work will go along way in helping the local industry," he said.

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