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The Rising Sun of African Culture
Lee Hye Jin  |  lhj412kr@korea.ac.kr
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승인 2015.09.03  21:23:04
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Bollywood creates the largest number of movies among international film industries. Hollywood, the most familiar one among the public, ranks third. People might wonder which film industry surpassed the famous Hollywood, and has produced as many films as the diligent Bollywood. Here is a hint—it is located in Africa. Based in Nigeria in West Africa, Nollywood is the answer. Although it is relatively unfamiliar in Korea, Nollywood has been steadily gaining its reputation among audiences worldwide. Take a look at the rising star of the international film market.

 

Nollywood is a portmanteau of “Nigeria” and “Hollywood,” and refers to the movie market centered in Nigeria. Ranking as the second largest producer of movies, Nollywood continues to raise its voice in the movie industry. It produces more movies than Hollywood does in a year. According to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), Nigeria’s Nollywood produced 872 films in 2006, almost twice of Hollywood’s 485 productions. Considering the scale and publicity Hollywood generates around the world, this is a startling figure.

 
Experts say that Nollywood contributes considerably to the Nigerian economy. Statistics indicate that the movie industry in Nigeria ranks second in the scale of economy. The Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of Nigeria rose up to three times after the boom of Nollywood in 2010. It is also reported that the growing scale of Nollywood has generated a number of jobs, contributing to the decrease of unemployment in the Nigerian economy. The statistics prove that Nigerian movies are being more and more recognized by viewers worldwide.
 
The secrets behind the success of Nollywood lie in its unique characteristics. Nollywood movies are produced through a rather spontaneous method, where pictures are shot very quickly with an amateur camcorder, often involving ordinary citizens. Thus its filming procedure is often described as a “Guerilla-style shooting.” With a small budget, most movies are shot within a couple of weeks. Considering that other major movies take up to a number of years in producing, this is a unique aspect. Some point out that this is very similar to the process and quality of film-majoring college students creating movies for their graduation. Yet it continues to be recognized.
 
Apart from its economic effects, Nollywood is a large contributor in African culture as well. Most of its films handle the story of the traditional African culture. Using the indigenous language of Nigeria to convey the plot, Nollywood films have been cited as the main agent in preserving traditional Nigerian culture in the age of globalization. Amidst the flooding foreign culture, Nigerian culture remains still, even its movies. It is notable that while Hollywood films are consumed in many other countries, imported movies are hard to find in Nigerian box offices. Dealing with the familiar Nigerian culture, Nollywood’s popularity outruns even Hollywood’s.
   
▲ Nollywood actors and directors on the set. Provided by http://exclusiveafrica.net/
Nollywood stands as one of the major components of the African mainstream culture. The public interest surrounding Nollywood is heated as much as in Hollywood. There are even websites that gather latest news of Nollywood celebrities. Many young actors in Africa dream of Nollywood, the actors’ lifestyle and fashion being the object of envy. Visitors in Nigeria can easily spot shops on the road where Nollywood DVDs are sold. Nollywood’s rising popularity has begun to be recognizedoutside Nigeria as well, which is reflected in the film Ije’s (2010) success. Rated as one of the most successful films in Nollywood history, it has received awards including the Best Editing at the Treasure Coast International Film Festival 2010.
   
▲ Ije (2010), one of Nollywood's hit movies. Provided by nollywoodboulevard.com/
The most popular genre in Nollywood is romance soap opera, combined with mystique and incantation beliefs. This reflects a lot about the Nigerian culture, where some elements of practices and beliefs in sorcery remain among the public. In addition to the traditional cultural elements, the storyline of the bad receiving punishment and the benevolent receiving success is both classic and popular. Interestingly, this aspect is largely correlated with the Korean culture as well, as seen in the popularity of movies and soap operas where such happy endings occur.
   
▲ One of the video stores in Nigeria. Provided by findingnollywood.files.wordpress.com
Although a large number of films are produced in Nollywood, it still remains as a relatively under-recognized industry around the world. The main cause is the low economic foundation of Africa. Most experts point out that the weak infrastructure in distributing produced movies worldwide is a major problem. Owing to a lack of the latest technology and budget necessary for fluid distribution, the production of DVDs and a digital database in Nollywood remains at a slow pace. Consumption within the domestic audience is still low compared to that of other developed countries. According to Al Jazeera, there are only 23 movie theaters in Nigeria, a low figure which also contributes to the stagnant spread of Nollywood films.
   
▲ Joselyn Dumas, one of the famous Nollywood actors, posing at the African Magic Viewers Choice Awards in 2014. Provided by pinterest.com
Despite the relatively low recognition in many countries including Korea, Nollywood still has a way ahead. It has already established a wide publicity in major African countries, and the growing scale of produced movies is vast enough to capture more of the public eye. With its distinguished passion for movies even in an environment devoid of international fame or techniques, Nollywood movies are becoming the center of attention among movie critics. The matching aspects of Nollywood movies with the Korean films are also expected to be a major factor in gathering future viewers in Korea. The increased possible routes to view Nollywood movies might be a new sensation in the Korean cinema culture today.
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