Franco Sacchi, an Italian filmmaker living in Boston, has just produced a remarkable film about Nollywood. Nollywood is the third larget film industry in the world, after Hollywood and Bollywood. The Nigerian film industry makes 2000 films a year, as of 2006, which means that every week, 40 to 50 films are being made on the streets of Lagos and in cities throughout West Africa. The industry has created thousands of jobs… and it’s happened against all odds in a country where it can be very difficult to live and work.
Sacchi is drawn to this story because he was born in Zambia, and because his father lived much of his life in that country. “I left when I was three, but that’s where I learned to walk. That’s where my family bought their first home.” He tells us he wanted to tell a story about Africa’s complexity, a story that’s more than the despair and sadness we get in most pictures of the continent. He found a newspaper story about Nollywood and started researching the subkect. As he learned more about the subject, he contacted a friend, a veteran of years with National Geographic, who told him “I don’t know that I’ve ever seen a story about a place that’s got more hope and is more fun.”
Saachi’s film – This is Nollywood – follows a Nigerian filmmaker, Bond Emeruwa, who’s making a film about police corruption, titled “Checkpoint”. He’s got nine days to make the film. Saachi follows his process as well as framing the larger phenomenon of the industry. We see a six minute clip of the film, where people talk about the filming process as well as what Nollywood films mean to them:
- “You can make a movie in seven days for $10,000″
- “These are films for the masses, not for the elites”
- “This is subsistence filmmaking”
- “We’re making films for people who make a dollar a day”
Sacchi notes that Werner Herzog once said, “I need to make films like I need to breathe oxygen.” He believes that this is true of many of these Nigerian auteurs. (Saacchi wonders whether Nigerian filmmakers are doing what independent filmmakers in the US and Europe are trying to do – just go out and make a movie.) It’s possible for Nigerians to do this because non-linear editing has become so cheap through computers, and because you can now buy “an amazing camera for $5,000″. The films don’t screen in theatres – they’re recorded on VCDs, at a fairly low quality, but are sold for a few dollars or rent for pennies.
“Imagine a world with food and shelter, but no stories,” Sacchi asks. “It would be meaningless.” Bond Emeruwa tells us, “I don’t see us exhausting these stories in our lifetime, in ten lifetimes.”