The Resurrection of the Cinematic Culture in Nigeria
Films such as The primitive, Primitive Man, Buffalo Hill were considered suitable while Dr Jekyll & Mr Hyde, The Isle of forgotten sins, House of Frankenstein were considered unsuitable for viewing. The Yoruba travelling theatre group of the 60’s and 70’s is renowned for being the arrowhead of movie productions in Nigeria. They took their theatrical skills a step further to film productions using the celluloid format.
Notable filmmakers during the 70’s celluloid boom era include but not limited to Ola Balogun, Eddie Uggbomah, late Herbert Ogunde, Adeyemi Afolayan (father of Kunle Afolayan), Moses Adejumo, Ladi ladebo, and Afolabi Adesanya. Movies released during that era include Kongi Harvest, Alpha, Bull frog in the sun, Amadi, Muzik man, Bisi daughter of the river, Ija ominira, Aiye. Our founding film makers were faced with the herculean task of raising funds to produce their movies.
Nigerians further worsened the situation by opting to watch movies of occidental and oriental origin at the cinemas and exhibition centres. Chinese films with the late legendary Bruce lee thrilled us with films such as Big boss, fist of fury, while Indian films from 60’s to 70’s paraded stars such as Rajesh Khanna, Dharmendra singh deol, Amitabh bachchan, Hema Malini and recorded hits such as Bobby, Sholay, kabhi Kabhi, Dharamaveer, Amar Akbar Anthony.
The movies treated Nigerians to outstanding combat/sound and special effects, cinematography, good story lines amongst others. The founding fathers could not recoup their investments and with fewer investors unwilling to take a plunge into the dicey venture, the number of films produced began to decline. The deluge of VCRs in the 80’s provided the alternative of making movies on VHS format than on Cine. Productions turned out to be easier to make, faster, cheaper by a mile stone in comparison to the cine productions.
Cinema houses and other exhibition centres were finally shut down in the early 80’s. The 1992 rise of Ken Nebue’s “Living in bondage” brought forth the Home video industry a.k.a Nollywood, though it was debunked by late prince Alade Araomire who insisted that his movies actually paved the way for the industry. Nollywood, blossomed over the years with the telling of our stories, projecting our lifestyle, culture, local fashion, burning issues and problems affecting our society. However, the presence of over flogged themes and trippy plots, flawed scripts, choppy editing, high predictability rate, formulaic movies amongst others, have added to the declining rate at which home videos are purchased and watched. Home video thrived in the 90’s and early millennium. Foreign movies were still patronised by those who were tired of the lack lusture performances seen in home videos.
The cinematic culture was resurrected through the establishment of the Silver bird galleria (which houses the cinema) by chairman of the Silver bird group (Ben Murray Bruce). At first people thought it was a flash in the pan judging from the fall of yester years, but over time the galleria has played host to thousands of movie enthusiasts through its release of latest movies(dominantly Hollywood). The galleria capitalizes on its synergy (silver bird TV and rhythm 93.7fm radio station) and of course movie listings in Friday Vanguard and The Sunday edition of the Nation newspapers. Nollywood movies have also been accorded the same opportunity to be viewed by all.
Kunle Afolayan’s “Irapada”, Jeta Amata’s “The Amazing Grace”, kingsley Ogoro’s “Across the Niger”, Teco Benson’s “Mission to nowhere”, were among the early set of Nollywood movies viewed at the galleria. Perhaps, the booster for the film makers to have their movies on the big screen came with Stephanie Okereke’s “Through the Glass” which made N 10 million in two weeks at the galleria. This has further prompted filmmaker / producers to go for the big screen rather than the customary straight to the VCD /DVD approach. Tunde kelani’s “Arugba”, Vivian Ejike’s “Silent scandal”, Emem Isong/Desmond Elliot’s “Guilty Pleasures”, “Nollywood Hustlers” co-produced with Uche Jumbo, Lancelot Imaseun’s “Home in exile”, kunle Afolayan’s “The Figurine, araromire, Teco Benson’s “High blood pressure”, Jude Idada / Lucky Ejim’s “The Tenant” have towed the cinematic path.
Nu metro and Genesis Deluxe cinemas also exist and even the cinema halls at the National Theatre have come alive! Foreign investors can catch in on the growing profitable trend to establish cinema houses in other parts of the country. We can only hope that the cinematic culture will thrive across our Greenland and will never undergo the dearth experience of the 80’s.