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Welcome to Nollywood (DVD Review)

8 Feb, 2010 By: Mike Clark

$19.95 DVD
Not rated.

Did Cecil B. De Mille ever had to suffer the indignity of his power generator going bust? Truth to tell, C.B. was such a pioneer in Hollywood’s once equally rag-tag movie industry that he probably could have empathized with the Nigerian directorial novices here.

Considering that the Nigerian film industry didn’t exist until 1990, it’s remarkable that it was the world’s third largest at the time this rather raucous documentary was made (2007). It survives on volume (about 2,400 features annually) and by distributing these verbally windy, if melodramatic, features to willing audiences near-exclusively at home. Which means not having to compete with the Avatar’s of the world.

The interviewed filmmakers, like their peers, bankroll the movies out of their own pockets, which has dire lifestyle consequences if the result doesn’t meet public favor (at least Orson Welles could end up acting in someone else’s movie or an episode of “I Love Lucy”). Even for three bucks a VHS (sold in the kind of bustling marketplace where you expect there to be an adjacent goat-meat concession), there can be a big return on the investment. But commercial success breeds the same old problems: Unknown actors who once could be gotten for the equivalent of a hundred U.S. bucks now up their asking price to (hold on) $20,000.

A long final chapter deals with the filming of an epic called Laviva with a cast of 700 (speaking of De Mille). All indications are a Heaven’s Gate in the making, yet the result somehow ends up being heavenly for beleaguered director Izu Ojukwu. His fate sends us out smiling at a story that’s been fun all along. It’s easy to root for everyone who’s interviewed here – if, that is (from the evidence of excerpted clips), we don’t have to sit through their movies.

The disc includes commentary by writer-director Jamie Meltzer.

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