The Resurrection of the Cinematic Culture in Nigeria

Films such as The early, early Man, Buffalo Hill were considered appropriate 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 expansion 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 mythical 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 noticeable 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 drop into the dicey venture, the number of films produced began to decline. The deluge of VCRs in the 80’s provided the different 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 truly paved the way for the industry. Nollywood, blossomed over the years with the telling of our stories, projecting our lifestyle, culture, local fact, 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 additional 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 nevertheless patronised by those who were tired of the without lusture performances seen in home videos.

The cinematic culture was resurrected by the formation 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 great number to thousands of movie enthusiasts by its release of latest movies(dominantly Hollywood). The galleria capitalizes on its synergy (silver bird TV and rhythm 93.7fm radio stop) and of course movie listings in Friday Vanguard and The Sunday edition of the Nation newspapers. Nollywood movies have also been granted 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 “by 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 instead of 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 already 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.

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