Written by Daniel Okechukwu. Daniel is a Nollywood blogger. He discusses the latest happenings in the Nigerian film industry on his blog. Tweet at him @That_Nollywood_Blogger.
Nollywood has a few problems preventing it from being a globally respected film industry. For some, those problems are poor data collection, lack of technical know-how, inadequate funding, and lack of proper structure. For me, it's our acceptance of mediocrity and distribution companies favouring star-studded comedies over other genres.
Yes, that’s a thing. Our cinemas initially refused to show Ema Edosio’s Kasala!, which won the 'Audience Choice Award' at the recently concluded Africa International Film Festival (AFRIFF). Fortunately, the low- budget comedy landed a December cinema release after touring over 20 festivals around the world.
Nollywood's comedy bias
There is simply no room for experimentation in Nollywood. If you are not following the proven formula for box office success – a comedy stacked with lots of popular faces – you are not getting distribution.
This trend is familiar to us, Nigerians. It is the same thing that happened with the discovery of crude oil. After the discovery of crude oil in 1956, we stopped exporting our other natural resources. Also in Nollywood, after the mega success of the original Wedding Party, it has been comedies in different forms – dramadies, rom-coms, slapsticks – at the expense of other genres.
While this preference for big-budget comedies has been rewarding, it has become problematic, as it has left no space for other genres to succeed, because no one wants to show a non-comedy film. And that is why a terrible movie like Toyin Abraham’s Alakada Reloaded got more love from distributors than Dare Olaitan’s terrific Ojukokoro.
Kemi Adetiba's game-changing sophomore feature
Well, it seems this may change with the success of Kemi Adetiba's audacious King of Boys — a crime thriller centered around Alhaja Eniola Salami (Sola Sobowale), an underworld kingpin, philanthropist, and businesswoman whose past affiliation with the underworld stand as a stumbling block to her promising political future.
For four consecutive weeks, King of Boys has been the number 1 film in Nigeria, despite strong competition from some Hollywood movies. Also, it is the only non-comedy movie to gross over 100 million naira at the Nigerian box office. An impressive feat, considering Ms. Adetiba was told, "don’t do a non-comedy film. They don’t sell in this country."
The box office success of King of Boys is not just a victory for Kemi Adetiba and her team. It is an important victory for everyone in Nollywood, especially those indie filmmakers who struggle to land distribution deals for their non-comedy films. Because now, they have a reference point – a non-comedy blockbuster.
Some may argue that there have been a few successful dramas before King of Boys and they did not change anything. While that may be true, it is noteworthy that those movies were not as big as Kemi Adetiba’s thrilling sophomore feature.
Is Nollywood finally ready to embrace more?
So, will KOB, as it is fondly called, change the Nigerian cinema landscape? Will it be the movie that stops everyone from saying "Nigerians only watch comedies?" Will it allow distributors warm up to movies with no laughs? Only time will tell. The first test of the impact of the success of KOB comes this December.
The Nigerian movies opening this December include a big-budget comedy featuring all of Nollywood, Chief Daddy; a low-budget comedy, Kasala!; a faith-based drama, God Calling; a socially conscious thriller, Power of 1; a big-budget Northern-Nigerian epic, Up North; and Dare Olaitan’s sophomore feature, Knock Out Blessing.
Only one of these movies, Chief Daddy, has all the traits of a typical Nollywood blockbuster: Big budget, popular faces, Mo Abudu, and lots of laughs. Are distributors going to give it more screen time at the expense of the other movies? Or will they trust non-comedy movies more now? December will tell.