The origin of Nollywood, the Nigerian film industry, can be traced back to the 1960s when the first set of Nollywood movies were produced by great historical filmmakers, the likes of Hubert Ogunde, Jab Adu, Ola Balogun, Moses Olaiya (Baba Sala), Adeyemi Afolayan a.k.a Ade Love and Eddie Ugboma. These professionals were considered to be the first generation of Nigerian filmmakers. They carried their works beyond stage performance, and dived into the new world of film production using the Celluloid format.
Moses Olaiya, popularly known as Baba Sala, brought the modern Nigerian comedy into existence with his comic movies. Sam Loco Efe’s name also can’t be left out in this nomenclature with his humorous comedies.
Hubert Ogunde (pic above) was a pioneer in the field of Nigerian opera. He was known for the establishment of the Ogunde Theatre in 1945, which was the first professional theatrical company in Nigeria. He was also referred to as the father of the Nigerian theatre because of his great contribution to the birth of the Nigerian film industry.
These early filmmakers were frustrated by the cost of film production back then which was very high. They all lamented that the cost was back breaking. However, they later got support from the government which therefore pushed the industry into a huge success.
Nigerians became fully involved in the production of films, and by 1970, the first indigenous feature film, “KONGI’S HARVEST”, written by Wole Soyinka, was produced in Nigeria. However, it was directed by an American and many of its crew members were foreigners. Later, more individuals became involved in the production of indigenous films, the likes of, Ola Balogun, Eddie Ugbomah, Ladi Ladebo, U.S.A Galadima and others who had their training during the CFU era. Other films produced during this time were: Alpha (1972), Bull Frog in the Sun (1974), Amadi (1975), Ajani Ogun (1975), Muzik Man (1976), Bisi, Daughter of the River (1977), Ija Ominira (1978), Aiye (1979), Kadara (1980), Jaiyesimi (1980) Efunsetan Aniwura (1981), Cry Freedom (1981), Ija Orogun (1982) Owo L’Agba (1982).
Many people believed that the 1992 release of Living in Bondage by Ken Nnebue, a film about a businessman whose wife died due to his dealings with a money cult, as the first Nigerian blockbuster and the first movie to be made for commercial purposes. Since then, many more blockbusters and commercial movies have been released.
One of the first movie to get international fame was Osoufia in London, released in 2003, starring Nkem Owoh (Ukwa), the popular comedic actor. Since then, the Nigerian film industry have been producing films of good quality. As at 2008, the Industry’s net worth stood between an estimated $250 and $300 Million dollars. “It is worthy of note that a Global cinema survey, conducted in 2006 by the UNESCO Institute for Statistics (UIS) and released sometime in May 2009, ranked Nollywood as the second largest producing movie body in the world behind Bollywood and ahead of Hollywood based on the numerical data of the movies produced.” (Augusta Okon 2010)
In recent times, Nollywood had set its standard to meet other film industries in the world with the emergence of professional actors and actresses like Genevieve Nnaji, Funke Akindele, Ramsey Nouah, Kunle Afolayan, Desmond Elliot and others.
* Adesokan, Akin; “Nollywood and the idea of Nigerian cinema”; Journal of African Cinemas 4.1 (2012): 81-98.