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Last Updated: Thursday, 23 September, 2004, 12:16 GMT 13:16 UK
Nigerian film lights Zambia's screens
By Helen Muchimba
BBC Focus On Africa magazine

Filming a Nollywood movie
Nollywood films are packed with simple but dramatic storylines
"Ah, you want to kill me now!" - the woman yanks her hair wildly, her facial expression alive and contorted dramatically.

"No, not me, not today!" Her body shudders and in seconds, she is transformed into a vicious sleek mongrel, emitting blood-curdling growls.

This is a scene from a typical Nigerian movie - and in many sub-Saharan countries, their popularity is fast-growing, leaving fans burning with a longing for more.

The stories tend to be quite simple but very dramatic and heavy on the emotions: the women wail and are avaricious money lovers; the men are just as emotional and very vengeful.

Throw in a gibbering bone-rattling juju man and Bible-waving preacher and what you have is a brew of conflict, revenge, trials and tribulations - the likes of which are keeping most Zambians, especially in the capital city, Lusaka, glued to TV screens for hours on end.


Nollywood, as it is commonly known, became popular in Zambia when the national broadcaster, Zambia National Broadcasting Corporation (ZNBC), went into partnership with a multinational company, Unilever, and started airing Wale Adenuga's soaps called Super Story.

"The Nigerian films were an instant hit," Ben Kangwa, acting director of programmes at ZNBC, told the BBC's Focus On Africa magazine.

"Pirated tapes have now flooded the market."

If they can do it, we can do it
Zambian actor Chileshe Kangwa
Nigeria began its film industry in the 1970s and owes much of its growth to the likes of renowned film-maker Ola Balogun.

The industry has become the third largest in the world, after the Indian and United States markets, with a turnover of over 2,000 low budget films per year.

Using the flavour of American B-grade movies and some characteristics of India's Bollywood, Nigerian movie producers have been virtually squeezing water from a dry stone by producing films with a few thousand dollars.

The movies are mainly financed by African merchants and traders and are shot in a space of a few days and are then put on videotapes.

The end products combine sensationalism and indigenous cultural narrations, liberally spiced with Nigerian interpretation of affluence, set mostly in the commercial capital, Lagos.

Western titles such as Woman of Substance, Unshackled, Heartbreaker and Submission are then slapped on the movies and they are rushed on to the video market.

Though ingenious, these minimalist productions have a drawback: compromise on quality.

Zambian hopes

But piracy is a problem - and most of the tapes that have entered Zambia come from Tanzania.

Piracy further aggravates the situation and what ends up in people's homes are poor quality pictures and sound.

Osita Iheme
Osita Iheme is one of Nigeria's most famous actors
And some Nigerian movies are beginning to have a darker side to them: pornography.

Recently, police pounced on a Nigerian national in Lusaka for allegedly pirating pornographic movies. The man was allegedly caught with material worth about US$86,000, which he reproduced in his house.

This though, does not deter fans. And with such enthusiasm in Zambia, it is only natural that some are hoping the country can begin a film industry of its own.

"The Nigerians are pioneers, and we appreciate them," said Chileshe Kangwa, a local actor.

"If they can do it, we can do it".

Film industry hails 'piracy win'
10 Aug 04  |  Entertainment


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