Vanessa Obioha

A common comment conveyed by cinema operators in Nigeria during conferences and webinars is that Nigerian audiences prefer comedy films to any other genre. Box office figures don’t suggest otherwise. The highest-grossing Nigerian debut film of the past decade was the 2016 comedy film “The Wedding Party”. He was recently replaced by Funke Akindele and JJC Skillz’s film, “Omo Ghetto (The Saga)”. In the list of the 10 highest grossing films in Nigeria, only “King of Boys” is outside the comedy box, thus lending weight to the claim. The flip side is that many filmmakers are now sticking to the comedy genre, against their better judgment.

There are few filmmakers, however, who would rather explore other genres and screen their films in private rather than have a large theatrical release. Those who still pursue their big screen debuts, however, fervently pray that their films defy the norm.

For example, before the release of “The Anjola Woman”, director Mildred Okwo urged Nigerians to watch the film and prove this idea wrong.

In a recent webinar hosted by the Nollywood Studies Center at the School of Media and Communications, Pan Atlantic University, prolific filmmaker Femi Odugbemi addressed this claim. The producer of the new documentary ‘Unmasked: Leadership Trust and the COVID-19 Pandemic in Nigeria’, which debuted at the recent iREP International Documentary Film Festival, found the perception awkward.

“It’s like we underestimate how educated the public is. It’s like we think the audience is in a bubble.

He asked why there was no blockade on other genres of Hollywood if comedy was the norm.

Odugbemi argued that Nigerian audiences’ movie viewing options are increasing every day with more and more streaming platforms showing Nigerian and international movies.

“When people make such claims, they are insinuating and erasing the audience. “

The effect of this assumption is also felt on actors who he believes are often insulted by such scripts that lack artistry and focus on commercial viability, pointing out that most comedy films are a set of scenes. incongruous.

“Comedy is the hardest thing to do and because humor is related to your culture, it doesn’t evoke the same emotions in everyone.”

One of the reasons such an assumption thrives according to the filmmaker is that “we run a multibillion structure with no data. The filmmaker shouldn’t tell me what the film did, it should be an independent body giving that information.

Not to mention the genre, Odugbemi pointed out that it’s extremely rare for a Nollywood film to win Best Picture at the Oscars, which is one of Nollywood’s primary goals. “The Milkmaid” became the first Nigerian film to make the Oscar list, but failed to nab a spot on the nominations list.

The way forward, according to the Oscar voting member, is to bring art to our films and this can only be achieved through education.

“We have to tell the story of our time and if a story is told well it makes money.”

Education, he said, has been neglected in the film industry, damaging the future of the film industry we want. A paradigm shift, he noted, is needed to enable filmmakers not only to make money with their films, but also to make them meaningful.

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