Close cinemas, stop production of a Netflix series … In full swing before the krona virus crisis, Nigerian cinema hit. Filmmakers and producers are innovative in saving Nollywood.
A movie made in four days with a mobile phone without physical contact with its actors. Lepari by director Obi Emelonye in the midst of the crown virus crisis, which is hitting hard in the Nigerian film industry, is like Nollywood: a mixture of “stubborn optimism” and resourceful art.
Emelonye, to whom we owe several successes in Nigeria, such as “Last Flight to Abuja” or “Thy Will Be Done”, had the idea for this short film when she saw his wife do a video conference on Zoom.
“I said to myself, ‘What if I did a movie remotely? I can direct my actors and film from home without spending a penny!'” Explains the daring 53-year-old director based in the UK. Ilse then started writing the “Heart 2 Heart”, which will premiere on YouTube on May 7.
Two young lovers who are about to get married are brutally separated by the epidemic, which led to the closure of the airports: she blocked in London and him in Lagos, the economic capital of Nigeria, they will defy the laws of physically celebrating at all costs their compound.
“We must be innovative”
One rehearsal day, two filming days – the actors are filmed on the phone by their respective parents. Add a day of post production and voila. If Obi Emelonye has a bit more to prove in Nigeria, where he is one of the most recognized directors of his generation, he hopes to inspire future talents.
“I wanted to show young people that despite the myriad difficulties in our profession, despite the coronavirus, we can make a movie without money, with passion,” he explains to AFP.
The rise of Nollywood showered by Covid-19
Nollywood is already a paradox in itself. The second largest film industry in the world behind India, in terms of produced films, is affecting everywhere in Africa. Her actresses with millions of Instagram subscribers make up a majority of the poor youth stream with glitter and high heels and look for a model for success.
But far from glamorous, and despite its economic potential, the sector’s reality is harsh. The victim of massive hacking is Nollywood not very profitable. The vast majority of films are produced with bits of strings and miserable wages without social protection or subsidies.
The arrival of the virus was another blow to recent years’ efforts to professionalize Nollywood.
Fifty cinemas, almost non-existent ten years ago, have blossomed everywhere to meet the growing demand in the country of nearly 200 million inhabitants. A market where the Giants with video on demand like Netflix are watching.
50,000 Nigerian film professions threatened
“We have known others, but this crisis is worse than the economic downturn in 2016,” which had led the country to its knees, said AFP Moses Babatope, founder of the Filmhouse Group. The professional estimates the industry’s losses to more than 4 billion naira (9.3 million euros) over three months.
About 50,000 direct jobs (all business together) are threatened today, according to estimates of associations with Nigerian distributors.
The cinemas have closed their doors, dozens of filming have to be stopped or delayed, the salaries of make-up artists, customers, actors or technicians are no longer paid. “And it will take time before you really start over,” the producer added. and Babatope distributor.
Netflix has stopped production of its first original series in Nigeria, which started in March. The Vivendi group, which was to open its first room in Abuja in April, has postponed the opening.
Meanwhile, the current crisis is also an opportunity to test new formulas. Producer Charles Okpaleke has partnered with local movie channels Genesis and Silverbird to launch drive-ins outdoors.
A successful first in Abuja at the end of May, where all tickets were sold in a few hours to show his remake of the cult Nollywood movie “Living in bondage”, which spectators could comfortably look behind the wheel of their car with their popcorn, respecting the distance measures.