Nigeria’s film industry, Nollywood, has long been affected by piracy. But in the spring of 2019 EbonyLife, the makers of the film Chief Daddy managed to cash in on a new window of opportunity online. The movie’s global streaming rights were sold to Netflix Inc., for an undisclosed amount. In March, Netflix made the movie available to over 149 million subscribers in 190 countries.
The CEO of EbonyLife, Mo Abudu, said that Africa had remained creatively silent for too long. He declared that now is the time for more capital to be pumped into Nollywood.
Netflix launched its service in Africa in 2016. Since then, the international streaming giant has made significant investments into African productions. In September 2018 Netflix acquired its first original movie from Nollywood, Lionheart. This April, Netflix announced the commissioning of its first African animated series, Mama K’s Team 4, an animation from Zambia about four teenage girls who are hired by a former secret agent to save the world.
Nollywood is the second-largest film industry in the world, trailing closely behind India’s Bollywood.
While Nollywood films generally lack the kind of big-budget production values that moviegoers in the U.S. and Europe are accustomed to, filmmakers in the region say that the industry has gradually moved from mostly poor-quality DVD releases towards slicker productions for home video and cinematic release.
In May, leading Nollywood filmmakers, producers and executives travelled to France to attend the Cannes Film Festival’s first “Pavillon Afriques,” a series of screenings and sessions highlighting the opportunities and challenges that face Africa’s filmmakers.
Their goal was to raise visibility for Nollywood and to participate in discussions about dealmaking, financing and the expansion of distribution.
Inya Lawal, the founder of the Nigerian production house Ascend Studios, hopes that the focus on African filmmaking at Cannes will prove that programming can be done on a global scale. She said that it had been a process to get to this point, but added that Nigeria’s filmmakers are hungry for work; therefore, anybody who chooses to come in now is coming in at the best time.