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THE KENYA FILM INDUSTRY: WHY NOLLYWOOD HAS THE EDGE…

The popularity of Nigerian films in Kenya is massive especially among the ladies. They have grown in this country to a level where some local TV stations have even dedicated the majority of airtime to them. As if that is not enough, Kenyans are even picking up the Nigerian accent and it has now become a commonality to find people in the streets or around you speaking like Nigerians as if they were born in the most popular country in Africa. Words like “oga” and “chineke” have become standard words in the streets. You also won’t be surprised to find that Kenyans know almost all Nigerian actors and their full biographies and yet they hardly know our own actors.

This is not that surprising as the Nigerian Film industry is the largest in Africa in terms of value, and the number of movies produced per a year. According to Wikipedia the cinema of Nigeria grew quickly in the 1990s and 2000s to become the second largest film industry in the world in terms of numbers of annual film productions, placing it ahead of the United States and behind the Indian film industry.

This is quite remarkable, and makes the Forum wonder what really makes Nigerian movies tick better that our locally made movies (and also other African movies).

Interesting Storylines

It is possibly their plot lines that have mostly contributed to the popularity of Nigerian movies as they have got everything from romance, betrayal, witchcraft, religion, murder, history, revenge and folklore. Their popularity has really grown fast, but this has been at the cost of the ‘quality of production,’ as critics put it. But in spite of the fact that some movies are of poor quality, they are able to get away with it because of their strong story lines.  Speaking to Nairobi Business Monthly (June issue), Brenda Okoth, a Nairobi-based journalist said that people love them because of the Pidgin English and the accents. She further said that Nigerians are bold, and the story lines are not the kind that you can find in our local productions. A Forum corresponded who also loves watching Nigerian movies agreed with Brenda’s views. She stated that she loves Nigerian movies because they tell the African story, something everyone can easily identify with. She further stated that Nigerian movies are diverse and creative and also the scenes are actualized. If it’s a rural setting then everything from the accent, dress cord, houses and environment shows rural.

Mr. Eric Wainaina, a creative specialist who also spoke to Nairobi Business Monthly said, “We are conservative, we do not want to push the envelope and we are scared to say the truth. Our storylines are the same where a rural girl comes to the city, meets a rich boy who marries her and then mistreats her. But Nigerian stories are longer than that, and that is how their movies draw locals in.”

Investments and Marketing

Any industry that is estimated to be worth around US$250 million is indeed a big industry.  And when it comes to investments in the movie industry, Nigeria is ahead of the pack in Africa. This is seen in the resources they use and the quality of sets in their movies. In most of the Nigerian movies for example you’ll find things like flashy cars, beautiful mansions and villas, they would even travel abroad to places like London and the United States to shoot their movies if they need to. The industry mostly referred to as ‘Nollywood’ (Nigeria’s film industry) has grown to an extent where investors and the Nigerian government are planning to develop a film village in Abuja among other investments like the Plateau Film City. They also do have systems in place for marketing their movies

Nigerians got talent’

Nollywood is rich in talented actors who are skilled at bringing out the character they are given. They’ve got the likes of Patience Ozokwor, Ramsey Nouah, Desmond Elliot, Yemi Blaq, Mike Ezuruonye, Genevieve Nnaji, Ini Edo, and Rita Dominic among many others who are talented at mesmerizing viewers anytime they feature in movies. Nigerian actors know how to bring out the right emotions when they need to, if it’s crying, they really cry if its attitude they know how to show it. Critics say that Nigerians show more emotions in acting than our local actors and that most of our local actors lack star power due to a fact that most of them only take acting after failing in other careers.

The Forum thinks that the only way to make Kenyan viewers ditch Nigerian movies for our own movies is for stakeholders in the film industry to up their game and work towards being better than the Nigerians.  ‘Being better’ would mean more training for actors, bigger production budgets, more  ‘outside the box’ thinking in scriptwriting, plus higher levels of creativity and style in costumes, makeup, lighting and camerawork

Kenyans love things that are different from the normal and the only way to capture them is to come out of our shell. We need to push boundaries and create a stir.

Most of all we need to convince our Kenyan TV program commissioners that whilst ‘playing safe’ is a short term way of saving costs, it is also a sure route to blandness and mediocrity. Any industry that fails to invest in itself will surely be overtaken by the competitors who do.

Bigger budgets means better programs and bigger audiences.

The late Christabel talks about Dr Ouko’s return from Washington.

Sam Okello talking about Mrs Ouko

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