Is the future of Nigerian films in chick flicks?

Of Nollywood and rom-coms

Imagine you’re a rebel heart in a subservient world, taunted and discriminated against, you admirably persevere, wearing their scorn like a crown, then one day you wake up and realize you’re not alone, the world has accepted you, finally you belong.

The same could be said of the moniker “Chick Flick” and it’s evolution from a derisive term, to a film genre, a term whose earliest appearances as a cultural form of popular media, dates back to 1988 in America, with movies like “Beyond the Valley of the Dolls” and “Black Mama, White Mama”. in 1996 Helen Fielding’s novel, “Bridget Jones’s Diary” provided a starting point for the British chick cultural explosion, and at the same time the TV series “Sex and the City” based on the book by Candace Bushnell aired. In 2004, Bollywood’s “Bride and Prejudice” a version of Jane Austen’s classic, suggested the presence of chick flicks in the Indian culture, and in 2007, “Letters to a Stranger” marked the introduction of the chick flick culture into Nigeria’s film industry.

It wasn’t hard to see that chick flicks, like chick lit, was a deliberate attempt to appeal to female audiences, as this not only suggested a growing recognition of women’s significance in pop culture, it also provided evidence of concerted efforts, to influence the spending habits of young women, whom at last had been identified as a huge force in an economy, based on consumption. but it was only a matter of time until the definition of “Chick Flick” broadened to include Thrillers, Drama Series and Romantic Comedies.

Following the audience and pristine fame attained from this particular film culture, after “Letters to a Stranger” Nollywood saw the chance for advancement and understood the need to put out movies to the general public, allowing them gain insight into the cultures and traditions of Nigeria and Africa at large, customs that aren’t often presented in the media, or when done, lack authenticity.
By adapting and remaking some of Hollywood’s drama series and stories like “The Desperate Housewives, “Everybody hates Chris”, “Maid of Honor”, “My Best Friend’s Wedding”, “Bridesmaid” etc Nollywood gave to us the best of both worlds in the ever progressive era of global culture.

One could say, the influx of those Hollywood chick-flick replicas into Nollywood at that time, helped subsidize the market globally, and put her on the map, largely owing to nostalgia from Africans in diaspora and their bittersweet yearning for the motherland, and partly to Nigerians with a longing for westernization.
In 2013 with the making of “Alan Poza”, “Gidi Up”,“Lagos Cougars” etc Nollywood though a burgeoning film industry shot up and was listed as “a major economic driver” by Graham Sheffield, a director of arts at the British Council.

Being recognized as a major income source, the federal government afterward made a film village in Calabar and put 1 billion naira towards supporting Nollywood, but despite the funds channeled towards upping the movie industry, quality and content wise, Nollywood is still faced with the challenge of digital film making techniques, in connection with action thrillers and comic book movies.

Ever noticed how Nigerians flood to cinemas when Hollywood movies are showing?, or how Nollywood movies barely stay 3 weeks in the cinema, while Hollywood movies like Avengers, Batman vs Superman etc hardly ever leave the cinemas? This is because comic books have a long and expansive canon that spans at least 70 – 80 years and whole generations of young people were raised on these comics and mythos of the fictional characters that populate them. Seeing these characters translated to real life through life action adaptations is the kind of lure, few comic book faithfuls can resist. Even when the films fall below expectations, fans have such intense nostalgia they continue to revisit and watch these films and actively anticipate new adaptations.

Comic book movies and action thrillers however, are most successful when they stay true to their source and it’s imperative we take into account the cost of producing movies of that scale, and realize, we not only lack the technology and equipment, we also lack consistent consumers, as it will be an economic blunder to make a movie for $100,000, when the average amount a Nigerian movie makes in return is less than $40,000.

Fast forward to 2017, Nollywood sits pretty on the No.2 spot for best film industry worldwide, and movies that are neither dark nor gritty are still much in vogue among Nigerian screenwriters and producers. having generated a massive income from last year’s releases ,with the likes of “The Wedding Party”, “Thirty Days in Atlanta”, “Okafor’s Law”, “10 Days in Sun City” etc. It’s quite telling that these non-violent movies hold a multi-million sector of the film industry, thanks to its marketability and prevailing relevance in the literature and film aspects of popular culture.

Not going to harp on anymore about how non violent movies are governing the scripts of many Nollywood screenwriters, but I’m truly hopeful that one day, when the men and women currently in their 20s and 30s, who grew up watching these Hollywood action thrillers/comic movies and wishing to see great, if not better replicas of them in Nollywood, get to take hold of filmmaking, we might actually see wholly uncynical and digitally improved thriller adaptations, hit the Nigerian film industry.

But as long as producers and directors come from that safe and commercially friendly box of surface level, non-threatening film making, and until Nigerians start paying money to support all kinds of Nigerian movies, we very much are stuck with mass produced, poorly scripted and badly executed chick flicks.

“Ifunanya is too queer to live and too rare to die” Tweet at her @Iphynaya

The Nollywood problem no one is talking about