Nigerian filmmaker Obi Emelonye shares his experience working in the phenomenon of Nollywood since the early 2000s.
Sometimes we need to shake up our perceptions of things we believe are immovable – things like the mechanisms of our Western film industry. Sometimes we have to exercise our inner contrarian so that we can break free from the paralysis of the status quo. Sometimes, the way to do that is to look beyond our borders and observe what’s happened in other film cultures, and welcome the challenges they present us with. Other film cultures can demonstrate the health and power of our medium in ways we would never imagine. Nollywood is one such story.
Our Nollywood series began with filmmaker Jamie Meltzer who spent a Summer in Lagos Nigeria filming a documentary on Nollywood. He gave us a Western outsider’s view of what was happening when the Nigerian film industry was exploding. In our last episode, Dr. Elizabeth Olayiwola gave us her inside perspective on the history of the Nigerian film industry, and shared with us how this industry was dominated by what they call “evangelical” film, which is heavily influenced by Pentecostalism.
In this episode, my guest is a well-known Nigerian filmmaker named Obi Emelonye. Two of Obi’s films have been on the top ten list of the most watched Nigerian films. Those films are Mirror Boy and Last Flight to Abuja. Obi has made 11 films and two television series, one which is a Netflix series called Heart and Soul.
Obi gives us a history of Nigerian cinema from a working, struggling filmmaker’s perspective, and shares the challenges he has faced in the past, and new challenges he faces today as he continues to make Nigerian films.And in the midst of his active production demands, Obi has recently taken a post as head of the filmmaking module at the University of Huddersfield in England.