Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Nod to Nollywood

Bollywood and Hollywood take note: Nollywood is on the rise. UNESCO's Institute of Statistics (UIS) released the results of a global survey today indicating that while India remains the world's leading film producer, Nigeria's industry is gaining momentum and has surpassed the United States for the second-place position.

The survey, measuring 2005-2006, took data from 101 countries and was based on questionnaires and alternative sources. Results indicated that while Bollywood produced 1,091 films, Nollywood produced 872. The United States produced 485 films with only eight other countries producing more than 100. More specific findings can be found here:

UIS indicated the survey was useful in showing regional trends in the film industry. Yet as the data chiefly came from the United States and Europe, UIS pointed out generalizability of findings are limited due to the unequal geographic representation.

Nollywood's growth, however, is unquestionable. Its growth is attributed to the practice of shooting low-budget films in digital video formats over a period of a few weeks. Further, films are both distributed and viewed informally; 99% of screenings are in home theater settings. The 1992 film Living in Bondage is often noted as the first Nollywood movie developed and distributed using these techniques. These Nollywood techniques are now increasingly being used in developing countries in Africa and around the world, although piracy is a growing concern.

Another reason given for Nollywood's rise is its multilingualism as around 56% of films are in local languages, and the rest are in English. This growth in multilingual films was noted in other countries as well: In Bollywood, for example, only 2% of films are produced in English where the rest are around 30 other languages. UIS likewise found films are more frequently being produced in regional languages in recent years, although the lack of data makes this growth difficult to quantify.
In noting this rising linguistic diversity in film, UIS did point out English is still the dominant language as 36% of all films and all the top 10 films in 2006.
These trends are certainly intriguing and can also illustrate cultures in powerful ways. As Director-General of UNESCO Koïchiro Matsuura pointed out, "Film and video production are shining examples of how cultural industries - as vehicles of identity, values and meanings - can open the door to dialogue and understanding between peoples, but also to economic growth and development." It is hoped this growing diversity in film, therefore, can lead to positive conversations and initiatives around the world.

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