I first heard about ‘Nollywood’, or Nigerian cinema, only earlier this year – previously, I was unaware that it even existed – or that it is currently the second-largest film industry in the world, behind Bollywood and ahead of Hollywood. But it’s not really that surprising that so many people in the Western world are unfamiliar with Nollywood – they honestly couldn’t care less what we think of their films. The Nigerian film industry is catered towards a Nigerian audience only – they’re not interested in winning Oscars, or the praises of Western critics and fans. Instead, their films are primarily low-budget, with a lesser emphasis on storyline and casting than is seen in Hollywood movies.
I find this particularly refreshing, especially when today there is such a huge emphasis on working towards the ‘Hollywood standard’ – we are so inundated with news of celebrities and fashion trends and the latest Hollywood gossip, that sometimes I feel we are losing sight of our own roots and identities. And Nollywood seems to be the perfect counterbalance to this growing movement, as it effectively ignores the clutches of the Western world, and consistently creates according to the Nigerian national identity and culture.
Many similarities can be made between Nollywood and Korean cinema, another film industry that is heavily influenced by its local culture and context. However, Korean cinema is more a symbol of cross-cultural acceptance than ignorance, as Woongjae Ryoo suggests. The Korean wave of film draws much inspiration from its neighbouring Asian countries, as well as from China and the U.S., often re-appropriating classic storylines and genres from around the world to suit their own contemporary culture. As a result, Korean cinema is not considered in the same league as Nollywood and Hollywood – yet it remains popular within Korea itself, and reaffirms the idea of preserving national culture.