You may or may not know that the largest film industry in the world is not Hollywood, but Bollywood: the film industry of India. But do you know which country has the second largest film industry in the world?

Nollywood.

The Nigerian film industry.

According to Wikipedia the industry is a $250 million dollar industry which produces 200 films a month, mainly for home video machines.

There are several reasons for the “home made” films in small third world countries.

The first problem is lack of cinemas.

I am now living in the Philippines.  Yes, we do have a movie theatre here in town– for the last three years. As prosperity increases the middle class,going to see a film in a theatre is now an option for many. But if you don’t live in a “big city”, renting a video disc is an option: even our farmers now can pool their money for a TV and a VCD player and borrow or rent VCD discs at a nominal price.

Local films here might not be as technically sophisticated as Hollywood films, but they have several advantages: the main one being that the films often are about issues that are important to locals, such as the problems of having a spouse overseas, or problems faced by families who lack money.

Similarly in Nigeria, local films might be primitive by western standards, but have scripts that are about local issues such as HIV, corruption, or the problems of marriage in the modern world.

You might be surprised to find that many of the films have a religious themes. Christianity Today calls Nigeria the Christian film capital of the world. The films are not necessarily made with the idea to convert people: many of the films by Christian film makers actually are stories in which to highlight a moral dilemma that their people face. Yet even non Christian film makers often have religious themes because the people of Nigeria are highly religious and prefer to watch films that mirror their own lives.

But what really surprised me about Nollywood was that the films they make are not “films” made in the old fashioned way, by using film and expensive cameras and editing techniques, but are using the latest technology.

Wired Magazine reports

Nigerian filmmakers use a mix of quick-and-dirty digital technology, shooting their movies entirely on digital video, editing them on home computers and delivering them to the market on VHS, DVD and video compact discs, or VCDs… films have minimal budgets (ranging from $10,000 to $25,000) and sell for just a few dollars apiece. What this industry does have is volume, with some 300 directors churning out an average of 2400 films annually.

True, Nollywood might still be considered a “not ready for prime time” film industry by the more sophisticated west, but by building up an industry from scratch it is enabling local talent to learn the industry.

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Nancy Reyes is a retired physician living in the rural Philippines. She worked in Liberia and Zimbabwe when she was younger, and blogs about Africa at MakaipaBlog.

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