PIRACY HOLDS BACK NIGERIA’S LUCRATIVE FILM INDUSTRY
By Paul Ndiho
Nigeria’s Nollywood film industry is rapidly growing in popularity, churning out nearly 3000 movies each year. Many of the films address issues that Africans across the continent can identify with. However, due to piracy, many filmmakers say they are struggling to make a profit.
Nollywood is a $5 billion dollar industry. Film producer, Sam Boye is on set taking his actors through their paces before shooting begins on his latest production, a soap opera series about family feuds. Boye has been involved in Nollywood films for more than 30 years. He says rampant piracy is the main reason film producers are barely making any money.
“A producer was in China, and he said he saw our movie. They call it 20 in 1. That is, you have 20 movies in 1 DVD in China and he saw Osofia speaking Chinese. That means it’s been dubbed into a Chinese language without the consent of the producers here. So when we say piracy has gone deep into this industry and it has been another major challenge.
Nollywood is best known for the quantity of films it produces, but not the quality. But there are those who are trying to change things. Producer-Director, Kunle Afolayan is the filmmaker behind “October 1”, Nollywood film set in 1960, against the backdrop of Nigeria’s Independence from Britain. The movie tells the story of a detective, who is dispatched by the British colonial masters to a remote town in the Western region of Nigeria to solve a series of murders that caused outrage in the community. With three films under his belt, Afolayan has earned a reputation in Nollywood for producing high quality movies.
“It’s a nightmare, it’s a universal problem but the kind of … the way it’s being done here is alarming when your film gets pirated and people flashes it in your face and no one is doing anything and when you even complain, they beat you up like there is no law in the land. All my films have been pirated but the most painful one is October 1 which has not been released on DVD.”
Every week, in Lagos alone, millions of pirated Nollywood and Bollywood movies – the Hindi language film industry based in Mubai, India, compete for customers against the original product. The pirated copies are sold everywhere, on sidewalks, street corners, under bridges and even on top of wheelbarrows for about one U.S. dollar per DVD — undercutting the production house price of the DVD.
Nigeria’s Copyright Commission, says the government is doing all it can to combat piracy. Afam Ezekude is the Director General of the Copyright Commission.
“The last four and a half years. We have actually reduced the rate of piracy, we are not boasting of trying to eliminate or eradicate piracy in this community but we have done a lot in terms of trying to limit the impact of piracy especially on the Nigerian economy.”
Still, industry analysts like economist David Omidiran believe Nollywood could be much more profitable and grow even further to boost the oil-producing economy if piracy was curbed.
“When all the piracy issues are resolved and there is more use of cinematography and we already have the likes of some cinema airing Nigerian movies, the industry has great potential.”
Since its inception, over 20 years ago, the Nigerian movie industry has remains one of the largest employers in the country, and analysts say the industry earns the third highest revenues in the world after Hollywood and Bollywood.