The Nigerian Diaspora has always been the main vehicle of Nollywood’s expansion, namely in cities like London, New York and Toronto among other places. The city of Paris on the other hand, was not included in this and did not develop any special relationship with Nollywood.
If Paris is undoubtedly an African culture hotspot, the attention there has always been primarily on francophone African countries where the dynamic when it comes to cinema is very different from what is happening in Nigeria. Forget the debate about too many films coming out; in Congo, Cote d’Ivoire and Senegal the question is “where are the movie theatres?” Filmmakers from those places look to the West to fund their films and that is reflected in the films they make.
Due to historical ties, France tends to think of Africa as one homogenous place that speaks French. The representation of Anglophone countries is marginal and Nigeria, despite its population, its economy and its artists (of which some have even called France home at some point–Fela Kuti, Ola Balogun, Keziah Jones, Asa, etcetera) is largely unknown and often mistaken for Niger.
But that was until 2013, when the first edition of a festival called NollywoodWeek put Nigeria on the map as a producer of cinema and not just of home-videos.
With a tasteful selection of several “made-for-cinema” films that were recently released in Nigeria, NollywoodWeek presented the French audience with an updated window into what is currently taking place in contemporary Africa. A much-needed update as most French moviegoers reference the great Sembene Ousmane’s works as a modern representation of “African Cinema.” Now finally on the big screen audiences glimpsed the Africa that walks fast and confidently, the Africa that is not trapped in its own thoughts, the Africa that moves forward. For many in the audience, which was a mix of French spectators and 2nd generation Francophone Africans born in France, watching movies like Phone Swap, Tango with Me, Last Flight to Abuja and Maami was an eye-opener.
Based on the number of articles and reports about Nollywood that came out in the French media since that first edition of the Nigerian film festival it seems like we might be witnessing the beginning of something new between France and Nollywood. The French take cinema seriously (after all, they invited it) so who knows what’s in store!
We just have to wait and see what happens after the second edition of NollywoodWeek to determine if it is just a fling or a real love story.
The second edition has an impressive line up once again with movies like Half of a Yellow Sun, Confusion Na Wa and Flower Girl. The festival takes place this June from the 5th to 8th in Paris, France.
Here’s the festival trailer:
More information can be found on the website.