Entertainment of Thu, 31 Mar 201611

Leila Djansi replies Stella Damasus over Nollywood tag

Ghanaian filmmaker Leila Djansi has been explaining why she suggested that new film producers should not be put under the umbrella of Nollywood.

Leila, in a TV interview which currently on Netflix, stated that the new producers aligning themselves with Nollywood was as bad as a “mother calling her son Hitler”.

The comment received a lot of backlash from Nollywood, with actress Stella Damasus taking offence because she apparently felt Leila’s comment was ‘insulting.’

Leila, in a long blog post titled ‘WHAT’S IN A NAME’, addressed the issue to further clarify the point she had earlier made in her interview.

She also made some startling revelations about how Nollywood originated and added, “Nollywood does NOT represent the Nigerian Film Industry…”

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Leila is trending again. Some lady from Nollywood made a video on me. (I hope I get some royalties, I am tapped out.) In the 2012 documentary Jimmy goes to Nollywood.

A very fun moment between Jimmy and I, goofy with some serious undertones, I am asked whether the new “Nollywood” films should also be called Nollywood and I said no. Def Not! They are like oil and water. They are too different. It’s kinda like calling your child ‘Hitler’. What I meant here was history. If you name your child ‘Judas’, you raise eyebrows. Your child will spend the rest of his life defending his name. Make his life easy, give him a name that does not come with burden.

New Nollywood films are made with lots of money and resilience. A number of the filmmakers reached out to me asking about wider distribution. A good number are my friends and we talk about challenges of filmmaking whiles black and African. Many of the roadblocks to wider distribution lay in the identity of films that have emerged from Nollywood in the very recent past.

For the most part, Hollywood does not buy films because they have watched them. They buy films based on precedence. That’s why you hear phrases like “in the vein of “Cast Away. Meaning, my film is kinda like the Tom Hanks film Cast Away. Now that is a pitch. Cast Away made so so and so amount of money, right. Let’s see your film. That’s how films are sold. Precedence. Not sentiments.

What this lady and others do not understand, unfortunately, is Nollywood does NOT represent the Nigerian Film Industry. It is a genre of the Nigerian film industry. It is a style of filmmaking found within the industry. Just like in Ghana we have Kumawood and the English section. So why would you make an English movie and call is a Kumawood movie?

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The name Nollywood was coined by an American documentary filmmaker who gave it that name because of the style it identifies with: low budget, shot in less than a week, relatable storylines, straight to DVD/VCD. That is what identifies a movie that is “Nollywood”. So, if the new films that do not meet these criteria also call themselves Nollywood, are they not giving themselves a wrong name?

We love Nollywood and Kumawood, but we know also that they are not the standard of filmmaking. This is a case of “A monkey is loved by his mother, regardless.” Or, “the hencoop is always home for the chicken”. Every Sunday, I watch Nollywood films. EVERY SUNDAY. So I do not disparage Nollywood, but I will not dress it up and call it a prize either.

It is important to be honest about what you got wrong and praise what you got right. Nokia 3310 phones were saviors. Pioneers. But they had to be replaced to meet up with current times. We have phones and we have smart phones. What’s in a name? Identity. In identity, characteristics. You are selling yourself short calling your 100,000 budget film “Nollywood”. You actually get paid more money by buyers if you tag your film “international film” or “Cinema quality”. All these tags exist because a new identity has not been created to accommodate the new style.

These new films from Nollywood are films aiming at globalizing the African film scene. Africa is so disrespected and through films, we can change that narrative. To limit the potential of these films by tagging them also Nollywood is not fair. Every film from the continent is called Nollywood. Sinking Sands (which happens to be Jimmy Jean Louis’ foray into that world) is called a Nollywood film, Ties That Bind, Nollywood film. I am called a Nollywood filmmaker. I am Not. I have a right to decide my identity. I will not apologize for that.

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