By Karama Ogova
Published January 9, 2011
“Wow, what a colourful book! What’s it about?” was the first thought that came to my mind after catching my first glimpse of the book, Moviedom… the NollywoodNarratives: Clips on the Pioneers by Shaibu Husseini. But is the book really as interesting as its cover illustration and title suggest? KARAMA OGOVA writes.
The main context of the book was to document the pioneers—directors, producers, marketers, actors/actresses—of Nigeria’s Nollywood home video phenomenon. This was guided by the fact that many of the earliest players usually fade into oblivion, as there is no documentation on their contributions and involvement. What is the problem with this? Writer Shaibu Husseini says that “The danger of this is that not only are the labour of its heroes past trifled with or even unacknowledged, the sector loses the opportunity to exploit this for further growth and development.”
In profiling these players in Nollywood, Husseini has also provided great insight into the history and workings of a burgeoning industry that has in the past two decades taken the world by storm, which I must say is rather true judging by the situation here in our very own country, Kenya. The book thus helps to trace the historical ties to the beginning of the Nollywood film sector featuring the major players and challenges faced as well as advancements made.
Now, I can’t exactly say that the author did or did not have a particular target audience in mind because the book could still, in my opinion, appeal to almost anyone interested in Nollywood, from small household audiences to the large-scale film producers and researchers. The current boom brought on our already weak Riverwood sector by Nollywood–which has infiltrated into any and every household with a television set in Kenya—the book can be used as a reference to familiarise regular viewers of ‘Afro cinema’ on local TV stations to high-end producers looking for actors to feature in their films. Despite the number of pages being 116, this does not affect its readability, as it is a combination of different histories of individual contributors to the Nollywood industry.
What caught my attention most in this book is the fact that writer Shaibu Husseini has included photographs along with the respective details to identify a character. This can also help one identify a face later when the need arises, be it in a publication or maybe even while walking on the city streets.
Despite its mouth-full title—Moviedom… the NollywoodNarratives: Clips on the Pioneers –this is a relatively good book but even perfect gems do have their defects. In this case, I think the black and white photos didn’t hit the right key with me seeing as some of them appear blurred while others still give the book the kind of look that it is older than it actually is (it was published in mid December 2010!).
The publication is also more of a journal than a book. Though it may be dubbed “a celebration of the tenacity and the indomitable Nigerian spirit as reflected in these dominant and the emergent generations of artistes, marketers, producers and directors among other stakeholders” and “a salute to industry in both the literal and metaphoric senses,” Moviedom… the NollywoodNarratives: Clips on the Pioneers appears to be a major disappointment.
The cover designer, John Nwaehike, has done a good job on the illustration. However, the reader might not find the book appealing if they expected to find a full colour edition.
The title is a different story altogether. ‘The Nollywood Narratives’ is what it suggests but not what is delivered in the content. With such a description, one expects to find personal dialogues and reviews of some of the productions and not profiles written in a journalistic manner. With no quotations, the title loses its meaning. It is further watered down by the fact that the sub-topic (Clips on the Pioneers) does not at all suit the book since it does not contain a trace of any movies that have been reviewed.
In spite of all this, the book is long overdue and may be of little or no significance, especially to non-Nigerians, as the sector has already evolved to receive worldwide recognition. It is a rather disappointing one as it displays rather shoddy workmanship. For starters, it has a wrong ISBN and no certain book number begging the question whether the book really is registered and recognised worldwide. The compilation was a bit too hurried perhaps in an attempt to have the book ready for the sake of it. It gives an obvious display that these are newspaper columns compiled to create a book with no effort taken to make it a better and more attractive one. In addition to all this, the publisher, Africa Film Academy (AFA), appears not to be given the full recognition due. It comes out as an after-thought quickly added at the last minute.
The book does try to focus almost exclusively on film by featuring profiles on many of the major players in the industry. The author is a performing artiste, journalist and film critic who writes for Nigeria’s flagship newspaper also being reputed to be one of the most consistent documentarists of the Nigerian movie industry (Nollywood).