Bong Joon- Ho’s ‘Parasite’ has in the last few months, warmed its way into the hearts of the international film audience. The dark comedy won over 150 awards including the Academy's coveted 'Best Picture' award.
Hundreds of observers have shared their thoughts on 'Parasite's success but very few are talking about WHO the film was made for. Bong Joon-Ho made 'Parasite' for his local audience but with the hope that the international audience might catch the parasite-fever. The film's language and cultural elements spoke squarely to the film's target audience and the strategy was simply "conquer our audience then break new grounds". Understanding this might be the key to the success of upcoming Nollywood features.
Had Nigeria's submission, ‘Lionheart’ not gotten a disqualification notice, did it stand a chance of bringing home an Oscar? Is there any reason why Nigerian filmmakers can not make features that can successfully satisfy both its local audience and make the international audience go berserk?
If your first argument is that Nollywood needs proper funding, you are not very far from my point. However, a Nollywood 'Parasite' does not require the film's $11 million budget. We have made movies that equaled some of Bong's production quality with less than $3 million. The challenge is not what we can make with N30 million but certain filmmakers and their inability to create magic with what they have been able to scrap out of investors. More often than not, the product of a N30 million investment barely wholesomely satisfies the local audience.
Our box office hits remain the butt of this decade's joke. Only a few of these back-to-back hits are devoid of one detailing error or another. Nollywood's knack for mediocre delivery only proves that excellence isn't an idea that motivates some of its filmmakers and that's a real problem! Why make lemon juice from lemons when you could be making lemonades?
On the other hand, most Nollywood Art films that go on to capture the international audience attention are usually not commercially successful locally. Most of these movies might never make it to the big screens. The ones that do, return home heartbroken by the disappointing outcome . Note that this has nothing to do with the films. Film distribution giants in Nigeria are too dollar-driven to pay attention to creating a market for anything other than projects that only give temporal satisfaction. So, once in a while, a new film that isn’t a “December special” pops up, dazzles and burns out. This is why it comes as no surprise that Art films are getting run over.
Nigerian consumers are not risk-takers. This statement isn’t far from the truth but there is a reason for this. Consumers’ lack of trust comes from a long trail of cinematic misfires. How many disastrous films will it take to fall out with Nollywood content? Filmmakers scream “Support Us! Support Us!” Unfortunately, most are never completely ready for the support when it floods in.
Nollywood can give the world another ‘Parasite’ if we had investors passionate about art much more than profit. I agree that the industry could use the likes of Miky Lee of CJ Entertainment. Investors wholeheartedly in the business of promoting Nigerian art. But is today's Nollywood truly ready for them?
If the day ever comes, I sincerely hope that our filmmakers would have purged themselves of the need to cast soulless poster-friendly actors with no range.
Then there's the problem of casting comedians, music and reality stars with zero acting skill but that's another story.