Updated: May 9, 2020
By Nini Kunu The announcement was officially made on Twitter, with the caption “N is for Naija. N is for Nollywood. N is the 14th alphabet. 14 is also how many great talents you’re looking at. N is for Netflix. But most importantly… hello, Nigeria!” and a group shot of some of the industry’s most prominent and influential faces. Nigerians have had access to Netflix since 2016, so there is definitely temptation to keep it pushing, and not see this giant step forward for what it is. Truth is, I don’t blame you at all, because I too, didn’t think twice about it, that is, until I really considered and truly grasped what this could mean for film’s second biggest industry, Nollywood. Simply put, a platform like Netflix investing in Nollywood will completely obliterate the issue of piracy that has plagued Nigeria for years, and prevented the industry from maximizing profit and becoming a real contender on the world stage.
Via Africa Buzzfeed It is noble and comforting to think that this change happened overnight but it didn’t. While it is true that Nollywood films have not had access to the kind of robust budgets that back U.S. and European films, the industry has gradually been shifting from mostly low-quality DVD releases toward slicker productions for both home video and cinematic release. Visionaries like Mo Abudu, CEO of Ebonylife, have been bold enough to plant little seeds, dream and actualize this shift into existence. By upping the standard of quality for both stories and video, movies like the Wedding Party, became contenders and even premiered at the famed Toronto International Film Festival in 2016, and which she ultimately sold to Netflix. She caught on pretty quickly that the only way to stop piracy in its tracks and be truly profitable, was to sell the rights to a streaming giant like Netflix. Thus, The Wedding Party was a sort of foreshadowing of many deals to come, and Netlfix has now acquired The Wedding Party 2, Chief Daddy and The Royal Hibiscus Hotel, all of which were Blockbuster hits. Most recently, Netflix acquired Lionheart, Nollywood legend, Genevieve Nnaji’s brainchild, which also premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival and featured Nollywood legends Pete Edochie, Onyeka Onwenu and Nkem Owoh.
Thus, this deal goes way beyond just having a strong “Nollywood” category on the platform. A formal deal with the Nigerian film industry means Netflix will now gaslight originals, produced by Nigerians for Nigerians, only with the big-boy Hollywood budgets, which is not a feat we have achieved up until this point. These are exciting times for Nigerian cinema, and we can’t wait to see what the future holds.