Can Netflix encourage diversity in Nollywood content?

The inclusion of Nigerian movies on Netflix, the American streaming platform for movies and TV shows, has meant not only an interest in what the Nollywood industry has to offer, but a bigger, more internationally positioned platform to showcase these offerings.

Since the online VoD platform made its service available to Nigeria in January of 2016, Netflix has caught on with a lot of Nigerian users. This is despite subscription constraints, with plans ranging from $7.99-$11.99, the low number of subscribers, slow internet connections and other accessibility-related problems.

The platform has not only opened new grounds in film-related conversations constantly making the rounds, but has significantly reignited interest in the Nollywood movies trying to set themselves apart from the mush.

There is the likelihood now that in looking for what to watch on Netflix, a fairly new Nigerian movie one hasn’t gotten around to going to the cinema to see, can easily pique the viewer’s interest.

While streaming platforms like IrokoTV and Afrinolly have made these content cheap and easy to pay for, the exclusivity of Netflix and the sentiment that for a movie to be on Netflix it has to have passed some rigorous cinematic standards that should make it enjoyable to viewers, while aligning with Netflix’s vision, drives the base of its appeal.

Since the inclusion began, about 27 movies have been added on the platform. From long-lasting favourites like the Wedding Party to groundbreaking cinematic gems like The Figurine and 93 days. The prominent genre of these movies, however, sits comfortably between gloss and flash situation-comedies like Chief Daddy, Bling Lagosians and romantic-comedies like 30 days in Sun City, with thrillers and political dramas wedged tightly between.

In a way, this perfectly represents the genre landscape in Nollywood. For the need to pay attention to one of the country’s biggest exports, there is an immediate need for diverse content. Not just because our movies are now easily accessible to various kinds of audiences, but because diversification has been a long and endless call that has to be heeded now more than ever. Particularly if we want more of our movies to meet the standards of the platform, thus increasing its reach and commercial possibilities.

Apart from the repetitive and often predictable storylines, filmmakers can begin to take on subjects that veer from the jovial, movies that explore the nuances of our characters, movies that dare to ask and even answer often avoided questions.

There is no denying the slowly abating indifference towards Nigerian movies. All thanks to the gradually shifting optics on the glorification of misogyny, slut-shaming, toxic representation of queerness, reinforcement of stiff, hypermasculinity amongst other issues. If Nigerian filmmakers intend to utilize the burgeoning access in place, they’d have to make movies that are much more than elaborately dramatized bants.


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