Around this time last year, Nollywood was looking to rise from the ashes of the Lionheart Oscar fracas from late 2019. Movies had been planned for a 2020 cinema release, and streaming giant Netflix arriving in Nigeria was timely and paradigm-shifting, proof that the film industry was on track towards growth and further exposure.
Then coronavirus happened, disrupting the world as we know it and not sparing Nollywood as local cinemas went dark for months, crippling the box office and ongoing productions halted for safety reasons. It took several months stemming from state-imposed lockdowns, and a collective push from Nollywood actors, to reopen cinemas. Still, though, things weren’t the same anymore. Although post-lockdown Nollywood saw a few studios shrewdly put out movie premieres, like Ramsey Nouah’s Rattlesnake: The Ahanna Story, and made attempts to loop back into its rhythm and economy, there’s a general sense of caution running through the movie value chain.
With recent spikes in coronavirus cases reported in late 2020 which trailed into 2021, filmmakers are continuing with their safety protocols around location sets and although moviegoers have trickled into cinemas in an act of liberation, it hasn’t be a significant number. This consumer trend towards movies is partly happening because of the Netflix syndrome. Is watching a movie in theatres really worth getting coronavirus when there’s a possibility it will land on Netflix?
Netflix is providing zero-risk entertainment value as long you have a smartphone and internet, and of course an active subscription. Much of 2021 will see Netflix gain more ground with how Nollywood movies are consumed, presenting its shiny projects with Nollywood creators and commissioning new ones at varying points in the year. While the streamer has faced criticisms with its dealing with the industry, its presence is nonetheless vitalising and crucial.
By next month, we will know the nominees for this year’s Best International Feature Film Oscar, and Nigeria’s The Milkmaid is a worthy contender for the award. That Desmond Ovbiagele’s second feature film could possibly make the cut is all too exciting to process, one for the history books. The indie film scene and much-maligned genres like horror could have their moments. CJ Obasi announced recently that his supernatural film Mamiwata has wrapped up shooting and Toka McBaror surprise cabin horror Creepy Lives Here looks decently watchable.
Not forgetting Charles Okpaleke’s forthcoming original film The Six, which we know nothing about in terms of plot. All in all, there might be a few surprises and discoveries as 2021 runs its course. Maybe we could even discover a new talent this year.
When Bernard Dayo isn’t writing about pop culture, he’s watching horror movies and reading comics and trying to pretend his addiction to Netflix isn’t a serious condition.