One of Nollywood best, Kunle Afolayan, with crew
Filmmaker, Kunle Afolayan leading the cast of 2020 movie; Citation. Photo: BellaNaija

Nollywood; is the often criticized but common expression for the Nigerian film industry. Nigerian movies are seen as the pivot of a developing African film industry and the cultural mainstay of Africans in the continent and the Diaspora. Nigeria has not been able to win major awards on the international stage yet it is the third largest film producing nation in the world, behind Hollywood and Bollywood. Hubert Ogunde, the partriach of the nation’s theatre died on April 4, 1990. Before the curtain fell on this actor, singer, dancer, film producer, his plays and songs had become a trademark in the consciousness of the nation[i] . Others in this generation were Kola Ogunmola,  Duro Ladipo, Orlando Martins, Steve Rhodes, Moses Olaiya, Chika Okpalla (Zebrudaya) and Hamed Baba (Samanja). Prof. S. J. Timothy-Asobele, an associate professor of Modern European Languages, University of Lagos in his book presents Yoruba film culture as propagated by the cultural import of the doyen of Nigerian theater, Hubert Ogunde. The author also showcased the many feats achieved by other notable Nigerian film producers mostly from Yoruba ethnicity, such as Apostle Moses Adejumo popularly known as Baba Sala, Adeyemi Afolayan (Ade Love) and Adebayo Salami (Oga Bello), among others[ii] . The celluloid industry which developed with time ultimately gave way for the home video industry because of the bad economic climate in the country.

First Movies

As revealed by television administrator, Segun Olusola, the 1965 movie; Taiwo Sango directed by Klaus-Stephan is the first feature film produced in Nigeria[iii]. In 1970, Son of Africa film by Fedfilms Nigeria Limited in Lagos featured Funso Adeolu, Buki Ajayi of the NBC-TV and Daniel Alalade, who doubled as the producer. The movie, costing a quarter of a million pounds to make, was the story of a gang of beautiful ladies, under the leadership of Madam Rachael who operated an illegal “mint” at Ghost Island. As a ruse, they entertained people in hotels and though the gang was successful in London, Paris, and Beirut, they ran into bad luck in Lagos where they were tracked down and handed over to the police by Steve Agent 008- Funso Adeolu, the star actor. While a boy, one of the would-be pioneer filmmakers of the Nigerian film industry, Zeb Ejiro in a lucky break,  had the pilot of his series, Ripples accepted by the NTA and sponsored by AJC World. The first episode hit the air waves on October 6, 1988. Domitila, a movie about prostitution inspired by Ejiro’s  Ajegunle residence went to the cinemas through the support of television entrepreneur, Raymond Dokpesi. For the first time in the history of the country, a movie was shown in ten cinema houses simultaneously [iv]4. The era of indigenous soap opera passed as a result of social appreciation, because producers needed to deliver what they think the audience wants to see. There was a transition from television to home video but in the transition, clips of television soap operas were taken and packaged into films, so audiences have the likes of True Confession that was different stories of people put together with an easy to follow storyline into fictions where protagonists can be followed[v] .

Nollywood movie of 1965
1965 movie, Taiwo Shango was the first feature film in Nigeria. Photo: NNP/


Amazing Grace was among the few celluloid film from 1989 to the end of the century. At documentary film festivals that accept video like FESTPACO, Tunde Kelani, a prominent Nigerian cinematographer  consistently showed his films. Arugba, one of his works, was there in 2009. Also, another young man, Joe Brown, displayed his film at another festival in Italy. Generally, there are lots of awards being won but not necessarily in the big name film festivals. In AMMA awards which appear to be the biggest awards out of Africa, Nollywood had a poor outing due to misunderstanding between the organisers and Nigerian film makers who boycotted it. By the end of the first decade of the 21st century, there was a lull in the Nigerian industry and Ghana made efforts to fill the vacuum. Television stations infringed on rights by beaming movies. Idumota became a booming nuisance and the filmmakers from there got money from films by other people as they set up huge structures.




Early success of Mainframe Productions and its films could be largely attributed to the quality of its production, and more importantly, the kind of stories shot into films. Mainframe Productions stood out from the deluge of home video productions outfits by having a symbiotic relationship with a creative academic writer.  Prominent university don, Professor Akinwumi Isola’s  play Kosegbe, and novel, O le ku were made into home video movies[vi] . Kunle Afolayan’s Jubilee hit movie, Phone Swap voted best film and best viewers choice film at the maiden edition of the Nollywood Week in Paris. Purposed for providing a dramatic visualization of the African culture and tradition documented in some Nigerian films, the event featured public screening of films like Mahmood Ali Balogun’s Tango With Me, Kelce Bongos Ikwe’s Nafe and Chineze Anyaene’s Ije. Some of these films have also featured in some international film festivals in the past[vii].


Piracy is often cited as Nollywood’s ultimate supervillain. Truth however is the damage done to Nigerian film by years of poor regulation and non-existent quality control is a self-inflicted kind, which is why it has not enjoyed the sympathy of many cinephilic in these parts. Unimaginative film-makers might very well the greatest undoing, not because there aren’t ingenious visual storytellers in the industry. On the contrary, the backers have refused to recognise the potential for more diverse stories, which could lead to astronomical returns[viii] . There were several failed intervention funds, but some like the Bank of Industry’s NollyFund scheme produced good films like Isoken by Dakore Akande, a story of feminism, family, society and pressure, the gift of friendship and love that does not falter or fail. Other films that have been produced through same scheme include, The CEO by Kunle Afolayan; Ayamma by Emem Isong; comic flick and Three Wise Men by Opa Williams,  Amina, an epic by Okey Ogunjiofor and Stella and Oba by Lasun[ix].



Speaking at the East Africa Communication Conference and Exhibition held in 2013 with the theme, “Seizing the Digital Growth Opportunities in a better Connected East Africa.” Bell whose company owns and runs Zuku, a fledging pay TV operation in Kenya Bell told his astonished audience that “African content should not be just about rubbish Nigerian movie.” Nollywood films lack technical depth, especially when the films are compared to other films produced in the developed countries[x] . When actor, Emeka Ike stated that Nollywood would soon crash; he was nearly assaulted by the apologists of the industry. He never changed his stance. He also complained that the film industry has been hijacked by HiTV and DSTV[xi] .


Omo Ghetto by Funke Akindele is the highest grossing movie of Nollywood ever, at #636M
Omo Ghetto by Funke Akindele is the highest grossing movie of Nollywood ever, at #636M closely followed by others. Photo: Premium Times NG



Compared with drama in the southern part of Nigeria, Hausa drama is fairly static In presentation because the Hausa audiences are pleased to accept long periods of close argument with very little action, in which case, those who do not understand the language tend to get bored. At the regional level, however, it is alive and well. In 1975, Qhaihu Umar, a novel written by the Prime Minister, Abubakar Tafawa Balewa was adopted for stage and filmed in the North by the Federal Film Unit. This was one of the direct results of northern states educational institutions’ attempt to improve the level of both traditional and modern drama in their states. The film version, commissioned by Head of State, General Yakwubu Gowon was cased directly from the novel [xii]. The Nollywood industry was taken aback when it was reported earlier in 2006 that the Federal Government had canceled the N3-7bn film village it had planned to build in Kano State. It was reported that the clerics in the state had kicked against the project, saying it would promote immorality[xiii] .

[i] TELL May 8, 2000

[ii] Westerner May 11, 2009

[iii] The News August 22, 2021

[iv] Punch June 17, 2017

[v] Newswatch December 7, 2009

[vi] TELL March 8, 1999

[vii] The Guardian June 7, 2013

[viii] Punch December 4, 2016

[ix] Punch June 16, 2017

[x] Newswatch September 12, 2011

[xi] Westerner September 14, 2009

[xii] Daily Times, April 24, 1975

[xiii] Punch Junly 30, 2006

Tope Apoola
Profession: Writer