New film industries, particularly those of India and Nigeria are beginning to wrestle control of global film flows from Western dominance. Films have always been powerful: conveying important messages, themes, social issues, morals and sparking debate over social, personal and political issues. Films seem to go where other mediums can’t, evoking deep emotions within viewers of empathy and entertainment, with very little restriction on what issues movies can tackle. This power is evident now more than ever, with films stepping off the path of ‘Hollywood-style’ and venturing into new film industries — Bollywood and Nollywood. Within these cinematic public spheres, filmmakers are mixing both global and local elements to appeal to audience tastes and trends, blurring the boundaries between the modern and the traditional, the high and low culture, and the national and global culture (Karan and Schaefer 2010 p. 309).
Hollywood is the film industry that I have been exposed to the most, watching countless movies all with similar film values and messages within them, even if the storylines are completely different from movie to movie. It is easy to recognise a Hollywood movie, and you would think that it would be just as simple to differentiate a Bollywood (India’s film industry) movie from Hollywood, but this is not always the case; there is a lack of understanding within opposing film spheres. For example, the common labeling of ‘Slumdog Millionaire’ as a Bollywood film, despite the fact that it is a British film. Such mislabeling, according to Karan and Schaefer, “helped American audiences mistakenly associate ‘Indian cinema’ with the film’s Westernized production values, including the standard three-act narrative structure, 120-minute running time, and avoidance of interruptive song-and-dance sequences (which are typically part of Hindi films)” (2010 p. 313). However, that is not to say that Western audiences cannot enjoy Bollywood. In fact, it is clear that this is not the case by US figure skaters Meryl Davis and Charlie White winning a silver medal at the 2010 Winter Olympics after donning Indian-style costuming and dancing to Hindi songs with Bollywood and bharatnatyam-style choreography (Karan and Schaefer 2010 p. 311). Further appreciation of Indian influences are clearly evident within the highest-grossing film of all time — James Cameron’s Avatar — which mixed native-American themes with ancient Hindu concepts, borrowing from Indian mythology (Karan and Schaefer 2010 p. 312). Even though both Hollywood and Bollywood are very successful on their own as film industries, it is clear that both spheres are influenced by the other, which in my opinion, can only be seen as a positive thing as people from different cultures are able to experience each other without having to leave their own house.
In contrast, another film industry that is almost entirely separate from Hollywood and Bollywood but nevertheless has achieved success on it’s own, is Nollywood – Nigeria’s film industry. Nollywood is very different from its cousin film industries in several ways, such as: the films are made directly to video, never being screened in a movie theatre; the films draw on traditional characters and situations as well as TV series imported from other places such as Mexico and Korea; and the films are a mixture of melodrama and magical culture with corruption as a common motif (Khorana 2014). With 30 titles delivered to shops every week, made on low budgets with basic equipment used for only 10 days to produce the entire film, Nollywood films are entirely based off realism, reflecting, raising awareness and questioning current issues. Nollywood films are all viewed in the discomfort of either a street corner or a video palour (ranging from small rooms to disused school halls) (Okome, 2007, p. 7). This ‘street audience’ brings people together to engage with each other and the film, allowing Nollywood consumers to have a voice in the social and cultural debates of their time (Okome, 2007, pp. 17-18), justifying both the necessity for and success of Nollywood.
Karan, K and Schaefer, DJ 2010, ‘Problematizing Chindia: Hybridity and Bollywoodization of popular Indian cinema in global film flows’, Global Media and Communication, vol. 6, no. 3, pp. 309-316.
Khorana, S 2014, ‘Global Film Beyond Hollywood (Industry Focus), week 4′, lecture, BCM111, University of Wollongong, delivered 20 August.
Okome, O 2007, ‘Nollywood: spectatorship, audience and the sites of consumption’, Postcolonial, text 3.2.