Situated just behind Bollywood in the ranking of the cinema’s most prolific content providers, Nollywood has surprisingly flown under the radar compared to its Indian counterpart. Intrigued by how such an industry, which pumps out films at a higher volume than Hollywood, can amass a dedicated international following, Jimmy Goes to Nollywood attempts to uncover the roots of Nollywood’s appeal. What the film uncovers is a cinema loving world where everyone truly does have a story to tell.
Filmed while he was in Lagos to host the Africa Movie Academy Awards (AMAA), the majority of the production follows Haitian-born actor Jimmy Jean Louis (Heroes Reborn, Joy), who co-directed the film with Rachid Dhibou, as he explores the ins and outs of Nollywood. Speaking with those connected to the industry such as Majid Michel, Ebbe Bassey, Ama Abebrese, Tony Abulu, Hakeem Kae-Kazim and even American actor Isaiah Washington, in Nigeria to star in a Nollywood production, Jean Louis paints a picture of a culture where the passion for film knows no boundaries.
Cultivating a mentality where literally anyone with a camera, for better or worse, can make a movie, Nollywood has flourished partly due to its do-it-yourself spirit. Known for their ten minute long takes, shoddy camera work, over-the-top acting, and guerrilla style approach to filmmaking, Nollywood has managed to defy the odds and strike a chord with both the impoverished and affluent alike. Considering the growing popularity of Nollywood films, Jimmy Goes to Nollywood ponders if it is time to take the industry to the next level?
Several of the folks Jean Louis interviews mention the need for better distribution and more focus on quality over quantity. As is noted in the film, anyone can operate a camera, but only a select few truly understand the intricacies of visual storytelling and nuanced performances. The issue of piracy is also a point of discussion in the film as not even Nollywood can evade it. Bootleg copies of films can be found on numerous street corners in Nigeria mere hours after hitting theatres.
Jimmy Goes to Nollywood does a solid job of offering a well-rounded introduction into vibrant world of Nollywood. The film does not delve as deeply as it could have, but Jean Louis and Dhibou can be forgiven considering how many topics they squeeze into the film’s brief running time. One area where the film struggles though is in its visual presentation. By partly embracing the handheld camera aesthetics of a Nollywood production, at times, the documentary does not always separate itself creatively from its subject matter.
Thankfully there is enough substance within Jimmy Goes to Nollywood to fuel the causal viewer’s interest in exploring the rich and eccentric waters of Nollywood.
Sunday, February 14, 5:00 PM, Carlton Cinema
Tickets can be purchased at the Toronto Black Film Festival website.