Tension rises between Nollywood and Ghollywood


In August 2012, a new stage in the worsening of the relations between Nollywood and Ghollywood was reached: Nigeria is to impose an embargo on Ghanaian films. The gap is widening between these two pillars of the African film industry.

New tensions have been raised between the Nigerian and Ghanaian film industry: the Film, Video Producers and Marketers Association of Nigeria (FVPMAN) announced an embargo on Ghanaian film starting in August 2012. Uzo Godson Nwosu, chairman of the association, said he was reacting to the ban on Nigerian films in Ghana, which has been effective for a long time. Ghanaian films will no longer be able be able to be shown freely in Nigeria – they must first of all be vetted by the commission set up by the association.

Both governments have been continually and vociferously claiming that their respective film industries have been the victim of sabotage by the neighbouring country. The dispute started in June 2010 when Ghana decided to levy a tax of €1,000 on Nigerian actors who wanted to play roles in films made in the country, on the pretext that Nigerian stars were preventing stars from Ghana from emerging. Nigeria hit back immediately and imposed a tax of $2,000 for Ghanaian actors who wanted to work for Nollywood.

These tensions developed as the Nigerian film industry started to assert is position on the international scene – an endeavour encouraged by the “New Nigerian Cinema”, “the whole point of [which] is to put a proper structure in place [...] concentrating on distribution, on developing talent, and getting international recognition” according to Wale Ojo, the Nigerian actor behind this movement[+].

The FVPMAN also follows this trend. It declared, when it announced the embargo, that it no longer wished to distribute films made by amateurs. It is also trying to set up a system of visa distribution and therefore classification for films in Nigeria, thereby taking one step closer to attaining international/Hollywood standards.

This embargo looks like a way for Nollywood to move away from its reputation for bad quality. Indeed, subject to very high profitability demands, Nollywood production does not let itself to bothering with “technical or aesthetic subtleties”, dominated by distributors “just after a quick profit”. To improve its reputationit must increase the quality of its films, and stand out from its main competitor: Ghollywood (or Ghallywood)[+]. Indeed, films from these two countries are often linked in the minds of world and pan-African distributors, who offer, via websites such as nigerianfolks.com and naijapals.com, the streaming of films from both countries. 

This attempt to go into opposition and to stand out from its neighbours comes after more than ten years of collaboration. At the beginning, the film industries in both countries were built on the same model. Ghollywood and Nollywood became successful together on the coast of the Gulf of Guinea. The film industry in Ghana was set up in the 1980s, but it was not until the success of Nollywood in the 1990s that it really picked up. First of all, many Ghanaian actors took advantage of the Nollywood boom to find their way into Nigerian productions. Then Ghana decided to launch its own industry and used a large number of Nigerian stars to promote its first films. It is now commonplace for actors and film-makers from both countries to go from producing a film in Nollywood to one in Ghollywood. Jackie Appiah, Van Vicker, Nadia Buari, Majid Mikel are Ghanaian actors, very well-known in Nigeria, who work as much in Nollywood as in Ghollywood.

This formula worked well. At the 2012 African Movie Academy Awards (AMAA), Nigeria received 52 nominations, South Africa 45 and Ghana 17. Adesuwa, which was awarded second place in the Best Film category, included both Nigerian and Ghanaian actors (including Koffi Adjorlolo). Likewise, the Ghanaian film awarded sixth position in the same category had a cast made up of both nationalities, notably two stars from Nollywood, Ebbe Bassey and Omotola Jolade Ekeinde.

The professional circles are able to interlink in such a way because these two industries have a similar production environment. Nigeria, with its abundant production, holds the world record for the number of videos produced per year (between 1,500 and 1,800). For its part, the Ghanaian industry is following the footsteps of its role model with around 150 films produced per month in 2011). 

The stakes are high for this industry which, although not very profitable, given the number of films made, forms an important market for Nigeria. In 2009, with a national market of 160 million inhabitants, the total Nollywood turnover was estimated to be $300 million. The sector provides a livelihood for between 200,000 and 300,000 people. Another issue is that pan-African and international production is gaining in importance, particularly thanks to the development of the Internet. Potentially, the whole of Africa and the African diaspora are targeted by these productions[+]. The takings are becoming even higher, following the example of global successes from South Africa like Totsi[+], and increasingly tough competition.

Despite this competition, most of those working in the film industry in the two countries deplore the dispute and are calling for a return to more peaceful relations, as depending on each other could be more of a strength than a weakness for the development of the African film industry.