NollywoodWeek Paris: Nigerian film-makers look to a new opportunity for expansion with francophone audiences of 300 m

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Nigeria’s movie industry has attracted interest not only in Africa but also throughout the world. It employs about 250.000 people and represents about 7 % of the country’s GDP. Nollywood generates close to 500 millions Euros per year. Today, Nigeria’s cinema industry is slowly entering the world's film markets and the festivals. 

Sylvain Béletre, correspondent at Balancing Act attended the first Nigerian film festival in France and interviewed Serge Noukoué, co-Founder/Executive Director of NollywoodWeek Paris 2013, an annual event dedicated to showcasing the best of Nollywood to a French-speaking audience. This first edition gathered around 1500 spectators from around the world.

Q. Why did you choose Paris for the festival?

A. Because Paris is a cinema capital and has one of the largest numbers of cinema theatres in the World. It also has a large population of film lovers.

Q. What are the objectives of the festival?

A. NollywoodWeek Paris was set up in order to foster Nollywood distribution opportunities in the Francophone regions and in further markets. We screen some of the most popular Nigerian films from last year to raise international awareness.

There are two sides to the event: raise awareness among the public and attract professionals to clinch distribution and investment deals. On the professional front, the debate that took place here highlighted the challenges and what can be done to share films with the widest audience. Professionals were invited so that they can fund, co-produce, broadcast and distribute Nollywood films in France and further out.

We want to become one of the marketing platforms of Nollywood in Europe. Marketing Nollywood better and setting up international cooperation really is what the Nigerian film industry needs right now.

Q.Who did you invite over this edition?

A.We invited key players who made Nollywood what it is today. La ‘crème de la crème’ came to interact with film professionals in Paris.

Q.How can the public attend your festival?

A.We set up “Le Pass Nollywoodien” – a festival pass which gives you access to all the films from Thursday May 30 to Sunday June 2 for 39,90 €. We also set up a special professional pass priced at 50 € that provides entry to the private professional networking event and the screenings. Professional had to first register online.

Q. What were the challenges of this first festival edition?

A.I guess that it was hard to get sponsorship, but we had no difficulty getting the backing of major media houses. Potential sponsors were hesitant to invest since this was the first edition and since Nollywood is not yet big in France.

Q. How would you define Nollywood today vs. Hollywood or Bollywood?

A.Nollywood is younger than Hollywood or Bollywood (born circa 1992) and uses innovative forms of financing and production. Now it is in adulthood, bigger productions and studio backings have become more regular however this was not always the case.

Although movie theatres were a scarcity in Nigeria during this period, original stories were not. Despite lack of funds and experience, self-made directors began using commercial video cameras to shoot their movies and sold them on formats for home viewing.

Even though this resulted in movies with low production value, the original stories instantly made them a hit. Today, the film industry is the largest employer after agriculture and makes up 5 to 7% of Nigeria’s GDP. Nigerian movies now make up 11% of Nigeria’s non-oil exports! The average movie is produced in a span of 7-10 days on an average budget between 7,000-20,000€ whereas Hollywood’s average is around 60€ million per movie with one year production time.

Distribution generate between 50,000 and 200,000 legal sales. However just like the quality of films, budgets too have increased and we now see Nollywood films with budgets of US# 400,000 and even more.

Q. Why is the Nollywood film industry so financially powerful?

A. Because Nigeria is a large market and because Nollywood has created a lot of jobs. The industry has a star system with a few well-paid producers, distributors and actors. The other reason is that Nollywood films have sold across Africa and outside of the continent to the African Diaspora and to other audiences.

Q. Why were the films screened at the festival subtitled?

A. To keep the authenticity of each film.

Q. Do you think Nollywood films will please the French audience?

A. I am convinced that Nollywood film will please to the French audience because those films are still unknown and they tell universal stories.

Q. Will you run the festival again in 2014?

A.That is the plan and it should be easier next year given the success of this year’s edition. We have proven that we can attract all the key players, present interesting debates and facilitate networking, screen films on time and within perfect conditions. In addition, most attendees said that they have enjoyed the festival’s great atmosphere. We can replicate the festival in other locations. We want to show 2013’s best Nigerian films in 2014.

Above: Serge Noukoué, -Co-Founder/Executive Director of NollywoodWeek Paris 2013.

Professional debates at the Festival highlighted things that have to change. Questions were raised regarding distribution channels, coproductions opportunities, dubbing vs. subtitling and inevitably film funding.

Over the morning session dedicated to professional interactions, some filmmakers and producers expressed an interest in getting their films further translated/dubbed or subtitled in other languages like French. But professionals warned against films ‘lost in translation’ although many highlighted that only dubbing rather than sub-titling will allow vast public awareness.

One of the issues to international sales is that most films from Nigeria do not have a separate background soundtrack which makes them more difficult to translate. A Nigerian producer responded that the industry has taken measures to try and change this process in the future. Other issues include piracy, a weak public communication strategy, limited strategic planning and lack of access to mainstream distribution channels.

Nollywood films are good at conveying the ideas, emotions, cultures and the image of Nigeria and more broadly, Africa. Today, a more mature Nollywood industry is taking advantages of enhanced design, digital technologies such as social media or video platforms and events such as this one.

In the more developed countries of Africa, smartphones are selling like ‘cigarettes’ among the middle class and mobile brandband internet access is gaining traction allowing to view videos and access social media on the move. For example, according to ‘the media online’, 90% of South African Facebook users access the social networking site through their mobile phone in South Africa.

Nollywood is already popular in France but mainly among the sub-Saharan African diaspora. The average French person knows almost nothing about Nigeria, but a new channel, ‘Nollywood TV’, was launched by Thema TV in cooperation with Mnet as part of a premium payTV ‘Bouquet Africain’ reaching about 140 000 households in France through various local operators. The bouquet is now relayed in Francophone Africa via CanalSat.

At the end of May 2013, thanks to an agreement between Thema and GlobeCast, MyGlobeTV added 14 French-African TV channels to its package in the USA. ‘Barbès’, Château d’Eau’ and ‘Château Rouge’ areas in Paris have shops with DVDs from Nigeria and West Africa. Some Nigerian films are also accessible on the internet via VoD platforms such as iRoko, YouTube, etc.

It has never been a better time for high quality dubbed Nollywood films to get on mainstream distribution channels in Francophone countries because Nollywood is a still curiosity when put against. traditional US and European films and because this market has a lot of film lovers. French is estimated as having 110 million native speakers (source: CEFAN) and 190 million more second language speakers, making up a total market of about 300 million speakers.

Showing Nollywood films could be a way for Western cinema theatres and TV channels to differentiate their content offer and find new growth segments. This is what the organisers of the film festival are hoping to encourage.

However a few African film players present over the event said that they are not in favour of going onto mainstream global media and prefer to focus on their local market and distribute their own way so that they can keep control of their content. A clear choice will have to be made.

This year’s edition is the first Nigerian (Nollywood) film festival in France with 7 of some of the best Nollywod films selected. It took place one week after Cannes’ festival. The event started on Thursday May 30th. with an opening night launch party and ended Sunday June 2nd. 2013 with a closing ceremony featuring the film voted best feature by the public.

Large demand from the spectators and directors alike have been made for a second edition. The festival organizers have already started working on plans to make it bigger and better in 2014 and are seeking strategic partnerships with interested corporations. More info at

Here is the list of screened movies during the event:

1. Phone Swap – Kunle Afolayan (winner of the festival)

2. Maami – Tunde Kelani
See video interview:

3. Inalé – Jeta Amata

4. Tango with Me – Mahmood Ali-Balogun
See video interview:

5. Ijé – Chineze Anyaene

6. Man on Ground – Akin Omotoso

7. Last Flight to Abuja – Obi Emelonye
See video interview:

NollywoodWeek took place in the heart of Paris at ‘L’Arlequin’ cinema Theatre, right between the Latin Quarter and Montparnasse on Paris’ Left Bank.
French, Nigerian and other International guests recognised the professionalism of the event and looked forward to attending next year’s edition.

For this first edition, the organisers of NollywoodWeek Paris have generated some sponsorships including a deal with Total, and they organised an IndieGoGo campaign to gather some last minute funds. NollywoodWeek Paris now needs sponsors and donations for a successful edition next year.

Film trailers and more details here.

Above: Sylvain Béletre, correspondent at Balancing Act.

Watch videos from the event listed below:

NEW VIDEOS: Nollywood Special

In English:
Conference: The future of Nollywood - film export
The future of Nollywood – by Moradewun Adejnmobi
The new wave of Nollywood films – by Clémentine at Thema TV

Debate at NollywoodWeek Paris: film export and translation:
Dubbing Nollywood Films
Dubbing Nollywood films cont
Nollywood Week Paris Festival
Translating Nollywood Films
Translating Nollywood Films cont
Conference 'Nollywood'

NollywoodWeek Paris: Film Festival – Music and Pictures from the event
NollywoodWeek Paris film festival - opening atmosphere

In French:
NollywoodWeek Paris Film Festival: introduction (in French)
L'avenir de Nollywood - Prof. Moradewun Adejnmobi
La nouvelle vague des films de Nollywood – Clémentine de Thema TV
NollywoodWeek Paris film festival – ambiance


Other new video clip briefings for you this week:

Successful South African films:
Helen Kuun, Indigenous Media Distribution on her 2 hits of 2012 & 3 promising new releases in 2013

Impact of online viewing on cinema-going:
Helen Kuun on putting films on South Africa's iTunes and its impact on cinema-going

The Box Office and Critical Success of Otelo Burning:
Sara Blecher on how Otelo Burning came to be made and its reception in South Africa and elsewhere

Sara Blecher’s new film project:
Sara Blecher on her new film about a women entrepreneur in Joburg's African district, Yeoville

South African horror film from the townships:

Pascal Schmitz on South African horror film Blood Tokoloshe

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