I almost feel as though this week’s screenings and readings should occupy two posts, but since I only want to write one (haha), I thought I’d focus on the actual production of Nollywood film in relation to our past discussions on Nigerian literature. Going all the way back to Griswold, and the “simultaneously global and local” production of the novel, we discussed the ways in which the appropriation of an ostensibly English form and language in many ways lent to two separate formulations of the novel: one internal to Nigeria and meant for Nigerian audiences, and the other external to Nigeria and meant for Western audiences. Importantly, too, this distinction led to either Jameson and the national allegory, or to works we’ve read that were harder to imagine along this understanding. We end up with Achebe in one hand and Abani in the other, for instance.
Nollywood films, at first, seem to follow this distinction. Whether American Westerns or Indian Bollywood films, film came into Nigeria, was watched and enjoyed, and influenced (and I think strongly) the production of Nollywood films. Yet, where is the “distinctively African” Nollywood film, adored and absorbed into the West? Indeed, according to Haynes, “Nigeria has hardly ever exported its audiovisual culture” (5). But, Haynes’ assertion that this lack of externality is largely due to the workings of British colonialism, it is certainly not true in light of Nigerian literature. That is, Nollywood films are at least as hybrid and multifaceted as their literary counterparts, and adopt many of the tropes of their Western counterparts (did anyone else catch the Bryan Adams instrumental in Emotional Crack? Awful, but fascinating!), but these films are clearly not being consumed as much by Western viewers. Instead, it seems more like Nollywood films are adapted screenplays of Onitsha pamphlets, notably didactic (the term in This is Nollywood was “edutainment”), and for particularly local consumption.
What are we to do with this? Haynes seems to find his answer in the “popular art” aesthetic, “cultural forms that occupy an indeterminate space between the traditional and the modern-elite,” but I wonder if this is sufficient (13). For instance, Dr. Green-Simms points out, even though “Nollywood is an unofficial art,” following the description of “popular art”, “it is still one that is subject to official oversight” (35). This oversight makes it very much unlike market literature, even as directors and producers, at their peril, subvert the restrictions of censors. Furthermore, oversight and censorship makes it harder to distinguish Nollywood as something like “authentic” or “allegorical.” Emotional Crack seems to tackle this strange ambivalence directly, particularly because the two parts are so, surprisingly, different. The first is, for lack of a better analogy, very much like a made for TV (say, Lifetime) film we’d see here. It challenges some normative structures and buttresses some others, but generally, I think, is not something wholly alien to a Western audience. The second, on the other hand, rapidly switches into the kinds of issues others have discussed below, which, it seems, are wholly Nigerian. The point is, how are we situating this film in relation to the works we’ve read? Is this, too, a national allegory, or problematic for similar reasons as other works? Is it an emergent form?