These are prodigal times for Nollywood. Twenty years after bursting from the grungy street markets of Lagos, it has become the world’s third-largest movie industry after Hollywood and Bollywood, offering dramatic proof of the democratic potential of technology.
Hastily shot on digital cameras, Nollywood movies generally appear on video CDs, a low-resolution alternative to DVDs. They are seldom seen in the developed world, but all over Africa, consumers hungry for familiar stories watch avidly, snapping up the latest releases from their local video peddlers, usually for a dollar or two.
All those small sales add up to something truly extraordinary: a creative industry out of a continent where economies usually depend on extracting natural resources or charity. The World Bank estimates that Nollywood is now a $500 million business, and one of Nigeria’s largest sources of private sector employment.
Walls around Lagos are plastered with posters reading “Actors/Actresses Wanted.” The famous faces of the industry are everywhere, from billboards to glossy tabloids filled with pictures of red carpet events. They are figures of glamorous aspiration for a public that often languishes in depressing conditions.