However, this industry, like every other, has a birth story. Although theatre as it was commonly called in some parts of Nigeria can be traced to the 70s, it wasn’t until the 2000s that it became identifiable. In fact, it wasn’t until a New York Times reporter got on a call over a probably sumptuous plate of pepper soup and ice cold Gulder beer, that the name ‘Nollywood’ was christened.
Before the world, Nollywood’s birth story first knocked their doors when Norimitsu Onishi, a Japanese Canadian reporter wrote a bubbly piece on the growing Nigerian film industry with its hub in Surulere, Lagos. The article titled ‘Step Aside, L.A. and Bombay, for Nollywood’ was published on September 16, 2002 for The New York Times.
Interestingly, Onishi is no film critic, neither did he actively report film related events prior to his grand slide report on our film industry. The New York Times correspondent was simply covering West Africa and Lagos was his base when he stumbled on the diamond in the rough in the charming hustle and bustle of Surulere.
Since his famed Nollywood article, Onishi has gone ahead to win the Pulitzer prize for International reporting for his for coverage of Ebola epidemic that plagued West Africa in 2014.
18 years later
Onishi last reminisced on his brain child in 2016 where he expressed his excitement about the re-emergence of cinema and how “Nollywood was making movies and telling stories about Africans for Africans without the financial or editorial involvement of Westerners”.
Since Onishi’s article, Nollywood has done impressively well amidst its numerous challenges. 2 years after the 2002 piece, the industry experienced the rebirth of cinema by the South African owned Nu Metro cinema.
The ownership of the first cinema soon changed hands, leaving the likes of Kene Mkparu, Mary Ephraim, Ben Murray Bruce among others to navigate the tides to what it is now being celebrated for- a multi million Naira industry that has both local and international streamers falling over themselves for a chunk of its content.