Nollywood: Yemi Solade Denounces Regional ‘Woods’ and Advocates for Single Identity for Nigeria’s Film Industry
Over time, the Nollywood industry has witnessed a recurrent challenge — the categorization of films into regional subgroups. Despite accolades and recognition, acclaimed productions like Kunle Afolayan’s “Anikulapo” often find themselves labeled as Yoruba films. This divisive trend extends to films such as Femi Adebayo’s “King of Thieves” and the recently released “Jagun Jagun.”
Films like the EbonyLife’s “Son of the Caliphate” and Kayode Kasum’s “Afamefuna” – a film screened at the just concluded 2023 AFRIFF – are also not left out as they are termed a Northern film, and an Igbo film, respectively. These films, despite their diverse themes, have been subjected to regional tags, underrating the uniqueness of each film in portraying Nigeria’s rich culture across National frontiers.
In a recent interview with The Nollywood Reporter (TNR), veteran actor Yemi Solade rejected the idea of assigning regional labels to movies by Nigerian filmmakers, and he emerged as a vocal advocate for a unified Nollywood.
Solade firmly denied the existence of a distinct Yoruba film industry, stating, “There is no Yoruba film industry,” and he rebuffed the term “Yoruba actor” as a reflection of ignorance and illiteracy. He emphasized the need for thoughtful and precise descriptions, asserting, “If they can’t describe a person, they shouldn’t even start”.
Taking a broader stance, Solade decried terms like “Kannywood,” “Yorowood” and “Igbowood” as trivializing the diversity inherent in Nigerian cinema. He passionately endorsed the unifying term Nollywood, asserting, “There’s no Yoruba or Igbo film industry. We have Nollywood. That nomenclature has come. Whoever gave that name, we don’t know”.
Solade further delved into the global perspective, questioning the tendency to trivialize and ‘yeyenize’ aspects of the Nigerian film industry. He drew parallels with Hollywood and Bollywood, stating, “The biggest name in filmmaking is Hollywood, followed by Bollywood. Don’t they have tribes in America and India? They have all sorts of races in America. But they call what they do Hollywood films.”
Solade highlighted the need for a more unified and respectful approach to the industry’s identity, particularly considering Nigeria’s status as the most populous black nation globally.
In response to the persistent categorization challenges, Solade articulated, “The movie is what you watch. It’s not literary. It starts from the scripts obviously. But once you introduce the camera, it becomes almost like human. You give it flesh.” His insights underscore the dynamic nature of filmmaking and its departure from traditional literary categorizations.
Solade’s perspective raises pertinent questions about the evolution of the industry and its position on the global stage. Can Nollywood transcend regional divisions and present a unified front? The veteran actor’s call for accurate descriptions and a shared identity challenges industry stakeholders to rethink their approach and foster a more inclusive and cohesive Nollywood.