Lagos, Nigeria, a city of 15 million people, is the capital of contemporary African cinema. Since 1992, with the popular success of Living in Bondage, a film in which the Nigerian elite use black magic to maintain their social and financial prestige, the Nigerian movie industry (christened Nollywood) has become the third largest in the world after Hollywood and Bollywood. In this exploding market for locally made home videos, Nigerian filmmakers cast, shoot and sell films at lightning speed in the heart of Lagos. A truly populist cinema, Nollywood produces up to 2,000 films a year, reaching African audiences throughout the continent and the world.
Nollywood Babylon demonstrates the power of cinema to speak to and create a social identity. According to filmmakers Ben Addelman and Samir Mallal, the themes of these films "reflect the collision of traditional mysticism and modern culture." The films temper frightening, ecstatic visions of cult practices and witchcraft with redemptive Christian endings that seek to reconcile their deep contradictions. Despite this sensationalism, Addelman and Mallal show how these films deal with the defining conflicts of African life, and hone in on the profound, universal human struggles contained within the films’ melodramatic excess. Addelman and Mallal take the viewer into the complex world of Nigerian cinema in this captivating documentary, and leave us with the feeling that we are on the brink of a truly immortal Nigerian cinema. The Great African Film will come out of this movement.
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