The Nigerian video film has emerged a strong element of Nigeria’s popular culture. It has established for itself the unique characteristic ability to meet the entertainment and educational needs of the cross spectrum of the Nigerian society. It is patronized by the honorable members of the National Assembly.
Members of the executive and by the low peasantry class in rural Nigeria. Nigerian home video has also become a huge export of Nigeria’s popular culture. However not all scholars and analysts can recall the evolution of Nigerian video film and the historical and cultural elements that shape its current form. The home video has emerged as a very powerful and popular medium of communication in Nigeria. But in spite of this huge popularity, not many analysts understand the historical complexities that have shaped its current form and structure. Issues like the hugely debated distribution patterns and other policy Issues. An examination of the history and origin of the Nigerian home video can without doubt lead us to its current reality or the reality that it aspires to project. This chapter therefore looks at the historical origins of Nigerian video film as a way of putting in focus and proper perspective its current challenges and future direction.
The origin of Film Industry
The history of the film industry in Nigeria could be traced to the pre-independence era. The first film (not video film) was exhibited in August 1903 at the Clover Memorial hall Lagos.
According to Alfred Opubor and Onoura Nwuneli (1979:2), “The medium of film was itself new in those days, and still technically in its infancy. Content was largely documentary. The first showings in Lagos, according to the Lagos Standard, included scenes of a steamer moving through water, shown with the vividness of life, and scenes of the coronation of King Edward VII in 1904. One of these newsreel also presented a brief glimpse of the Alake of Abeokuta, a Yoruba king of western Nigeria during a visit he made to England.
Hyginus Ekwuazi (2001: 4) records that, colonialism privileged the documentary film, but in this case, the films were made from the political-economic imperative of fostering cohesion and orientation within the colonial framework. He adds that in the early films, the colonized i.e. the indigenes functioned in only minor roles and that colonial cinema failed to achieve any meaningful transfer of technology. Alfred Opubor and Nwueli (1979) record that in 1947, a Federal Film Unit was established by the colonial administration, and most of the films coming in then were supplied by the central office of information in London. They note that the unit produced only documentary films and newsreel, and that though film production was not really encouraged, the colonial office of information made sure the documentaries produced by the Post Office unit in London were given sufficient distribution through the British Council and such other bodies like the Church Missionary Society (CMS) in Nigeria. They record that school premises, village halls, open spaces, civic centers, proved to be adequate theatres for the screening of the films; this was complimented with mobile film units – van, a 16mm projector, a reel of 16mm and a
The Era of Video Film
Regarding the history of Nigerian video film, there are several accounts of the origin of the video-film industry in Nigeria. While some attribute it to Kenneth Nnebue and his video Living in Bondage (1992) others say it began with the disagreements between two producers, Amaka Igwe and Zeb Ejiro, with NTA, which led to the, withdrawal of their programmes from the station. During this same period there was a big influx of VHS and BETACAM tapes into Nigeria, and having been denied the option of airing their programmes on the NTA the duo found the VHS and BETACAM tapes a veritable source of sending
out and selling their progammes, hence the arrival of the home video industry. Other accounts say Jide Kosoko and Bello Salami, started the revolution, when following decline in viewership of their Yoruba drama shows they found the video format as avenue to sell their art.
The Future of Nigerian Video In projecting a future direction for the Nigerian video film, Hyginus Ekwuazi (2005:35) states that film should recognize that the nation, is a continuous project, a project always in the making always interrogating governance and citizenship and scripting social positions for the viewer or reader. He notes that it may be used to dictate views and positions and could also be used as part of social transformation in which the oppressed express their problems and grievances. Films therefore should play more than passive roles in the ideological, perceptional and socio-political concerns of government in its relationship with the people. It is in this light that Reuben Abati (2005:4) states that it should be clear that the definition of the challenge of a philosophy for film and television in Nigeria is inextricably linked to the prevailing philosophy of governance and the existence of a national consensus, above politics and all forms of diversity which govern the Nigerian character, the citizens sense of identity and his understanding of his place in the world.