Following a major break for Nigerian and African Cinema with Netflix’s acquisition of Nollywood superstar Genevieve Nnaji’s directorial debut Lionheart after its premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF), the streaming giant has emphasized its desire to branch further into the African continent with more original stories in 2019.
Nnaji’s Lionheart made a record by being the first Original content to be acquired by Netflix, although some Nigerian movies who received theatrical runs such as Kemi Adetiba’s record breaking The Wedding Party are also available for viewing. Another original by a Nigerian acquired by the streaming service which has creators such as Kenya Barris (Blackish, Grownish), Shonda Rhimes (Scandal, Grey’s Anatomy) and Ryan Murphy (American Horror Story, Glee), is British-Nigerian director Chiwetel Ejiofor’s directorial debut The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind.
With original content from Asia, Europe and Latin America, Netflix has expressed immense interest in exploring authentic African stories in form of movies and serial shows in 2019. This was announced by the company’s Vice President of International Originals, Erik Barmack. Barmack was noted as saying, “We are in process of looking at opportunities in Africa. It’s definitely the case that we’ll commission some series there in 2019. There’s going to be a time when half of the top ten most watched shows in a given year are going to come from outside of the US. I don’t think that’s actually very far away. I think that’s going to come in years, not decades.”
Set to premiere Jinn in 2019, Netflix is also expanding to the Arabian market. With more and more subscribers viewing non English shows such as Elite and Narcos, this comes at the right time for one of entertainment’s major player.
However, with great power or in this situation “investment” comes great responsibility. As the international community looks to our continent with Nigeria being the main focus, for entertaining content, it’s about time we up the ante in terms of the quality of our stories.
Nollywood has contracted the sickness of “if it’s not broke, why fix it?” which is evident in the slew of unfunny romantic comedies that the industry churns out monthly with the same rotation of faces. To really measure up to the international market, it will be imperative for not just technological advancement, but creative advancement too.