Franco Sacchi is a journalist and documentary filmmaker. Born in Zambia and Italian by nationality, he currently lives in Boston, where he is a filmmaker-in-residence at the Center of Digital Imaging Arts at Boston University. In 2007, he directed and co-produced a documentary about Nollywood. "This Is Nollywood" won the Audience Award at the Abuja International Film Festival in Nigeria. Since then he has launched the Nollywood Workshops to help African filmmakers improve their craft and connect with others from around the world through webinars and workshops conducted in Lagos.
The 18 year-old, $250 million Nigerian film industry produces some 2,000 movies a year--a number that puts Lagos in a league with Mumbai and Los Angeles. But in Nollywood, unlike Bollywood or Hollywood, movies can cost as little as $10,000 to make and take barely a week to shoot. The films are straight-to-VCR, VCD or DVD and cost around $1.60 a piece, though they can be rented for a fifth of that price and are also shown on satellite television. While their quality of acting and production may appear lacking when compared to the products of other film industries, Nollywood movies are avidly consumed throughout Nigeria, across Africa and beyond.
It is difficult to articulate the surprise and delight I felt when I first discovered Nollywood. Here was the third-largest movie industry in the world, exploding all over Africa, with Nigeria as the epicenter of the revolution. It had all the qualities of an authentic, grassroots movement. Even today, it feels like a full-blown insurgency--an eruption of energy and creativity. Some have compared the Nigerian video industry to the "informal sector" in African manufacturing, but Nollywood goes far beyond that. The spirit of Nollywood is resilient, fiercely independent and contagious. Nigerian filmmakers are intensely aware that they have created Nollywood against all odds, in the midst of a devastating economic collapse and without the financial support of their government or foreign investors.
As a filmmaker, the story of Nollywood seemed simply irresistible. Nollywood provides a unique opportunity to show what every storyteller has in common with African filmmakers. It became immediately clear that the founding fathers of Nollywood had the same ambitions that every filmmaker has. They want to tell stories that relate to their audiences and breathe life into their characters. However, their immediate objective is to reach an...