restricted access Nollywood Confidential: The unlikely rise of Nigerian video film

When the oil boom went bust, so did the rest of Nigeria’s economy—it seemed as if the country’s once-flourishing cinema culture would be among the casualties. Filmmakers couldn’t afford to buy film stock from abroad; bankrupt theaters shut down for good. But thanks to a revolution in consumer electronics, West Africa’s answer to Hollywood (and Bombay) is bigger than ever. These days, Nigerians are going straight-to-video. Their movies sport sensational plots, hamfisted acting, and outrageous stereotypes—is it any surprise they’re selling by the million?

Some critics bemoan the eclipse of Africa’s high-art cinema. Others hail the birth of a new African popular culture. John C. McCall reports on black-market movies and the politics of pulp.