Nollywood has indeed made progress in some areas, said Taiwo, but in other areas it has remained backward.
Absolutely, said Ogbuagu. But of course Nollywood runs in at least two streams, I said. The Yoruba-dominant, and the Igbo-dominant. The Yoruba stream is the older, and still the saner of the two.
Why do you say that, O.J.,? asked Taiwo.
Well, the Yoruba stream has seen the sense in conserving the language, whereas the Igbo stream has abandoned it.
That’s right, said Ogbuagu. Yoruba characters, regardless of education or social class, whether in the village or in the city, usually speak Yoruba. Their words are then rendered in translation in subtitles for the benefit of non-Yoruba.
Meaning the subtitles can be in English, French, Urhobo, Tivi, Swahili, Zulu, Wolof, Chinese or any number of languages. Alternatively, the sound can be dubbed in to suit any language-audience. That way, every movie can reach as global an audience as it could possibly wish.
On the other hand, Igbo-Nollywood seem to believe they are being modern and progressive by speaking all-English all the way, when in fact they are back-assward.
I don’t think you’re entirely right, said Taiwo. I remember seeing several Igbo movies set in the village, and they spoke Igbo.
But you don’t know Igbo, I reminded him.
O yes I do. Kedu? Odi mma. Da-alo!
I laughed so hard my stomach hurt. Ogbuagu was rolling on the floor, trust me.
Man, why are you laughing? protested Taiwo. At least I know Igbo when I hear it.
Taiwo, I said, this is why I like you “but this is why I don’t like you. Your Igbo is as bad as my Yoruba. Better actually. You know three words of Igbo; I know only two of Yoruba.
Shame on you, O.J.! Now none of us three could stop laughing.
This is serious, I spluttered, finally. But anyway, you have a point, Taiwo. But that was back in the early days when they still spoke Igbo in the village movies. These days it’s pidgin all the way except for an occasional exclamation or abuse in Igbo thrown in for comic relief.
It certainly is, said Ogbuagu. But you know what, Igbo-Nollywood has minimised their obsession with witchcraft; and the village setting itself remains authentic”about the only thing that remains authentic in Igbo-Nollywood. The urban settings are all fake.
Yes, said Taiwo. I notice that the urban setting is always clean, well-paved streets, no stinking open gutters, no bad roads, no go-slow, no okada or keke marua, none of the familiar no-light-no-water.
Invariably the urban setting is some never-never land, certainly not Nigeria.
Probably Abuja, which is not the Nigeria we know.
There are never any crowds, no pedestrians, none of the artisan poor. The place is a ghost town, cold and deserted like some oyibo suburb.
And the leading characters are always fine looking young men and women, spoilt, bratty wazzup types, with no visible means of livelihood “but they have lots of money, drive fancy cars, and live in gorgeously furnished mansions.
But again, their homes are empty. No children, no extended family, no servants, none of the messy realities of living, only a lone megard who cowers comically before the fury of his oga.
Their parents, the older generation, who are invariably cast in supporting roles, are just as unreal. They are wealthy, but you get no sense of the source of their wealth. When they are shown in their office or place of business, there is nothing to show what line of business they are in.
Well, occasionally they try “but it comes off all wrong. Like the lawyer’s office with a pile of shiny, fresh minted little books stacked on top of one another on a side table. A proper lawyer’s office would be lined wall to wall with old musty tomes standing upright on bookshelves row upon row.
Well, when you think of it, none of this is especially surprising. Nigeria is living an ostrich-dream. The wealthy dominate. No one wants to enquire too closely as to the source of their wealth. There is no middleclass worth mentioning: there’s only the rich or super-rich, and the poor. The poor are treated as of no consequence “so why showcase them and their problems in movies? Or are you trying to cause trouble? No need tweaking a leopard’s tail if all you will do is run.
In any case, Nigeria is a consumer society. Nothing much is being produced “except perhaps some agriculture in the north. Nothing is being manufactured. Everything is imported. So you really can’t expect movies showing people seriously at work producing something. If Nollywood is a mirror showing Nigeria as it is, then it has to choose between showing either extreme leisure or extreme suffering. And, so far, its choice is clear . . . .