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B Side, Film

We Need A Break From Lagos in Nollywood Films

There are  places other than the city of Lagos that can be explored in Nollywood films.

  • Fancy Goodman
  • 15th March 2023
A collage of some of the bridges in the city of Lagos

Many Nollywood films are set in the city of Lagos, which is no surprise, as Lagos is the entertainment capital of Nigeria. A lot of attention is paid to the city, but that is no excuse to have our films limited to that part of the country. Nigeria has thirty six states, which makes one wonder why majority of the films that the industry puts out revolve around only one state. “Kannywood” (the Hausa-language cinema of Nollywood) makes films that are set outside Lagos, and the Igbo-language cinema also makes epics that are set in the eastern part of Nigeria. However, many mainstream films don’t seem to have any other suitable setting for their films besides the metropolitan city of Lagos.


Though the other thirty-five states in Nigeria are under-represented in mainstream Nollywood, some selected films stand out from the list of Lagos-focused films. For instance, Kunle Afolayan’s October 1 (2014) is set in a remote town in Western Nigeria, and his 2022 film Anikulapo is set in Oyo. Desmond Ovbiagele’s The Milkmaid (2020) and Tope Oshin’s Up North (2018) are set in the northern part of Nigeria. Genevieve’s Lionheart (2018) is set in Eastern Nigeria; and Taiwo Egunjobi’s All Na Vibes (2021) is set in Ibadan, far away from the shininess that comes with what we have identified Lagos to be. We long for more films like these, but even films set outside the city sometimes look for a way to chip it into the story. The recent Here Love Lies (2023) is an example: despite its second half being set in New York, the film begins in Lagos. 


It is no news that the insecurity that plagues some parts of Nigeria poses a problem for filmmakers that would like to shoot their films in these places. It might be easy to shoot in Lagos compared to other parts of the country, but that does not mean Lagos should be forced down our throats in films. Films don’t have to be set in a place that actually exists, and this is why many films are called works of fiction. For instance, though Eleshin Oba, The King’s Horseman was shot in Lagos, the film is set in Oyo Town. As a matter of fact, this is one of the reasons that big western studios build sets and stages where their films are shot. Nollywood filmmakers might find this difficult to achieve this due to financial restraints, but there are ways to shoot in Lagos without the film being set in Lagos. 


Films and series such as Brotherhood, A Sunday Affair, King of Boys, Shanty Town, Far From Home, Wura, Breaded Life, Collision Course, Elevator Baby, Isoken, Battle on Buka Street, and  Jolly Roger are all set in Lagos. No wonder some people say that Lagos is a character in many Nollywood films, and is the most underrated star in these films. In addition, Author Jonathan Haynes says, “there is a postmodernist-inflected celebration of the coping mechanisms and creative forms of self-organization of a population whose ability to survive contradicts ordinary common sense, accompanied by an argument about the inability of conventional modes of understanding to explain what permits this survival”. He goes on to refer to Nollywood as the “Lagos-based Nigerian film industry”


Many Nollywood filmmakers would allude to the fact that Lagos is pregnant with stories. In a recent interview, Babatunde Apalowo reveals that the city inspired his film All The Colours of The World Are Between Black and White. So, it is understandable that many films have the city woven into the core fabric of the story. However, there are many stories outside Lagos that are yet to be explored. 


There is more to Nigerian stories than aerial shots of yellow buses, the Third Mainland Bridge, the Lekki-Ikoyi Link Bridge and the statue of three white-cap leaders in Lagos. Hopefully, the Nigerian and global audience would not get tired of waiting for these stories to be told.

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