YouTube as a Digital Reservoir for Nollywood Classics
In a time when DVD and VHS players have become obsolete, YouTube has assumed the unexpected role of safe-keeping and disseminating Nollywood classics.
●10th November 2023
For most of the last decade, the Nigerian film industry; Nollywood, remained underestimated and harshly rated. Despite being the second largest film industry in the world, only coming after America’s Hollywood (and even the largest in some contexts), local fans have immemorially devalued its productions, by generally and stereotypically associating the industry with numerous flaws like mismatched character representations and role plays, low standards, reprocessed storylines, and explicit predictability. After all, the poor rural girl always marries the rich Prince, while a dubious death or madness is the final fate of every antagonist.
Gone are the days bragging rights came with not watching Nigerian-based films. Nollywood has gradually met up with modern standards, as the influences of the Western movie industries have become more visible in films directed today. With that, we see highly ranked movies every week with a Nigerian native title such as Anìkùlàpò, Mokalik, and the Northern Amina; or a big poster cover, featuring the likes of Tobi Bakre on international streaming platforms like Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Hulu, and HBO.
Today, Nollywood has evolved. But the young Nigerians who grew up during the mid/decline of the “Old Nollywood” era would agree that those days were golden; much so that they would take any chance that offers a revisit to the nostalgic cinematographic moments of then.
From the thrilling femme-fatale perception of the BlackBerry Babes to the mischievous and comedic antics of Aki and Paw Paw, the classic Nollywood era was the period of the Nigerian film industry around the late 20th century and early 2000s, which was characterized by low-budget production, humorous actions, and didactic plot lines.
These films merged entertainment with the everyday experiences that Nigerians went through. The classic Nollywood era however collided with the boom of straight-to-video productions. Theatre houses were in decline at the time, and movies were produced as video films to be sold in the domestic market as VHS (Video Homes System) copies and DVD (Digital Versatile Disc) cassettes.
Although the movies were not as thrilling as we find them today, and videographers did not use brilliant modern camera angles, they were still made to serve a lifetime. With the application of astute expressiveness and an edge of realism, they told the stories of Nigerians in the exact way they would want them to be told. This explains why moments from these films have become famous social media memes. Not only are they very dramatic and unintentionally funny, but the actions highlight the exact manner an average Nigerian would react. Nollywood classics stayed popular because of their unique original storytelling, creativity, and accessibility.
These handles were created to cherish and start a resurgence of old Nollywood classics. Nolly Babes particularly was most famous, as it quickly transformed from the mere brainchild of two US-based Nigerian sisters, Tochi and Ebele Anueyiagu, to a global Instagram handle.
Intending to recollect their means of cultural connection, and express their love for the women of old Nollywood, these ladies shared styles, clips, and photos of films from the 90s, showcasing the Nigerian film industry of then.
Gradually, they started a new trend in Nigerian pop culture, as the “y2k” fashion style became rampant, and parties were thrown in appreciation of that period of Nollywood.
Then in 2020, during the pandemic isolation, some youths decided to revisit old Nollywood movies, as funny and relatable scenes took over social media. Particularly, the 2006 film, War Game, with a plot built on cultist activities in universities, became very famous at that time.
The main character, Terror the Archangel, cast by McMorris Ndubueze was the centre of public attraction, as his notorious confidence, ludicrous accent, and the familiar street slangs he frequently used was considered comic by fans.
Over time, a lot of remakes emerged of Old Nollywood films, like Ramsey Nouah’s 2019 record-breaking remake of the 1992 classic, Living in Bondage, the 2020 remake of the famous horror movie, Nneka the Pretty Serpent, and Funke Akindele’s Omo Ghetto: The Saga amongst many others.
As much as these movies are being glorified by this generation, it’s fair to say that the unsung hero in this preserved culture is the ubiquitous video-sharing platform, YouTube. In a time when DVD and VHS players have become obsolete, YouTube has assumed the unexpected role of safe-keeping and disseminating Nollywood classics.
Not only are they available for the nostalgic millennials and the uninformed Gen Zs, but they can also be assessed by international viewers, debunking the notion of a structureless Nigerian film industry before copying Hollywood-patterned productions became a thing.
With the existence of many YouTube channels like Nollywood Hits, Movies Web, Nollywood Stars TV, Nollywood Vintage TV, Nolly Great Movies, Nollywood Café,Simony Nollywood TV, and many others; a massive virtual community is progressively being formed to bridge the beautiful past and the swinging present. The simple interface and powerful search engine on YouTube also make discovering and digging up these classic movies very easy. Nevertheless, there are still some demerits of the relationship between both subjects, considering the occasional issues with copyrights and piracy.
Regardless of the relative gap between both ages, YouTube is a doorway into the cinematic jewels of the old Nollywood era. While maintaining this indispensable cultural legacy, a digital museum for these works of art is quietly being established to keep these movies as part of the worldwide cinematography dialogue.
The character of Osoufia might have existed about a decade ago, but the digital archives of YouTube have immortalized his odyssey in London.
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