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Nollywood: Fighting the monster called piracy

Film News

Nollywood: Fighting the monster called piracy


L-R: Mahmoud Ali-Balogun, Gabriel Okoye with Kunle Afolayan


On the evening of last week Monday, news filtered into town that the well acclaimed film, ‘October 1’ produced by Kunle Afolayan, had been pirated and the pirated copies were billed to be released into the market.

“I got a call from Alaba saying they have bought the movie ‘October 1’ from the cinema and they have pirated it,” says Gabriel Okoye, ‘October 1’ marketer.

An agitated Afolayan took to Twitter to express his displeasure while Okoye, who has been given the distribution right to release original DVDs, was equally angry. Their anger is understandable, after investing more than N200 million in the film Afolayan says he is yet to realise N100 million.

Okoye, who says he has lost more than N450 million to piracy, seems to be the only one fighting the battle alone. He tells me he recently went on a confrontational battle with some policemen he hired to fight the pirates at Alaba International Market located in Lagos.

Nollywood, like most creative industry in Nigeria, is being ravaged by piracy. It is very common to see young men hawking pirated copies of both foreign and local films in traffic logjam in the city of Lagos. It is alleged that piracy in the country is becoming incorporated as people who are engaged in it are former stakeholders in Nollywood.

“Those who are engaged in piracy,” says Okoye, “used to be marketers who at one time owned a single shop or none at all. To be a successful marketer you must have outlets all over the country. Some members of the army have said that some of the big guys who engage in piracy use them as escorts to transport pirated copies of films at night.”

‘October 1’ is not the only film by Afolayan that has been pirated, his well acclaimed comic thriller, ‘Phone Swap’ has been pirated with copies littering the streets. Ayo Makun’s ‘30 Days in Atlanta,’ which has been named the highest grossing movie at the cinema, was pirated three months ago. Also, ‘Half of a Yellow Sun,’ an adaptation of an eponymous novel written by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, was pirated before it hits the Nigerian cinema. The movie cost the producer, Yewande Sadiq, about N1.2 billion to make.

Okoye says he borrowed money from the Bank of Industry to enable him properly market and distribute well produced films that have great potentials for sale. “I borrowed the money to make sure films are properly distributed,” he explains with a sting of anger in his voice. “I acquired ‘Half of A Yellow Sun,’ and ‘30 Days in Atlanta.’ I was planning how to sell ‘Half of a Yellow Sun’ when I was told it was already on the street. The movie was not released again. I was planning the same for ’30 Days in Atlanta’ but I told the producer I cannot go ahead anymore and he gave it to someone else to release. How can a film producer borrow more than N150 million to do a film and he has not gotten anything in return?”

There have been many dimensions to how films are pirated. According to Okoye, some cinema houses are selling films to the Alaba pirates. Although the management of the cinemas are in the know as they are making frantic efforts to protect the films given to them.NOLLYWOOD1

“We are working with the cinema houses,” says Okoye. “They are making frantic efforts to get those people who are selling films away. Usually, films are given to them in DVDs or flash drives. We want to stop that now and begin to encode films given to them with DCP. Most producers don’t give them films that are protected.”

Segun Arinze, former president, Actors’ Guild of Nigeria, says movie marketers have been fighting piracy alone. “It is a big monster that we must all come together to fight,” he says. “I was very upset while driving one day when a hawker wanted to sell to me pirated copies of ’30 Days in Atlanta.’ The minute we begin to fight piracy, the gains will be there for us. We will all enjoy it. Our royalties as artistes will be paid. Intellectual property is sacrosanct,” he says.

However, Wale Adenuga, film producer, says the factor that contributes to the high level of piracy in the country is the fact that some producers still do direct-to-home video format.

According to him, the promotion of cinema culture can greatly reduce piracy, as cinemas should be open in all the 774 local government areas in the country which will offer producers the opportunity to screen their films all over the country.


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