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I Disagree with Biola Alabi & Dayo Olopade that “Africa is Hollywood’s BIGGEST Missed Opportunity.”

AMVCA Awards 3 Biola AlabiIn a recent article for the Washington Post penned by former MNET executive Biola Alabi and a co-writer Dayo Olopade, the duo attempt to make the case that ‘Africa is Hollywood’s Biggest missed opportunity.’

The rest of the article does a great job of providing compelling statistics that support the premise of Hollywood doing business in Asia and capitalizing on the Asian market, but, in my view,  nothing to really support doing the same level of business in Africa or that Africa is in fact the “biggest” missed opportunity for Hollywood.

In addition, after reading the article, I remained unclear how exactly the authors defined “missed opportunity”.

In fact, I would argue that Hollywood, truthfully, has not missed out on opportunities in Africa; and the only group missing out on Africa are Africans who refuse to tell their own stories.

Hollywood has cashed in on Africa and has done so conveniently  for decades. Anyone ever heard of licensing?

How many licensed Hollywood movies, television shows and now reality television shows has Hollywood sold to Africa and African broadcasters including MNET? Many Africans can easily mouth off a long list of Hollywood movie diet they grew up on.

In today’s growing movie culture as correctly identified by Alabi and Olapade, how many Hollywood films/movies sit at the top of most of Africa’s box offices/in their cinemas? It certainly overwhelms African home made movies. Whether we trace it back to the Bill Cosby shows of the 80s, to the new breed of Hollywood reality television shows, Hollywood has simply not missed out on capitalizing on opportunities in Africa. If Alabi and Olapade are arguing for a uniquely different type of way that Hollywood should invest in Africa’s film culture, they should make the case for it because so far, they haven’t.

Indeed, as the number of theater screens have increased across the continent, we are seeing a corresponding increase in American films sold, marketed and distributed to Africans. Yes, there is an African movie renaissance taking place, especially in Nollywood (Nigeria’s film industry). However, the reality is you still have a vast majority of the continent giving much weight to Hollywood films/tv programming and stories. So, how exactly is Africa Hollywood’s “biggest” missed opportunity?

Did I miss something?

AML people, you all know where I stand on this debate. I maintain Africans should create their own stories, work on the marketing and distribution of their own stories much the same way Hollywood had to do with its own industry to become a global phenomenon.

In addition, I have also written in the past, when Biola Alabi was MNET’s director, that her position of power should have been used to advance home grown African stories instead of a Western ‘Big Brother’ reality television show.

My 50 kobo for all it is worth.

-Uduak

Photocredit: Ameyaw Debrah
Photo description: Biola Alabi & Fellow Award Presenter at the 2014 AMVCA Awards

Why Africa is Hollywood’s biggest missed opportunity

“It has been 13 years since Halle Berry and Denzel Washington made history on the Oscar stage, taking home statues for Best Actress and Best Actor. In her acceptance speech, Berry — the first black woman to win the category — proclaimed that the “door has been opened” for other deserving actresses of color to win the honor. History has proven this to be an overstatement. Only 10 black actresses have been nominated in the leading role category, and Berry is still the only winner. There’s no hope that will change at the 87th Academy Awards this Sunday — no people of color are nominated for acting.

Hollywood has consistently snubbed minority actors and actresses. Some movie studios justify their diversity problem with economic arguments: In a leaked e-mail to Sony Pictures Chairman Michael Lynton, an unnamed producer warned against casting Washington in films that would be marketed overseas: “I believe that the international motion picture audience is racist — in general, pictures with an African American lead don’t play well overseas.” Such judgments reveal Hollywood’s outdated mindset and ignore the rapidly changing demographics and tastes of international moviegoers. Africa, in particular, has remained a perennial blind spot, threatening to become a missed business opportunity for Hollywood. Movie watching is growing rapidly in several African nations, and there is evidence that black leads attract the attention of that growing audience and others.

International moviegoers deliver nearly 70 percent of the industry’s business today, with nearly a third of that global box office coming from Asia — especially China, Japan and India. The industry is courting that audience by producing high-tech films that wow on Asia’s growing number of 3D movie screens, and distributing more films with Asian characters and settings. “Life of Pi,” the 2012 film about a shipwrecked Indian boy, shocked movie executives by earning nearly 80 percent of its sales in foreign markets. South Korean actor Byung-hun Lee was cast in the 2014 movie “G.I. Joe: Retaliation,” which grossed $42 million in its opening weekends in East Asia, more than half of its total foreign opening weekend sales. Now, when industry decision-makers look beyond U.S. shores, their first question is, “Can this sell in China?”

But that view is short-sighted. Movie-watching in African nations like Nigeria, Ghana and South Africa has exploded in recent years, alongside a rapidly growing middle class hungry for entertainment that reflects local perspectives and phenotypes. Nigeria’s film industry, dubbed Nollywood, is already home to the world’s third-most-valuable movie industry, worth more than $500 million and bested only by Hollywood and India’s Bollywood industry…”

The Washington Post has the full story.

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Credited for several firsts in the fashion and entertainment industry, Uduak Oduok (Ms. Uduak) is a fashion and entertainment lawyer, speaker, visionary, gamechanger, trailblazer, and recognized thought leader, for her work on Africa’s emerging global fashion and entertainment markets, and the niche practice of fashion law in the United States. She is also the founder of ‘Africa Music Law,’ an industry go-to music business and law blog and podcast show empowering African artists. Her work in the creative and legal industries has earned her numerous awards and recognitions, including an award from the American University Washington College of Law for her “legal impact in the field of intellectual property in Africa." She has also taught as an Adjunct Professor at several institutions in the United States. For more information, visit her at https://msuduak.com.

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2 Comments

  1. Winston Balagare says:

    I agree with you, Uduak. Nothing irritates me more than watching Africans rely on others to validate them and give them a voice. There's no need. We have demonstrated repeatedly that we are talented and resourceful enough to do it ourselves. Once you open that door of allowing outsiders to "help" tell your stories, it's only a matter of time before they begin to shape those stories to fit their own agendas.

  2. A very compelling argument, thank you Uduak. I have shared this article on my page primarily because I think more people should have access to this story.
    In a way I feel like the film industry in Nigeria is heading to a colonial relationship with America and Hollywood in particular.
    Whilst there are monetary gains to be made and might I say lots of it, should we as Nigerians then sell our soul and identity in the process?

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