Thursday, July 3, 2008


Written in May, 2007
Typed in June,2008

The Nigerian film industry surnamed –Nollywood is undoubtedly the most important and most popular film industry in Africa. It is the world’s third largest producer of films, howbeit video films. The industry is growing and fast building structures that would enable it sustain itself but in spite of all of its development, it is disheartening to know that there are no clear cut genres of the Nigerian film.

Nigerian films are produced along the line of the major tribal and cultural dichotomy – Hausa, Ibo and Yoruba, and the broad languages spoken in the multi-cultural, multi-ethnic and multi-dialect nation. There are English films, Yoruba films, Igbo films and Hausa films with successful plots or movies having French version. Also films are produced in Ijaw (Izon) and Efik languages by some filmmakers but this is not very common as of now.

Films are done in these predominant languages because most people speak either of the languages and all the ethnic groups and tribes are divided along the line of these major languages. All the ethnic groups in the South West speak Yoruba Language or dialects derived from it, all the tribes in the South Eastern and South -South are regarded as Ibos; speakers of the Igbo languages even though there are many ethnic factions and other minor languages in that part of the country. Also the people in the Northern parts of the country are commonly referred to as Hausas owing to this situation films are commonly produced in these three main languages and in English, Nigeria’s lingua franca.

This essay is however not about film production in particular languages but rather about the definition of films and works produced in Nollywood based on types and classification by the nature of the film story.

In film theory, genre is referred to as the primary method of film categorization (Wikipedia: 15/09/06). A genre refers to films that share similarities in the narrative elements from which they are constructed. A genre according to the Oxford advanced Learner’s Dictionary is a particular style or type of work of art or literature.
Film genres are forms of identifiable types, categories, classification or groups of film that are recurring and have similar, familiar or instantly recognizable syntax, filmic techniques or conventions-that include one or more of the following: settings, props, plot nature/character, content and subject matter, themes, period, central narrative events, motifs, styles, structures, situations, recurring icons(e.g. six guns or ten gallon hats as in Westerns), stock character (or characterization) and stars. Many films straddle several film genres (Tim Dirks, html, 10.16am, 12-10-2006). Simply put, a genre is the description of a particular form, art or utterance according to criteria particular to that form.
Genres are formed by sets of conventions and many works cross into multiple genres by way of borrowing and recombining these conventions. (Wikipedia,15-9-2006).

In film and genre studies, films genres are categorised by certain benchmarks or yardsticks namely:
Setting: the film location or context.
Mood: the emotional charge carried throughout a film and sometimes
Format: the manner of a film’s presentation, a film may also have been shot using particular equipment.
Age: the class of people whom the film is targeted at or addressed at

Setting consists of
• Crime – places its character within the realm of criminal activity
• Film noir – portrays its principal character in a nihilistic and existentialist realm or manner
• Historical – taking place in the past
• Science fiction- placement of characters in an alternative reality, typically in the future or in space.
• Sports -sporting events and locations pertaining to a given sport
• War- pertains to battle, battlefield and locations pertaining to a time of war
• Westerns – colonial period to modern era of the Western United States.

Mood include
• Action- generally involves a moral interplay between “good” and “bad” played out through violence or physical force.
• Adventure - involving danger, risk, and or chance, of with a high degree of fantasy
• Comedy - intended to provoke laughter
• Drama - mainly focuses on character development
• Fantasy - speculative fiction outside reality (i.e. myth, legends, fables etc)
• Horror - intended to provoke fear in the audience
• Mystery - the progression from the unknown to the known by discovering and solving a series of clues.
• Romance - dwelling on the elements of romantic love
• Thrillers – intended to provoke excitement and/or nervous tension into audience.

Format includes

• Animation - illusion of motion by consecutive display of static images which have been created by hand or on a computer.
• Biographical - a biopic is a film that dramatizes the life of an actual person, with varying degrees of basis in fact/ real events.
• Documentary - a factual following of an event or person to gain an understanding of a particular point or issue.
• Experimental (avant garde) created to test audience recreation or to expand the boundaries of film production/story exposition then generally at play.
• Musical- a film interspersed with singing by all or some of the characters.
• Short film - may thrive to contain many of the elements of a “full-length” feature, in a shorter time frame.

Age comprises of
• Children’s film- films for young children as opposed to a family film, no special effort is made to make the film attractive for other audiences.
• Family - intended to be attractive for all people of all ages and suitable for viewing by a young audience. They are also regarded as general film for general viewing.
• Adult film – intended to be viewed only by an adult audience, content may include violence, disturbing themes, obscene languages or explicit sexual behaviour. Adult film may also be used as a synonym for pornographic film
(, 15-09-06)

A genre is always a vague term to describe as it has no fixed boundaries. Many works cross into multiple genres. In this regard Robert Stam 2000, 14 noted that “a number of perennial doubts plague genre theory. Are genres really “out there” in the world, or are they merely the construction of analysts? Is there a finite taxonomy of genres or are they in principle infinite? Are genres timeless Platonic essences or ephemeral time bound entities? Are genres culture bound or trans-cultural? Should genres analysis be descriptive or prescriptive? [ ..] ”

While some genres are based on story content (the war film), others are borrowed from
literature (comedy, tragedy), or from other media (the musical). Some films are performance
based, others are budget based (blockbusters), while others are based on racial identity (black

In the West, filmmakers have been able to clearly define film genres. Some screenwriters use
genre as means of determining what kind of plot or content to put into a screenplay. Also
films with definable genres are often successful commercially while books and movies that
are difficult to categorize into a genre are often less commercially successful.
(, 15.09.2006)

Common film genres include
• Action: comprises a genre of film which involves drama fuelled by intense action.
This can include fighting, stunts, car chases, explosions and the like. The action typically
involves individual efforts on the part of the hero (, 15.09.2006).
Action films have mainly become a mostly American genre although there has been a
significant number of action films from Hong Kong which are primarily modern variations
of the marital arts film thus they are typically centred on acrobatics by the protagonist.
Currently the action film genre include a development toward more elaborate fight scenes
such as kung fu and karate actors in action movies are now much more skilled in the art
and aesthetic of fighting than they have been in the past, also they feature big explosions
and more technology.

The sub genres of the action film include:
Action-drama which combines action set pieces with serious themes, character insight and/or emotional power. Examples include The Tomb Raiders, Set it Off, Mad Money, Air Force One

Action-Comedy which is a mixture of action and comedy usually based on mismatched partners or unlikely setting e.g. Jackie Chan’s Tuxedo, Around the World in 80 days, Rush Hour 1-111 etc

Action Thriller which combines elements of action and adventure (car chases, shoot outs, explosions) and thriller (plot twists, suspense, hero in jeopardy). The James bonds series are popular in this category.

Science Fiction Action Film is any of the other sub genres of film set in a science fiction environment. Example includes The Star Wars Series, E.T the Extraterrestrial

Action Horror is a hybrid of the elements of horror films with primary action features. Examples include Aliens, Saw 1-111 etc.

• Adventure: are existing stories with new experiences or exotic locales. Adventure films are very similar to the action film genre in that they are designed to provide an action filled, energetic experience for the film viewer. Unlike the predominant emphasis on violence and fighting in action films, adventure film deals with travel, conquests, explorations, creation of empires, struggles and situations that confront the man character, actual historical figures and protagonists. They are intended to appeal mainly to men, creating major male heroic stars through the years. These courageous, patriotic, or altruistic individuals or heroes often fought for their beliefs, struggled for freedom, or overcome injustice. Modern adventure films have crossed over and added resourceful action heroes (and oftentimes heroines). Adventure films often deal with traditional swashbucklers, serialized films, historical spectacles, searches or expedition for lost continents, jungle or desert epics, treasure hunts or quests. They are often set in an historical period and may include adapted stories of historical or literary adventure heroes, kings, battles, rebellion or piracy. Examples include Robin Hood, Tarzan, Mask of Zorro, Pirates of the Caribbean.

The sub genres of the adventure film include
The Swashbuckler is a major form of the adventure film which features beef up action-
heroes in historically atmospheric setting of the 18th and 19th century, lavish sets,
costumes, weapons of the past, and were often built upon scene of sea battle,
castle duels, sword and cutlass fighting etc and the romancing of damsel in distress.
There are variations of the Swashbuckler which include: the historically based
swashbuckler and the modern day swashbuckler or pirate films.
(, 2.25pm, 11.10.2006)

Comedy according to Tim Dirks are “make them laugh” films designed to elicit laughter from the audience. Comedies are light heated drama, crafted to amuse, entertain and provoke enjoyment. The comedy genre humorously exaggerates the situation, the language, the action and characters. Comedies observe the deficiencies, foibles and frustration of life, providing merriment and a momentary escape from day-to-day life. They usually have happy endings, although the humour may have a serious or pessimistic side. There are abundant examples of comedy films with a wide range of sub-genres.

In Nigeria, films are classified along the traditional line of genres categorization namely tragedy and comedy but more recently films with stories that transcend these core or basic differentiations are emerging on the Nigerian film landscape. Today the following genres are identifiable in Nigeria films:
• The Evangelical genre
• The City Girl genre
• The Romance genre
• Ritual genre
• The Comedy genre
• The Action/Gangster genre
• The Cultural genre
• The Epic/Adventure
• The Fantasy Genre

Evangelical Genre
These deals with plots in which the solution to the dilemma being faced by the protagonist is occasioned by the intervention of a higher celestial power usually “Christian” in nature such as angels, a pastor, prayer power etc. Oftentimes, evangelical films feature the triumph of good over evil. It involves the turning around for good of evil/bad circumstances.
The evangelical genre also covers all films made about Christianity, the Christian faith, experiences of Christian in their quest for salvation and solutions to their different problems etc.
Evangelical films found its way into Nollywood in 1995 following the success of Mount Zion’s production of Agbara Nla (the Ultimate Power), the Wounded Heart, The Attack from Home, When God Says Yes amongst other. Popular evangelical film producers in Nigeria includes Helen Upkabio (Liberty Film Production) Mike Bamiloye (Mount Zion)

City Girl Genre

The unfavourable change in economic and social conditions in the 1990s brought about many vices including “Aristorism”, prostitution and a new wave in women and children trafficking; movement of many young and innocent young Nigerian girls to Italy and The United Arabs Emirates from commercial sex work and forced slavery. In a bid to call society’s attention to these ills, create a voice for victims, facilitate the passing of appropriate legislations to mitigate these acts and document the trends, Kenneth Nnebue produced Glamour Girls, Nigeria’s first city girl film. The film is the story of four lady friends who has been lured into prostitution unknowingly by people they trusted, each one of them rises through the ashes to become glamour girls, each with her own successful women trafficking syndicate but greed and jealousy soon step in and the lades started to destroy one another.

Most of the films in the city girl genre follow the direction of glamour girls, although some other features have also been incorporated. The city girl film features ladies who engage in prostitution or some for of Aristorism either as a pimp or an operator , such are often forced into the trade by circumstances beyond their control such ass poverty, homelessness, others are lured into it unsuspecting by those who they love and respect such as husbands, boyfriends, brothers, mothers, fathers, uncles and or trusted relations; still others get into the trade as a result of greed for gain, laziness to work or as a result of contacting HIV/AIDS.

The heroine of the story are often involved in the struggle to become better peoples and well off individuals in society; this factor has endeared the genre to some many fan and followers. Some cases the city girl could be a student who keeps a line up of lovers and benefactors satisfying them with her body in exchange for financial gains. The city girl sometimes involves romance and love. Also the genre has been adapted to comedy as is the case of movie – the Tallest Man in the world.

The genre tends to favour the feminist world view. Successful films in the genre include Domitilla, Onome I and II, Computer Girls, Abuja Big Girls, City Angels, Basirat Baseje etc.

The Ritual Film

Ritual films are about the infliction of bodily harm and physical and spiritual attacks on persons for the purpose of demonic, diabolical and spiritual sacrifices often for money, material wealth or power. Ritual films can be described as Nigerian horror film. Notable ritual film include Rituals, Witches, Domitilla, Alase Aaye, Final Year I&II, One Chance, Abuja Big Girls III, Living in Bondage, Okija amongst others.

Film mirrorizes society; the ritual film emerges in the early 1990s at the wake of the Otokoto killings in Enugu, Nigeria to document the incessant killing of persons in the eastern part of the country by the “Otokoto Cult” for money rituals and power. Films were done to sentisize people about the growing scourge of the menace. Time passed, economic conditions become more unfavourable for Nigerians and as the standard of living plummeted and the cost of living rose more people began to seek for means to make money and people began to take to money rituals as secret societies emerged.
Money ritual is a form of satanic worship which entails human life sacrifice and it is believed to bring wealth and good fortune to people who engage in the rituals. Today ritual killings is a common phenomenon with reports about its appearing daily in the newspapers.

The ritual films seek to capture the activities of ritualists, the experience of victims and try to demystify this very mysterious, diabolic and secretive activity. The films will feature a victim who escaped with sacrificed by ritualists by a stroke of luck, and still other narrates the dilemma of a man who becomes a ritualist in order to live glamorously and the problems he encounters when the ritual power and money weans, it involves a fall, usually insanity, loss, bankruptcy , death. The ritual film is tragic in nature.

The Romance Film
These are stories of love usually featuring a man and women who faces obstacles before they could be together or openly declare their affection for each other. Some popular examples in this genre include Not with my daughter, Vendetta, Two world, Against All Odds, Temi Ni Nkem, Keeping Faith, Romantic Attraction, Love You Forever, Ayo Ni Mo Fe, Hostages, Because of You amongst others. Love is a universal phenomenon that knows no limitations. In Nigerian Romance films, the protagonist has to prove his love against all odds. Jim Iyke, Genevieve Nnaji, Omotola Ekeinde, Ini Edo, Shan George and Stella Damascus are some actors popular for their roles in romance masterpieces.

The Comedy Film
This comprises of a genre of film that are packaged to evoke laughter in the audience. According to Jim Dirks, comedies are light heated drama crafted to amuse, entertain and provoke enjoyment. The comedy genre humorously exaggerates the situation, the action and characters.

Comedies deal with stories of human travail and strife which ends happily. Popular comedies include Nkem Owoh, Sam Loco Efe, Aluwe, Baba Latin, Aderupoko, Baba Suwe, Dejo and Moladun Pemkelewu. Some comedies are simply made up of exaggerated and overblown actions while others deals with real life issues but generate laughter from it.

The comic genre in Nigeria features a lot of stock characterization; some actor appears in the same characters and roles, same gaits with the same costumes repeatedly used in several productions. The Nigeria comedies features both the incongruous and the interesting, in many productions, the comic plot is in the movements and attitude of the characters.

The Action/Gangster Film
The action/gangster films are becoming popular in Nollywood. The genre encompassed all those films that revolve around a gang of robbers, a drug syndicate or a human trafficking squad, these films either tells the story of the members of the gang usually the leader or a law enforcement officer on the taril of the group . Often these films deals with how the protagonist becomes involved in the act at other times they tend to play on the audience’s emotion dealing with such universal themes as the need for survival, struggle for power and fame, love, justice and the law of Karma.

Popular Nigerian action film actors include T.J. Tam-West, Segun Arinze, Anuks Hanks, Ramsey Noah Jnr. amongst others. Action films are drama driven by intense action, physical combat, fighting, car chases, gunshot outs e.t.c. The action/gangster film genre is adapted from the Chinese Kung Fu genre and the Hollywood “Action” genre.

Because of the impossibility of expensive budgets, producers of the Nollywood action movie have resolved to face paced stories and tension filled plots that incorporate fight sequences, car chases, road stunts, gun fights, fist fighting, gun shoot outs e.t.c.

Notable action movies produced in Nigeria include RattleSnake I, II &III, Silent Night I &II, Ole, OwoBlow I,II & III, The Bandits, Issakaba I,II and III e.t.c. Nollywood has a huge number of followers that supports the genre.

The Epic/Adventure Film

The Nollywood epic/adventure film is a type of film which involves stories in traditional locales, ethnic situations and expressing cultural experiences. They also feature local costumes, make up, props, setting and fanfare. The adventure films are packaged to present energetic and action filled experiences for the film spectators. Adventure films deals with love, conquests, travels and are often spiced with magic and fantasy. A good number of the adventure/epic films produced deal with popular legends, myths, folklores and common lores. Common examples include Igodo, Oduduwa, Basorun Gaa, Amazoni etc.

Adventure films are often concern with situations that confront a hero who is patriotic, courageous and who engages in altruistic fighting to defend his beliefs, rights or those of persons who cannot defend themselves. The Nollywood epic cum adventure movie feature characters clothed in leaves, animal skin with body maks which are usually drawn “eye pencil”.

The Cultural Film

Cultural films are synonymous with historical films in that many of them deals with historical phenomenon. Cultural films are produced along the three main tribes – Yoruba, Igbo and Hausa, there are Yoruba cultural films, Igbo and Hausa films. Examples include Sango.

They are majorly concern with cultural promulgation. They seek to promote the culture, language and way of life and experience of the people. Examples include Basorun Gaa, Afonja etc.

The Fantasy/Mystery Film
The mystery and fantasy films deals with speculative fiction outside the realm of reality such as ghost, witches, wizards and the stories are often diabolical in nature. The belief of society in witchcraft, wizardry, occultism, the existence of God and the supernatural is one of the factors aiding the success of the genre.

The fantasy /mystery film tends to progress from the unknown to the known by discovering and solving a series of clues. They often feature illusionary or imagery locales - hell, heaven, witchcraft coven etc.


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