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Archive: Oct 19, 2007
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Bombay team turns to Africa
by: Oct 19, 2007 Print

MONTREAL -- One of the most robust and burgeoning national cinema cultures in the world is getting the feature-length documentary treatment, thanks to two Montreal filmmakers.

The filmmaking team of Ben Addelman and Samir Mallal (Discordia and Bombay Calling) are delving into African cinema with Nollywood Babylon, a film that delves into the distinct culture of low-budget movies made in Nigeria. The $500,000 production was shot in Nigeria during August, and is now in post-production.

"We read an article in The Globe and Mail about Nollywood cinema," explains Mallal, "and we found it really fascinating. Here was this industry that was churning out hundreds and hundreds of movies done on the cheap, and they were hugely popular there."

After doing their initial research, Addelman and Mallal found up-and-coming Nigerian filmmaker Lancelot Imasuen, who agreed to let them follow him around over several weeks as he made his latest film. "Lancelot provides some very good insights into the business and how it works there," says Mallal. "He's also very prolific. He's made over 150 films."

Indeed, the story of Nigeria's film industry is one of astonishing growth. Easily the fastest-growing of any national film industry in the world, the country churns out approximately 1,000 films per year. Nigerians have a hunger to see and hear their own stories, and the development of new and inexpensive video equipment means that a two-part feature film project shot on video can cost as little as $10,000. Similar to Bollywood films, Nollywood packs action, intrigue, smut, romance and copious plot twists into each feature.

"We found this to be a whole different way of looking at Africa," says Mallal. "When we see Africa in the news, it's usually war or starvation or disease. It's very one-dimensional. We don't hear much about their popular culture."

Nollywood pictures often feature lurid storylines, but maintain a staunchly Christian veneer. Men and women fall into disrepute, slipping into such nasty and immoral behaviors as drug and substance abuse, crime and/or infidelity. Then, when they've hit rock bottom, they pay for their sins. The films have become so influential and popular that Christian churches have begun backing the films, recognizing their widespread clout.

Nollywood Babylon is a coproduction between the National Film Board and Addelman and Mallal's new production company, AM Pictures, with funding from the Documentary Channel and CBC. Adam Symansky of the NFB is also producing, with Ravida Din of the NFB and Galilé Marion-Gauvin and Marcel Jean of Ottoblix executive producing. The film is being edited by Annie Ilkow in Montreal and is slated for release for the fall 2008 festival circuit.

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This story has been corrected. Addelman and Mallal's previous film was Bombay Calling, not Bombay Talking as originally reported.

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