Time for a few more quick news items.
2. Bloody-Disgusting.com says Jurassic Park IV — currently scheduled for a 2008 release, seven years after the previous film — will be “about the government who has trained dinosaurs to carry weapons and use them for battle purposes.” Seriously. But wait — shouldn’t the dinosaurs themselves be the weapon?
3. Is it just me, or are the James Bond movies getting a tad, I dunno, edgier? IGN.com says the next movie will include a scene set at a controversial horse race in Tuscany that is opposed by some animal-rights activists. This comes after the scene in Casino Royale (2006) that took place at a Body Worlds exhibit.
4. The Hollywood Reporter says Jack Black may star in The Lost Adventures of Stone Perlmutter Jr., “a faux documentary made from recently ‘discovered’ footage from 1979 chronicling the disastrous journey of a self-styled Indiana Jones-type adventurer who traveled the world trying to find the Yeti, El Dorado, the lost tomb of Jesus and other great mysteries.” Lost tomb of Jesus?
Although this is hotly contested, Nollywood saw its inauspicious beginnings in Living in Bondage: a tawdry, ineptly shot, earnestly didactic ‘home video’ that unleashed itself on the world in 1992. Many commentators believe Nollywood was born after the television industry stopped making popular dramas, which were infinitely better than the first several hundred Nollywood films.
Living in Bondage, filmed in Igbo, one of Nigeria’s languages, with English subtitles, had just the right mix of all the ingredients of a great soap opera: ropey dialogue, dodgy continuity, wooden acting and the sort of cinematography that went out of fashion when DW Griffith freaked out cinemagoers with the first closeup. Living in Bondage was a morality tale that resonated with many Nigerians, articulating and validating their fondest and darkest suspicions. It proved, for instance, that most of those ‘big men’ driving about in fancy cars with their trophy girlfriends, living in obscenely big mansions, eating lots of chicken and drinking nothing but foreign wine came into their wealth by drinking their wives’ blood – not before killing them in gory sacrifices to the devil, of course. Like Macbeth’s haunting by Banquo’s ghost, these evil men will always get their comeuppance: they will be driven insane by their wives’ apparitions and will find salvation only when they confess their sins to Jesus Christ and ask forgiveness.
Living in Bondage, now considered a classic, was the first Nollywood ‘blockbuster’. It sold over 500,000 copies in VHS tapes within weeks of its straight-to-video release. It marked the beginning of an industry that now produces over 1,000 movies a year. The average Nollywood production costs about $15,000, has a one- or two-week shoot and sells between 25,000 and 50,000 copies at about £1.50 a copy. Every so often a ‘blockbuster’ comes along that sells 500,000 copies. Production values have risen since Living in Bondage, but the single most popular theme is witchcraft and only a brave, or very foolish, director would tell a story where evil wasn’t punished and good rewarded. Fans would claim that the films deal with other pressing issues of contemporary African life: religion, family conflict and corruption, albeit routinely sensationalised.
So were believers, and again Christians foremost, drawn to these directors as powerful witnesses to what happened when God was declared dead? No doubt some religious defenders wanted to employ these bleak visions in a smug apologetic for faith, a greater temptation perhaps in the case of Antonioni, a post-Christian Italian, than of Bergman, an ex-Christian Swede. But for the most part, religious admirers of these directors treated them and their films not as object lessons for nonbelievers about the consequences of nonbelief but rather as revelations for believers about the true challenges of faith.