Every year, Nollywood churn out thousands of movies. Movies with impressive and creative storylines, brilliant and humorous actors and wonderful settings.
These movies span all genres from comedy to action, to adventures, love stories, history and many others. Despite the impressiveness of the catalog of movies Nollywood churn out every year, a major challenge is the lack of adaptation.
Hollywood is known for its massive adaptation of books into movies. Most of these books, which are great literary pieces themselves have been turned into great blockbusters for the screen. From the Harry Potter series, to the Lord of The Rings, to the Hunger Games, Game of Thrones, The Witcher, Knives Out, The Princess Switch, Bridge of Spies, Murder on the Orient Express, Handmaid Tales and many more. Spy thrillers such as the Bond series and the Bourne legacy are great write ups turned into awesome movies.
Comic books from Marvel and DC have been transformed into multibillion blockbusters. These are great writing works that have further found literary appreciation from people as result of the fact that they were turned into movies.
Question is, why are Nollywood producers and directors not adapting great Nigerian literary works for the big screen. Although the Nigerian movie industry has a history of adaptation, just as we have seen the likes of Chinua Achebe’s ‘Things Fall Apart’ and ‘No Longer at Ease’ developed into the screen, so also Wole Soyinka’s ‘Kongi Harvest’. But unlike Hollywood that produces mass movie adaptations, Nollywood does not.
Reasons we are witnessing this dearth of adaptation in Nollywood is the lack of readership from movie producers and directors themselves, inability to comprehend some books, accessing the rights in adapting these books and the legal implications involved, the financial constraint that comes in ‘buying’ these books and the fear if the book will pan out well.
In a single year, hardly will you be able to point to ten movie adaptations from Nollywood. Although we have seen a change in recent times, with the production of Chimamada’s ‘Half of a Yellow Sun’ more still needs to be done. I also remember the Oleku movie which was produced by Mainframe in the 90s was an adaptation of Akinwumi Isola’s O Le Ku. Maami, a 1987 novel written by Femi Osofisan was also adapted by Tunde Kelani.
Interestingly, the advent of streaming services like Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hulu, Disney + who are trying to gain momentum in Africa are encouraging African movie producers to delve into adaptation. Thanks to Netflix, Nollywood will be producing more book adaptations. It will be producing Lola Shoneyin’s ‘Secret Lives of Baba Segi’s wives’ into a movie. Likewise, Wole Soyinka’s ‘Death and the King’s Horseman’ will be coming to the big screen.
Recently, the streaming platform announced that they have partnered with Nigerian producer, Kunle Afolayan to produce Sefi Attah’s novel ‘Swallow’ into a movie. My hope is that the success of these movies will spur Nigerian movie directors to further explore the adaptation of Nigerian books into movies. Furthermore, as streaming platforms vie for recognition in the Nigerian movie scene, this is an opportunity for movie producers to showcase to these platforms the creativity that abounds in the Nigerian literary scene. Not only would Nigerian directors gain recognition in turning these books into great movies, the search light will also be beamed on Nigerian writers and their arts will be more recognized globally.
By adapting books into movies, Nigerians who don’t have the time to read will enjoy these wonderful stories. Nigerian writers are working extremely hard to weave their creativities into great stories, however, it is a shame that people are not experiencing these wonderful worlds these writers are creating. When these great books are finally adapted into movies, people will be able to appreciate them.
Adaptation of great literary books such as the African Writer Series will also help young Nigerians understand their history and further appreciate it and in the process help shape our narratives globally.
Although, some movie adaptations might not reach the standard of a book, but when we look deep into the effect of some movies on people, you will realize that they end up outshining some of these books. The only way you can see wonderful characters from the imaginations of an author come to play is via the movies, not the books. This is where adaption comes in.
Finally, there is no doubt that the Nigerian movie industry which is an important part of our society, culture and history has come to stay and every year it keeps improving. Previous Nollywood adaptations as earlier mentioned in the article has brought us incredible movies. Although we cannot rule out the fact that bits of these stories will get lost in the process of adaptation, nothing beats an awesome storyline when put on the screen.