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By Phil Hall | February 15, 2008

Franco Sacchi’s documentary focuses on Nollywood, the Nigerian film industry. Technically, it is a video industry – the country’s cinematic output is shot on digital video and goes directly to the home entertainment channels. The film insists the industry generates $250 million annually in domestic sales, but the local productions are goofy and threadbare endeavors that are shot in seven to 10 days on budgets as low as $10,000.

Much of this film focuses on the production of “Check Point,” a cheapo action/adventure feature that is curiously lacking either action or adventure. But its creation is not lacking drama: disruptions by inclement weather, noise created from a local mosque celebrating Ramadan, scheduling problems by an absent leading man and frequent power outages are par for the course.

However, the filmmakers and actors interviewed here are refreshingly free of ego and pretension. They acknowledge their work is poorly viewed by artistically-inclined African filmmakers, but they also point out the proliferation of Nigerian films across the continent and to the African immigrant communities around the world.

The genuine joy from “This is Nollywood” is discovering that African cinema can be just as noisy, crass and silly as its Hollywood counterpart – and, if the clips presented here are any indication, these films are also rather entertaining. For anyone who is turned off by many African art films because of their languid pacing, the frenetic and edgy Nigerian productions would provide a jolly alternative. Perhaps this film will encourage an ambitious American distributor to bring Nigerian movies into U.S. DVD release.

One minor complaint here: a great deal of the film carries English subtitles, even though the people being interviewed are all English speakers. The Nigerian accents are not thick, so the subtitles offer a bit of an unnecessary intrusion in an otherwise entertaining documentary.

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