Friday, July 5, 2013


Did you know that the waters off the coast of Nigeria are now the number one pirate destination in the world? That's right Somalia. You snooze, you lose.
While maritime piracy rarely affects me personally, the other kind of piracy - see below - plays a pretty big role here.
As in many countries - in fact more so than most I've been to - Nigeria is full of pirated movies, tv series, and music. And it's gotten pretty creative. Below is a DVD mix from China. They just throw together movies from the same genre (in this case all the Indiana Jones movies, both Tomb Raiders, both National Treasures, and the Romancing the Stone movies) or the same actor (see the Tom Cruise collection, the Nicole Kidman collection, etc). I spotted this one at the grocery store for about 12 dollars.

Even more creative is the one I got a shot of below. LOTR v. Alien. Same basic concept as above - except for the even more awesome choice of movie pairing. 
The only problem with such seemingly awesome bargains (aside from the quality control issues) is of course that they are illegal here and at home and as a USG employee I can't support the pirated DVD industry. And of course I don't really want to. See here, here, here, and here to read some more about the connection between piracy and film quality in Nigeria.
The Nigerian film industry, known as Nollywood, is the third largest in the world, with new movies coming out every day. According to UNESCO it's the second largest employer in Nigeria. Yet the quality, from an international standpoint, is often very poor.
This certainly isn't due to a lack of talent. Nigeria is a huge country (1 in 5 Africans are Nigerian) and it has produced world class artists in other fields (literature, music, painting, etc). We enjoy these artists' work almost every weekend at concerts, art galleries and shows. Yet the films made here don't resonate in the same way. When profits don't go to the people who earn them there's a pretty high incentive to take their talents elsewhere.
The problem now is that if a person wanted to buy a legitimate DVD here it would be almost impossible. See the copy of Argo I bought below? I was so proud of myself because I thought I had finally found an honest-to-god, non-pirated film. It came in a cardboard sleeve, there was just one movie inside, it was sold in a store with electricity and a roof, so it had to be real, right?

And it's even worse for Nigerian made films. I'm not sure that I can think of anywhere to buy a non-pirated Nollywood movie.
So now I'm back to doing what everyone else at post does - I buy on Amazon and have things shipped by slow boat. It takes forever, but I can take comfort in the fact that I'm doing my small part to make sure there's something worth watching in the future.

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