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The Use Of Indigenous Language Vs English In Nollywood Movies
The English language is undoubtedly our lingua franca in Nigeria, against a background of about 250 different ethnic groups who choose to communicate in their mother tongue. Movies have been a part of our lives since their inception in August 1903 at Glover Memorial Hall. Over the years, foreign movies have dominated the Nigerian movie market and flooded our TV screens. In the 70s and 80s, Indian and Chinese films had a firm hold on the film market, especially with the fact that even if the actors spoke in their native language, we could still follow the trends which develop courtesy of good subtitling techniques. The British with the James Bond 007 films fought against those films. However, from the 90s to today, I have witnessed a dramatic shift in preference for Hollywood films based not only on the use of the English language as a means of communication, but also on broader genres. , story lines of cross appeal, embodiment of all effects, with cutting-edge technology at its disposal.
Nollywood generally embraces movies shot in English, Yoruba and Hausa languages, regardless of the differences that some have thought to exist that praises only movies made in English to be under the ambit of Nollywood. Even the movies produced by the Hausa people were made under the auspices of Kannywood (which they refer to as their own movie industry) which of course is rather absurd and a mistaken belief. Nollywood represents the entire movie industry within the territorial jurisdiction of Nigeria and it is absurd when people create subtle distinctive platforms for Yoruba/Hausa productions.
Movies produced in English are sold quickly based as first statements on the fact that they are produced in our lingua franca that most Nigerians can understand. They are also exported to other English-speaking African countries, North America and parts of Europe. As a result, the audience base is huge unlike those produced in indigenous languages. Yoruba movies have been around since the 70s/80s, but their movies are limited to those who are native Yoruba or non-Yoruba who understand the language. Imagine producing a film for a single tribe against more than 200, certainly only those who can speak the language will buy, in addition, the poor subtitling in the films makes it really difficult to follow the story.
Yoruba films have the highest amount of production compared to films made in other indigenous languages and follow closely on the heels of the English language ones. Their stories strongly reflect their culture, traditional beliefs and heritage, whose messages will not be conveyed effectively if they are produced in the English language. The only way they can recoup their investments and enjoy a wider audience base, while maintaining their indigenous language flow, is to ensure good subtitling as seen in Bollywood and Chinese films. Faulty subtitling has been the worst of the problem as most Yoruba movies (as they are loosely called), have a high level of subtitling faults including incomplete subtitled dialogues. This easily excludes non-indigenous people watching the films who do not understand the language.
Good effective subtitling is the hallmark of Bollywood movies. It is rare to watch a Bollywood movie purely spoken in English. They believe in using their indigenous language to effectively convey the message home. An ardent believer of the indigenous school of thought for film production in Nigeria, is Nollywood legend Tunde Kelani, the pioneer of Main frame productions. Over the years, he has used his wealth of experience in film making to produce outstanding films using the Yoruba language. His insistence on adhering to the use of the indigenous language comes from his cultural background that influenced his childhood and growing up years.
He believes that the Yoruba culture would soon become extinct, especially with the use of the English language and lifestyle being first adopted by this generation, relegating the Yoruba language and culture to the background. He believes that you cannot speak the English language better than the English/Americans, themselves, so why bother making English language films?. However, it uses subtitling techniques that are good for non-Yoruba natives to understand. The younger generation of filmmakers have also followed suit like Kunle Afolayan (Irapada, The Figurine, araromire (mixture of Yoruba and English), Daniel Ademinokan (Omo Iya Kan).
Despite the presence of subtitles, most viewers are not willing to watch films produced in indigenous languages versus those in English. It is worth noting that films using indigenous languages have begun to have an impact in the United States, Europe and at the Oscars. A dog millionaire from Slum attests to this. Bollywood does not compromise its spread of the indigenous language which has become its trademark. It is not the language that really counts, but the combination of all the relevant elements necessary for the production of a mind-blowing film. At the end of the day, it is really a matter of choice open to the filmmakers, to decide which of the languages will attract the audience and strongly convey the theme of the story to them.
Through languages, messages are effectively communicated to the recipient. Whatever language the filmmaker decides to use, the most important thing is to ask yourself if the theme, the plot, the essence of the production, will finally be understood and appreciated by the viewers. Where it seems that it is done, then it must produce the same in the language of its choice, regardless of what others may think or say. After all, it is the return on investments, the popularity of the film and the achievements recorded that counts at the end of the day!
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