It's late in the afternoon and the actresses are exhausted. They seem distracted and are constantly having to repeat their scenes. Perhaps it's because they have been working for seven hours without interruption, with no time to eat or drink, or even to sit down.
Or perhaps it's because someone runs across the set every five minutes, a mobile phone rings or the generator breaks down. Or because the boy who is supposed to hold the microphone falls asleep and the crew gets drunk on Guinness and whisky during the shoot.
The story is about three aspiring female musicians who fall into the clutches of a female pimp. Power, the hope of prosperity, prostitution: These are popular subjects in Nigeria, subjects that stir the nation.
Nollywood's success began in 1992, with the film "Living in Bondage." At the time, after years of recurring military coups, someone finally had the courage to address the subjects that related to ordinary people. The film is about a man who falls under the influence of a religious cult, and about money and black magic. At the same time, the film also suggests that the new wealth in Nigeria is the result of demonic practices -- and the source of inequality in the country and the suffering of too many people. "Living in Bondage" was liberating for people in Nigeria, because it meant that suddenly they had a voice. Hardly anyone in Nigeria today isn't familiar with the film.
Instead of showing their film in expensive cinemas, the producers distributed it as a so-called home video, which gave them access to a completely new market. Suddenly families could hold film evenings, with entire neighborhoods gathering around a single television set as if it were a campfire.
At its height, shortly after the end of the military dictatorship in 1999, Nollywood was flooding the African market with up to 2,000 films a year, and Surulere, the nightlife district in Lagos, became its creative center.
The road to Surulere leads down a four-lane highway exit, from which traffic is dispersed into smaller streets. A cacophony of car hors, shouting and failing engines fills the air. Surulere is a loud, Dionysian place, where actors, costume designers and screenwriters live, work and party. It's a place where actors are cast, a place to see and be seen -- and a street known as Winnies is something of a stage for it all.
Winnies was originally a simple guesthouse, a hangout for actors and filmmakers in the early days of Nollywood. Now the place is so popular that the entire street is called Winnies. Casting notices are pinned to the walls, specifying what the directors are looking for: "If you are fat, tall and speak various Nigerian languages fluently, call us. We are looking for a film production." Or: "Huge simultaneous casting call for 9 films."
The street is narrow and the air smells of a mixture of exhaust fumes and the strawberry perfume of young actresses standing on the sidewalk, waiting to be discovered -- like young Victoria. Every morning, the young actors who hope to become famous stand in front of Winnies, like day laborers, waiting to be taken to the sets on the location buses of film producers like Mr. Divine.