He is standing in the guarded parking lot of a hotel, as a minibus reels toward him, swerving to avoid the potholes. The bus is rusty, dented and covered with colorful film posters. Divine steps to the side. "The show goes on," he says. "We don't have any time."
The bus is a Mercedes, but for Divine it's much more than that. "What's inside that bus is Nollywood," he says, "my entire film, everything inside that thing." The thing slows down and comes to a stop next to him, and then his film squeezes itself out through a sliding door: 15 young actors and assistants, loaded onto the bus at Winnies and booked for two weeks. It also contains an HD camera, a cameraman, a director, two plastic bowls filled with cassava porridge and spicy chicken, three lights, a microphone, an Adidas bag full of costumes, a few bottles of Guinness and the generator. And three stars. "It all comes to $38,000," says Mr. Divine, pointing out that that's the trick, "making films with next to nothing."
Mr. Divine, the head of Divine Touch Productions Limited, has a real name: Emeka Ejofor. Stage names are good for business. The film he is currently shooting will be called "Strippers." It's about three young women and a suitcase full of money. The actresses are wearing very high heels and very little clothing, their fingernails are as long as colorful as candy canes, and they seem drunk -- and maybe they are drunk.
The film will look like all Nollywood films. Seen through the eyes of Nigerians, it will be glamorous, exciting and well-acted. Seen through the eyes of the West, it'll be trashy but charming, and somehow unintentionally funny. The film will be a big seller, because there will be many stars on the cover. It will remain unknown beyond Africa's borders.
Dickson Iroegbu, the filmmaker, also has his office in Surulere. It is the day after his car was rigged to crash, and his two mobile phones are ringing every five minutes. The callers want to know what he was thinking, crashing the filmmakers' event the day before. Iroegbu, normally a quiet, polite man, becomes agitated and raises his voice. "Nollywood is in a crisis," he shouts into his phone. "It can't go on like this."
He takes a sip from a glass of red wine, even though it's only noon. A gold-framed portrait of Martin Luther King hangs on the wall above his desk, next to a picture of US President Barack Obama. The prizes he has already won with his films are displayed on a cabinet. Iroegbu has been in the business for a long time. He was a teenager when he wrote his first screenplay.
Next to the oil industry, Nollywood is the second-largest employer in Nigeria. It has its own stars and its own red carpets, even its own version of the Oscars: the African Movie Academy Awards. Hundreds of thousands of the home videos it produces are displayed on dealers' shelves, in the form of VCDs and DVDs, and the films are also broadcast on television channels like Africa Magic. Hollywood films play almost no role at all in this country.