When James Cameron’s Avatar opened in Lagos a couple of years ago,
there was no single 3D screen in the Nigerian film capital. Nor anywhere
else in the country. Fast forward to 2012 and there is at least one 3D
movie showing every week at theatres around the metropolis. Not only
did Mr Cameron’s mega-hit break BO records around the world, its
novelty and commercial success influenced a flood of similar films
from almost every director with a big-enough budget.
But the frenzy would not last forever and as many media reports from
the US state these days, the lure of 3D films is fast fading at least locally.
3D’s steady rise continues in the international market though. Probably
realising such opportunities outside his home country, Mr Cameron
chose to pitch his franchise in China as news reports show.
For the Nigerian filmmakers, 3D production might not be a priority because it requires time and good funding, which most of them do not have. However, a few producers have dabbled into it. This was the case of Kajola, a Lagos-set Nigerian film shot partly in 3D and widely marketed as a futuristic sci-fi thriller.
For the film connoisseurs, Kajola’s trailers and sneak previews said it all, ‘AVOID THIS’ in huge red letters. The movie went to the cinemas but did not survive the first week of screening. For ‘officially unknown’ reasons, it was pulled off the bill and has hardly been heard of since. Except, perhaps, in sentences riddled with negative remarks. A rumoured budget of N120 million (roughly $800,000) was not enough to ensure a good plot and perfect CGI.
On the bright side, Obi Emelonye gets away with his minimalist use of 3D in his latest
offering, Last Flight to Abuja. Even if some describe the use as “not so ‘special’ effects,”
Emelonye makes the most of it in reconstructing some scenes in the aviation disaster movie.
Although a Nigerian engineer created the film’s 3D sequences, so far no Nigerian
film has been shot wholly in 3D. However, film producer Egor Efiok, was in Lagos recently
to publicise her upcoming 3D film titled Mystery Beads. The 3D option, she said, was
“to enhance the quality of the movie and make believable the scenes which would
have frightful effects on the audience.”
With the clamour for international collaborations and training to enhance creativity in the
Nigerian film industry, initiatives like Mr Cameron’s China expedition might make it easier and cheaper for local filmmakers to experiment with 3D.
While there is that fear of failing at the box office, one artistic reason why 3D
filmmaking could be a hit with the African audience lies in the wealth of the African narrative. As African storytelling and filmmaking become more adventurous,
3D will be one of the options with which directors try to and CAN create specific worlds for
their films, especially when they attempt to re-enact the many fantastic and mystical
realms that abound in African oral and written literature. (See On the winding roads of African film distribution)
“We looked around the world for a place we could effect the most rapid change in the implementation of widespread 3-D entertainment and realized that China had the most fertile soil to make this happen,” James Cameron recently told the press.
Now, who will convince him to do business in Nigeria?