Nollywood Babylon

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Nollywood Babylon

In the time it takes you to read this review, Nigerian filmmaker Lancelot Imasuen will probably have directed half a movie without breaking a sweat. That’s the kind of run-and-gun mentality that powers Nigeria’s wildly prolific and unabashedly popular cinema—the world’s third-largest film industry after the United States and India. As this simple, sometimes choppy documentary explains, Nigerian audiences happily gorge on the straight-to-DVD bounty churned out by Imasuen and others. With titles like Divine Twins and Desperate Billionaire, these screen quickies are marked by standard melodrama, cut-and-paste special effects, and more than a few plots turning on witchcraft and wiles.

The kicks come from some over-the-top clips and Imasuen’s disarming mix of bombast and shrewdness when he appears on set or as a commentator. Respect is granted to this homegrown industry in which, for a change, The Hangover and Transformers aren’t elbowing aside native output. But when the impoverished country’s mass religious fervor and evangelical producers are brought to the fore, the doc gets stuck on a pop-psych sketch of a beleaguered populace eager to be conned and distracted. Less than 75 minutes is also too little time to make the case, which leaves us mainly enjoying the exuberant dream makers of Nigeria’s analogue to our own one-reeler Wild West pre-Hollywood days.—Nicolas Rapold

Opens Fri; MoMA. Find showtimes

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