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Free Content Audience pleasure and Nollywood popularity in Uganda: An assessment

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Since the mid 1990s, Nigerian movies have become part of the entertainment media across Africa and beyond. In this article I assess the popularity of Nigerian movies as reflected in the weekly TV programming in Uganda, and in recent years, its dominance in ‘video halls’. Nollywood’s popularity has continued despite competing TV serials and soaps from Latin America, the Philippines and Hollywood. The comparative popularity of this genre, in the context of Uganda, is due to the interventions of the video jockeys (VJs), who appropriate and ‘rewrite’ the films as they simultaneously translate them into local languages for the benefit of non-English-speaking audiences in specific contexts of viewing the movies. As I analyse the reasons for the continued longevity and popularity of Nollywood, I focus on the demographic features of the audiences. Focus group discussions and keynote interviews were used to understand the popularity patterns among the various social groups. Participant observation was also crucial in my interpretation of audience viewing strategies. Notwithstanding competition from other genres, Nigerian movies continue to strike a strong cord with Ugandan audiences, especially among the lower income brackets. These committed audiences have appropriated and ‘owned’ Nollywood enough to challenge it to get better to ensure their continued adherence to it. I use, in synergy, the ‘active audience’ idea espoused in Uses and Gratifications theory, Alessandro Jedlowski’s concept of Nollywood as a dynamic hybrid between cinema and television and Joseph Straubhaar’s idea of cultural proximity as one of the principles guiding audience’s preference of media.

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Keywords: Nollywood; Ugandan audiences; pleasure; popularity; video halls; video jockeys

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Makerere University

Publication date: April 1, 2014

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  • The Journal of African Cinemas will explore the interactions of visual and verbal narratives in African film. It recognizes the shifting paradigms that have defined and continue to define African cinemas. Identity and perception are interrogated in relation to their positions within diverse African film languages. The editors are seeking papers that expound on the identity or identities of Africa and its peoples represented in film.
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