Lagos, Nigeria
By Akintunde Akinleye

I wasn’t sure if my pictures of Nigeria’s film industry, or “Nollywood” as it is fondly called, would ever make it to publication.

As I spent time stringing the project together, I met barrier after barrier. Lots of my appointments with producers and other contacts fell through. In cases where it seemed like I would be given the green light to take pictures, the location of shootings would change without notice. Getting access to the new luxurious cinemas in the metropolis of Lagos was hellish. But slowly, I managed to make headway.

Long before I started working on this assignment, I had thought about exploring the story of Nollywood. I first hit on the idea at the beginning of 2008 when a friend, who is a model and actress, suggested taking a trip to India to shoot a collaborative movie between Nigerian and Bollywood actors on location. Unfortunately, the trip never happened.

Recently, however, I had the chance to rejuvenate my idea through Reuters’ Wider Image desk, which commissions in-depth photo stories. I wanted to explore the reasons why Nigeria’s Nollywood has been so successful in a continent where conflict and poverty are rife.

Millions across Africa watch Nigerian films. They are as popular abroad as they are at home. I remember taking a shuttle bus while on holiday in Gabon a couple years ago and as I settled down in my seat, the screen started playing a movie. It was an export from Nigeria.