Nollywood’s arrival has been delayed. Our black Peugeot tries to muscle its way into the three gridlocked lanes of tetchy Lagos traffic leading to the airport terminal. It has taken us nearly two hours to travel 3km to the venue for the premiere of The CEO, the new Nigerian blockbuster by the country’s hottest director, Kunle Afolayan. A muggy June night closes in; I’m sweating off the sharpener I had back at the hotel. We’re very late. “Maybe we should walk it,” I say to Aurélie Eliam, the film’s Ivorian co-star. Or possibly not, says the look she gives me.
Stuck in traffic – that’s the status update for Nollywood, in output terms the world’s most prolific film industry (allegedly close to 2,000 titles a year), but still beset by problems of funding, piracy and wave-it-through quality control. Afolayan, earmarked for the past half-decade as its most promising director, wants Nollywood to join business class and go international. The CEO, produced with help from Air France, is the first movie to premiere aboard a plane: flight AF0149 to Paris; both event and film synergistically drumming a beat for a sexy, ascendant Africa.