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Thursday, 26 October 2017

Can nudity make or ruin an actor’s career in Nollywood?

Can the display of nudity in a film make or break a career?

In Hollywood, there have been cases of celebrities, who used nudity to kick-start a career. For instance, Kim Kardashian. We have also seen actors who won an Academy Award despite baring it all on screen – for instance Kate Winslet for “The Reader,” Charlize Theron for “Monster” and Halle Berry for “Monster’s Ball.”
Also, in 1995, Elizabeth Berkley, who was popular for the TV series “Saved by the Bell” was cast in the sex and nudity-laden film, “Showgirls.” The film was criticized as one of the worst movies ever, and her career was never the same afterwards.
In 2013, “Blue is the Warmest Colour,” a film with Lesbian sexuality as its theme, won the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival.
In Nigeria, it is a different case. While most viewers care about these sexually explicit movies – they are inherently voyeuristic – the Nigerian audience don’t care about the “braveness” or “hard work” that goes into going nude for the camera.
“Alter Ego,” a 2017 movie about sexual abuse and its aftermath, garnered a lot of attention for the raunchy sex scenes between Kunle Remi and Omotola Jalade Ekeinde rather than for its theme.
The audience also didn’t care that it was Ekeinde’s 1st movie in four years. They just wanted to watch those ‘hot sex scenes.’
Shooting a nude scene is bold and daring, but it has never accelerated an actor’s career or ruined one in Nollywood.
We have seen actors such as  Biola Ige, Martha Ankomah, Omotola Jalade-Ekeinde, Mercy Johnson, Majid Michel, Nse Ikpe-Etim, Ireti Doyle, Emmanuel Ikubese and John  Dumelo in sexual roles.
While some of them currently have a booming career, others don’t. However, their nude or sex scenes have had nothing to do with their success or lack thereof.
In Nigeria, an actor’s career is defined by his/her talent, hard work, personality and of course, network.
It’s no easy task shooting believable sexual scenes: There are big cameras, crew members and quite a number of strangers on set. Rarely do Nigerians appreciate the ability or decision of a filmmaker to beautifully tell a believable story with a tool as controversial as sex. The focus is always on the sexual activity, and most times, the female actor.
On-screen nudity is still somewhat a prohibited conversation in Nigeria. Take for instance the reactions to movies with sexual content such as “The Prostitute,” “Alter Ego,” “Devil in the Detail,” “Fifty” among others.
The National Film Video and Censors Board banned the popular “50 Shades of Grey” movie because of its sexual content. In 2014, Thandie Newton‘s breasts were censored in the cinema version of “Half of a Yellow Sun.”
However, while most Nigerians criticize sexual content in Nollywood films, quite a number still watch and applaud the ‘authenticity’ of Tommy and Keisha’s sex scenes in “Power.”
Surprisingly, in 2016, Subomi Plumptre, a data analyst, revealed that Nigerians watch more porn than Americans. Also, Nigeria is the country with the third largest viewership of Gay porn in the world.
‘Moral beliefs’ have subdued the public acceptance of on-screen nudity in Nigeria, no matter how artistically valid the scene is.
“There were some [sex scenes] we tweaked, some we changed,”  Omotola Jalade-Ekeinde said to Pulse Nigeria about her role as a sex addict in “Alter Ego.”
“Also having in mind the society we are in; so how could we push the envelope and do what we needed to do without looking funny, and still not come out to be unnecessarily vulgar?
“It was a very difficult line to thread on, but I think we did the best we possibly could.”
A lot of my colleagues had rushed to the cinema to watch “Alter Ego,” because they thought they were in for the most sexually explicit Nollywood movie. Unfortunately, they were disappointed.
While going nude on screen doesn’t increase or reduce an actor’s popularity, a film’s box office success is likely to increase rather than lessen because of its sexual content.
At least, nudity, whether tacky or refined, has something to offer Nollywood: box office numbers/high DVD sales.
Written by Chidumga Izuzu

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