×

Huahua Media Signs On for First China-Nigeria Co-Production (EXCLUSIVE)

China’s Huahua Media and Nigeria’s Corporate World Entertainment and FilmOne Entertainment are partnering on the first co-production between the two countries, “30 Days in China,” starring Nigerian actor-comedian Ayo Makun, popularly known by his stage name A.Y.

The film, slated for release next year, will feature Chinese and Nigerian actors and marks a step forward for the Nigerian industry. “We are enthusiastic about this opportunity because it extends the influence of our art to global markets,” said Makun, who has produced and starred in smash hits such as “Merry Men,” “A Trip to Jamaica,” and “10 Days in Sun City” (pictured), which rank among the 10 highest-grossing Nigerian films of all time.

“30 Days in China” pairs the world’s second-largest film market (China’s) with the growing international ambitions of Nollywood, Nigeria’s nearly three-decade-old film biz. Though the industry has long been known for straight-to-DVD works made on a shoestring, Nigerian filmmakers are busily rewriting that script. Budgets and production values are rising. The number of theatrically released movies is also growing, with some titles earning berths at prestigious showcases such as the Toronto Intl. Film Festival. More than 80 Nigerian films hit the big screen last year.

This year the country submitted its first-ever candidate for Oscar contention, Genevieve Nnaji’s “Lionheart,” although this week the news broke that the Academy has deemed the well-received comedy ineligible for the international feature film race because of its preponderance of dialogue in English.

Popular on Variety

Global players are eyeing the potential windfalls of Nigeria’s vast consumer market. Earlier this year, France’s Canal Plus bought the prolific Lagos-based studio ROK, acquiring its content library while also promising to bring Nollywood-style production savvy to French-speaking West Africa. China’s StarTimes has invested more than $200 million in the local pay-TV market as it seeks to grow its footprint in Africa’s most populous nation.

Netflix has also taken note, expanding its library of local titles and adding “Lionheart” to its service last January. The streamer has been scouting more potential projects from Nigerian creators, according to several sources.

Nigerian comedies “The Wedding Party” and “The Wedding Party 2,” both distributed by FilmOne, rank behind only “Black Panther” as Nigeria’s highest-grossing films of all time. Last year, local films took home close to 40% of total box office in Nigeria.

The partnership with Huahua, which has invested in Hollywood blockbusters like “Godzilla: King of the Monsters,” “Transformers: The Last Knight,” and “Star Trek Beyond,” offers Nollywood its first shot at the vast Chinese market. Conversely, the deal gives China’s rising entertainment industry a shot at Africa’s second-largest economy.

In recent years, the Chinese government has actively tried to increase its soft power across Africa. Economic ties between Nigeria and China are already strong, with the Middle Kingdom ranking behind only the U.S. as Nigeria’s biggest trade partner.

“Investing in Nollywood has been of major importance to us, seeing the abundance of talent and the possibility of creating masterpieces with collaborations,” Huahua CEO Wang Kefei said.

“The ‘30 Days in China’ project is not just one to add a feather to our wings as a company,” said FilmOne Entertainment co-founders Moses Babatope and Kene Okwuosa. “It positions the Nigerian film industry on the global stage as an advancing player, especially in terms of quality. We hope that this will open doors to more international collaborations.”

More Film

  • Pamela Tola

    Göteborg: Pamela Tola Proves There is an Audience for Different Stories

    GÖTEBORG, Sweden —  Chosen to close the discussion dedicated to discrimination against elderly people at the Göteborg Film Festival, Pamela Tola’s “Ladies of Steel” fitted right into this year’s focus on feminism and gender at the Swedish event. Which managed to deliver on its 50/50 promise, with 54% of the presented films being directed by [...]

  • Shirley Chen and Jose Angeles appear

    'Beast Beast': Film Review

    Writer-director Danny Madden’s “Beast Beast” clatters to life with organic percussion: a stick rat-a-tatting against an iron fence, a skateboard scraping on concrete, a rifle pinging bullets against a defenseless tin plate. Together, these sounds combine into jazz, despite the discordance of the three teens making such a ruckus. Krista (Shirley Chen), the stick thwacker, [...]

  • Sundance: PBS POV Acquires Kenyan Doc

    Sundance: PBS POV Acquires Kenyan Doc ‘Softie’ (EXCLUSIVE)

    PBS’s documentary arm POV has snapped up U.S. broadcast rights for Kenyan director Sam Soko’s “Softie,” fresh off its world premiere in the World Documentary Cinema competition at Sundance, Variety has learned. The film, which is the first Kenyan-produced movie to premiere at the festival, will air as part of the series’ 33rd season, which kicks [...]

  • Will Smith as Mike Lowrey in

    Box Office: 'Bad Boys for Life' Rules Over 'The Gentlemen'

    STX’s “The Gentlemen” proved no match for Sony’s “Bad Boys for Life,” which again left box office competitors in the dust after collecting $34 million in its sophomore outing. Those ticket sales, pushing the Will Smith and Martin Lawrence-led sequel past the $100 million mark, were easily enough to claim the No. 1 spot for [...]

  • Kajillionaire

    'Kajillionaire': Film Review

    The world is a weird place. Miranda July knows that, but the rest of us sometimes forget. Or maybe we just don’t want to admit how bizarre it is that society more or less agrees that back rubs and hot tubs and flavored chips and McRibs are an appropriate reward for a bazillion years of [...]

  • Stellan Skarsgard

    Göteborg Listens to Stellan according to Skarsgård

    GÖTEBORG, Sweden — Laughs were aplenty at the Stora Theatern, where Göteborg Film Festival artistic director Jonas Holmberg welcomed the recipient of the Nordic Honorary Dragon Award, fresh off his Golden Globe win for HBO’s “Chernobyl”. “It wasn’t planned. I thought that will be my only award this year, that’s why I said yes!” – joked Skarsgård, [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content