Young Adult Genre – What?
The young adult genre in film comprises films that mirror the lives of young adults (older teenagers and people in their early 20s to their middle 20s) and showcases themes and subjects akin to their immediate lives. Themes like sex, drugs, romance, suicide, puberty, and education are usually the focal point of the genre.
Young Adult Genre – Why?
Coming to terms with adulthood and the concept of maturity can be quite daunting. New responsibilities crop up. All of a sudden, you have an overwhelming desire to have sex (or not). The range of emotions you need to be in tune with multiply. Emotions become more complex and difficult to manage at such a young age. Film serves as a manual or a companion into adulthood.
The growth into adulthood in a country like Nigeria is far from a walk in the park. Without a playbook, you’d be playing life in hard mode. The playbook might come as a screen with human attributes, feeling your feelings as if you were tethered – this is the “why?” of the young adult genre.
The typical Nigerian home is a classic courtroom but with no presumption of innocence or fair hearing. The judge and jury are your parents, know-it-all Aunties and nosy neighbours. These judges only tell you what they want you to know and chastise you for your wrongdoings (we love them still). Imagine asking a judge/magistrate for dating advice or advice on sex.
The young adult genre mirrors these challenges and further complexities. It morphs into a coping mechanism and serves as a guiding light.
To say there has been a total absence of the young adult genre will be a straight up lie. There have been a few iconic young adults themed films and TV shows in Nollywood, one of the most iconic being the iconic 1998 I need to know film which starred Funke Akindele as Bisi (lead role). The show centered on the lives, adventures, and misadventures of teenagers and actively discussed strong themes such as sexual health and the realities of HIV/AIDS. More recently and quite similar is, MTV’s Shuga. Others like Binta and Friends and My Mum and I became instant hits with national audiences.
Research shows that young cinema-goers generally put in for foreign films rather than Nigerian films. This defect is largely due to young people being less interested in marriage themed stories and family drama/comedies. Unfortunately, that has been Nollywood’s main output over the last two decades. It’s almost like, TV became a centre for distance learning for marriage.
Some young persons were interviewed and they gave compelling arguments why there are low interactions between young adults and Nollywood:
Anthonia, 21, stated that “Nollywood films aren’t my type because I watch out for young characters in Film”.
Tobi 18, also stated that “I watched a lot of Nigerian films growing up but I get tired of watching them now because of their stronger focus on marriage, I am not interested we had Dear Mother, Binta and Friends, Omoye back in the day”.
Seyi, 15, also stated that “I think their themes are not for my age”.
Young adults form the largest audience for the entertainment industry. How is it that we no longer create movies for those who actually watch them?
Preferences & Youth
In terms of preference, the research suggests that Nigerians love comedies. These comedies usually get the biggest budgets and the brightest stars which make them sell out cinemas – The Wedding Party Movies being the highest-grossing movie in Nollywood of all time; other comedy franchises such as Funke Akindele’s Jenifa franchise and Ayo Makun’s array of comic films have a huge fanbase.
In recent years, there has been an enormous change in the Nigerian film industry with the success of Kemi Adetiba’s King of Boys and Living in Bondage: Breaking Free at the cinemas but work is still needed to accommodate the young adult genre. Dear filmmakers, the ball is in your court
I think we need to see younger faces too. I mean, the 30 year old playing a 19 year old thing can be kept to a minimum. Unavoidable, but possible.