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«Look, This Is Us!» - Nollywood-Inspired Migrant Filmmaking in Switzerland

Author Sandra MOOSER
Director of thesis Prof. Dr. Heinzpeter Znoj
Co-director of thesis Prof. Michaela Schäuble and Prof. Dr. Kathrin Oester
Summary of thesis

Under the name Nollywood, a unique video film industry has developed in Nigeria over the last few decades, which now forms one of the world's biggest entertainment industries. With its focus upon stories that reflect the values, desires, and fears of African viewers and its particular way of production, Nollywood shows its viewers new postcolonial forms of performative self‐expression and has become a point of reference for a wide range of people. However, it not only excites a large number of viewers inside and outside Nigeria, it also inspires some of them to become active themselves and make their own films. This effect of Nollywood-inspired filmmaking can be found in many parts of sub-Saharan Africa as well as in African diaspora communities all over the world.

The objective of my thesis is to study this emerging and still only little known phenomenon in the context of Switzerland. By employing qualitative methods of media anthropology, it seeks to examine how African migrants represent themselves as a community through audio-visual media and what impact Nollywood has on their chosen forms of self-representation. In the tradition of Jean Rouch's Shared Anthropology and the field of Performance Ethnography, I thus initiated a collaborative film project with a group of first-generation African migrants in the Swiss capital of Bern. Together, we worked for four years on the creation of the Nollywood-inspired feature film PARADISE IN MY MIND, which tells the fictionalised story of three African migrants. My partnership in this collaborative film project enabled me to observe and experience how the mostly amateur migrant filmmakers negotiated their representation and how Nollywood influenced their collective image production.

The analysis of the production processes and the final film shows that the project participants used Nollywood as a conceptual approach. They transformed it, according to their own living and filmmaking conditions in Switzerland, into a new film format, which illustrates their social position and seeks to gain public recognition for their lives as migrants from their various everyday spheres of interaction. Our collaboration thus exposed the vulnerable in-between-situation African migrants experience in Switzerland and how their filmmaking reflects not only their multi-layered social realities but also their extensive transnational exchange networks, their cultural identity, and their creative imagination.

Status finished
Administrative delay for the defence 2021