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While Fireproof, Facing the Giants, and The Passion of the Christ have generated talk of a Christian filmmaking renaissance in the United States, Nigerian Christians are actively contributing to the booming Nigerian film industry known as Nollywood.

Nollywood recently surpassed Hollywood in film production, according to a UNESCO survey released in May. The Lagos-based industry has existed for less than 20 years, yet produced 872 feature-length films in 2006, nearly twice Hollywood's 485 productions. (Both trailed India, which produced more than 1,000 films.)

Most Nigerian films, almost all of which are low-budget affairs shot on location and released on DVD, are spiritual in nature. About 20 percent are Christian, according to Obidike Okafor, an arts and culture reporter at Nigerian newspaper Next. Others champion Islam, animism and witchcraft, or simple morality.

The Christian-themed movies often aim at encouragement and evangelism more than sheer entertainment. Groups or churches often screen the films and follow them with discussions or an altar call.

"Nigerian movies are really watched," said Sunday Oguntola, religion reporter for Nigerian newspaper The Nation. "[People] like to watch stories. I rent an average of five movies every weekend to watch with my family."

Oguntola's Baptist church shows movies two or three times a month during the evening service. "People like to see life in movies," he said. "They can watch them for hours." Showing movies is usually more effective than preaching, and church leaders are capitalizing on that, he said.

The films are also a major part of witnessing in Nigeria, said Philip Jenkins, professor of history and religious studies at Pennsylvania State University. "This is particularly good ...

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October 2009

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