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Examines the relationship between Nollywood and the city of Lagos

Table of contents

Introduction: Lagos Never Spoils
Chapter One: Urban Ambivalence in Early Nigerian Films
Chapter Two: Television’s City Situations
Chapter Three: Narratives of Entanglement
Chapter Four: New Nollywood and the New Image
Chapter Five: Love and World in Lagos
Chapter Six: Dark and Gritty/Slick and Glossy


The slogan “Lagos shall not spoil,” found in print media, political campaigns, and common conversation, represents a shared expression of the optimism the city embodies. However, on city streets the phrase also appears scrawled in irreverent variations—“Lagos cannot spoil more than this!”—that meet the frustrations of city life with irony. In both cases, the slogan captures the resilience and persistence with which residents of Lagos live on, despite it all. This book examines the circumstances that make it possible for residents to persist in pursuing their various projects and for the city to remain a platform that supports these projects and creates space for even more to emerge. Author Connor Ryan argues that residents continually work to combine contingency and endurance in opportunistic ways that make the city work for them, and as such, Lagos never spoils: it endures.

What makes Lagos remarkable is what residents have made of it, and Nollywood—the industry and the body of films—both embodies and represents this continual urban transformation. Lagos Never Spoils traces how Nollywood arose from the social milieu of Lagos and, in turn, generates a repertoire of stories, images, styles, and sentiments with which audiences come to grips with city life. The book traces the evolution of the screen media industry in Lagos and explores how this corresponds with historical phases in the city’s representation onscreen. It discusses important urban spaces of production and consumption, including historic movie halls, video marketplaces, film sets, and multiplex cinemas. Across six chapters, it attends to celluloid films about oil-boom wealth, television sitcoms about urban tricksters, video melodramas about urban crisis, glossy romantic comedies about young professionals, and dark thrillers on streaming platforms about the pleasure of moral transgression. In this fashion, the book offers new approaches to the interpretation of screen texts produced in and about Lagos, a place that is today the most influential image of West African city life.

Connor Ryan is Lecturer in World Cinema at the University of Bristol.

“This is an exciting and original book. This deeply informative study of the connections between Lagos and Nollywood is in dialogue with research on media capitals and urbanism around the world. This study does not simply retrace the history of Nollywood, but rather offers a rich and vivid portrait of Lagos as an African media capital in tandem with its constantly evolving status as a cinematic and televisual city over several decades in Nigerian screen media.”

- Moradewun Adejunmobi, University of California, Davis

“This is an excellent book, a wonderful book. Connor Ryan’s knowledge of Lagos and its citizens is vivid, extensive, firm, insightful, and warm; his understanding of the Nigerian film industry, particularly in its most recent evolutions, is second to no one’s; he’s a gifted interpreter of individual films; and he has the writerly and intellectual skills to make all of these elements work together. In its thinking, its scholarship, and its writing, this book is poised, purposeful, and well organized.”

- Jonathan Haynes, Long Island University

Winner: Outstanding Book Award from the SCMS Media Industries SIG | 03/25/2024