Phyllis is a moving and atmospheric portrait of a ‘psychic’ vampire, a woman obsessed with synthetic Nollywood dramas, that lives alone in Lagos, Nigeria. The central idea of this short experimental film is the practise and significance of wig-wearing in Nollywood film; a practise the director has invested with deeper psychological as well as science-fiction layers. Underpinning this central idea however is a critique of the unforgiving treatment of single women in Nollywood and Nigeria. The film is an example of what the director, Zina Saro-Wiwa, has termed “alt-Nollywood”, a genre that plays with and reworks certain narrative, stylistic and visual conventions of Nollywood. Phyllis explores the gothic possibilities of the Nollywood aesthetic creating a new kind of low-budget atmospheric film that is very much of Nollywood and yet subverts the genre. Using Nollywood to subvert Nollywood.
An aesthetic medium, the cinema seems ill-equipped to convey the density of great prose, to illustrate externally the inner life articulated with nuance by words. Film is bound to a certain literalism: the indexical relationship between the image and what it communicates is direct, unavoidable. A film can’t describe—it can only show.
Calum Marsh, from Lost in Translation: Notes on Adapting Ballard, for the Paris Review, December 2013.
See also, The Ultimate City.