A surprising documentary by Saartje Geerts

John is a young Nigerian immigrant who has been living in Antwerp for a number of years. Like most of his compatriots, he is a great fan of Nollywood movies. “Nollywood” represents the Nigerian film industry, the third largest in the world. Nollywood films are straight from the heart. They are made quickly and on a shoestring, and they tell stories from life with a strong moral content. John dreams of a career as a famous and respected Nollywood filmmaker, and of building a life in Europe.

But then he becomes involved in a shady affair. He is arrested and subsequently convicted of inciting prostitution and of complicity in people trafficking. After serving his sentence, he decides to make his own story into a film, called “Desperate Hearts”. The manner in which John presents his tale, interspersed with comments from friends-cum-actors as well as independent testimonies from Nigeria, ultimately reveals what led to his conviction.

But is John really guilty? And will making this film help him to regain the respect he so craves? Little is known about life in the Nigerian community in Europe. “Nollywood Abroad” lifts the veil by an original combination of four thematic threads: immigration, prostitution, religion and… filmmaking.

About the director

Saartje Geerts studied Political and Social Sciences at the University of Ghent. At the University Pompeu Fabra of Barcelona she continued her training with a master in Creative Documentary, which met her particular interests: film and socio-political questions.

In Spain she collaborated on fiction film and documentary projects. Meanwhile she worked at the Centre for Contemporary Culture of Barcelona in the Exhibitions Department where she was responsible for audiovisual aspects.

On her return in Antwerp she started working on her first own documentary ‘Nollywood Abroad’, which she completed early 2008. Since 2014 she has been the assistant to contemporary visual artist Anne-Mie Van Kerckhoven.


Directed by Saartje Geerts

Editor - Geert De Doncker

Dop - Marc Appeltans & Hans De Bauw

Sound - Steven Van Roy

Music - Antoon Offeciers

Awards & festivals

Opendoek Filmfestival, Turnhout (BE)

De cultuurkaravaan, Antwerp (BE)

Official Competition of Miradas-Doc 2008 in the First Film category, Canarian Islands (ES)

Official Competition of Al Jazeera Festival, Doha (Qatar)

The Black International Cinema Festival, Berlin (DE) - awarded ‘Best Documentary’

Production details

Duration: 73'

In co-production with VRT – Canvas and ZDF

Supported by Flanders Audiovisual Fund (VAF) and in collaboration with ARTE

Language: Dutch, English

Subtitles: English, Dutch, German