It has really been a great year for the Nigerian movie industry. Great year because a couple of really good movies surfaced… somehow. There was Ije and Figurine and Anchor Baby. Of course there was Guilty Pleasures, which by the way I don’t put in the same class with Ije, Figurine and Anchor Baby. I was also at BOBTV 2010 in Sheraton Hotel Abuja which really rocked. It really gave me a very good feel of what I had been missing for many years. Then African International Film Festival (AFRIFF) debuted. There were a lot of other film festivals but I was only able to attend these two. Nse became the Nollywood queen. Omoni rocked us all with her performance in Anchor baby.
2010 was really a good year for Nollywood.
But my high point this year was sitting inside one of Genesis Deluxe Cinema screens somewhere in Lagos and falling in love with Chineze’s artistic brilliance. Few minutes into the movie, I was already seeing a Nollywood classic unfold. There is nothing more disappointing than watching an overhyped movie with your hard-earned 1500 Naira. But Ije never showed any signs of disappointing me from beginning till end. Even the normal trailers before the movie started were all very good too – Grown Ups (Adam Sandlers and friends) and Tron (the sci-fi film). Went on to watch Grown Ups the next day with Chineze’s brilliance still very much on my mind.
Now for anyone who ever sees Ije, watch out for the scenes where Omotala’s character is in prison crying while Genny’s character is making love with the lawyer who’s working on her sister’s case. I can’t remember watching a more powerful scene in a Nollywood film before, ever. Maybe the scene in the movie Christmas Passion where Christmas (Desmond Elliot) was singing Stevie Wonder’s I Just Called to Passion (Kate Henshaw). Or the scene in Reloaded where Stephanie Okereke was ‘feeding’ Van Vicker some cakes after she kidnapped him on his way to his wedding.
Also watch out for good metaphors and symbols in Ije. They were well used throughout the movie especially a particular bead. Rape was also another major issue in the movie. I don’t know if the director intended this, but for me it was the major issue in the movie.
About BOBTV 2010, I would say every aspiring Nigerian filmmaker has to be at BOBTV every year until you make enough money to be at bigger film festivals like Cannes or Toronto or Venice. Emem Isong, Francis Duru, Sam Dede, Monalisa Chinda (who looked more beautiful and whiter than I thought she was) were some stars at the event. Actually seeing Monalisa Chinda there made me realize that while ‘Hollywood’ cameras made Hollywood stars more beautiful than they are in real life, ‘Nollywood’ cameras did the opposite to our Nollywood stars.
There were master classes that were free for all to attend. Directing, producing, acting, documentary all had master classes. I would think the most innovative part of BOBTV 2010 was the ‘a film in a day’ competition. It is a free competition that involved a director, writer and producer. The writer comes up with a script in collaboration with the director and producer. They all go around looking for actors and completing the film in a day. The organizers only assign a camera man and an editor to you. Was really a nice experience for most people that took part. And of course, the university challenge had for years now been a good avenue for networking between students from different universities.
For the Nollywood players, I think more actresses wowed us in 2010 than actors did. My personal opinion though. There was Nse Ikpe-Etim who I fell in love with this year. Think the whole love thing started after seeing her in Reloaded. But it blossomed more in Guilty Pleasures which isn’t really a great movie but Nse still gave a great performance. And she shared a couple of good kisses in the movie as well. Then she went to Harvard, not as a student though, but was invited by Nigerian Students association Harvard University to be a part of a panel to discuss Nollywood. Then she said she can act nude if the part required it. And won NEA best actress award. It was a very good year for her.
Then there was Omoni Oboli in her five-star performance in Anchor Baby that got her the best actress award at the Harlem International Film Festival.
Then there was also ‘blood’ sisters Genny and Omotala in Ije. They also had good performances in the movie.
Not all was that good in Nollywood though.
First of all, there were lots of bad movies again. A few very good ones didn’t really let people do the ‘bashing’ thing a lot. Most people spent more time waiting for Ije, Anchor Baby and Figurine. In fact, more people even watched the trailers than they actually saw other movies. But I came across an article that brought my attention to a new trend of using almost nude actors and actresses in posters. One advice, just add a lot more of the nudity in the actual movies. Titanic had scenes like that. Monster’s Ball too. The Reader, as well. And they were all great movies. The list goes on and on. But the simple rule is “make a good movie”. Put plenty nude people (especially females) but make it a good movie.
Cinema culture is one of the newest trends in Nigeria. That is if only Lagos, Abuja and Port Harcourt are the only states in Nigeria. This is where the most work needs to be done. We don’t really need a world class cinema that will be built with millions of Naira. Just get us a big room, a screen (you could try the old white wrappers used during the ‘Pilgrim’s Progress’ movie crusade days), put some AC and that’s okay. Someone like me wants to see a movie and not a cinema building. Stephanie’s Through the Glass, Ije, Anchor Baby would have all made more money from states that didn’t just have one cinema showing these movies. So this is something Nollywood should really look into.
One of the biggest problems Nollywood has is the issue of story. I hope this gets to be the year this issue is settled. I have not really seen enough challenging stories in Nollywood. Nollywood needs at least five yearly screenwriting competitions. This is the best way of discovering talents. As big as Nollywood claims it is, we don’t have any screenwriter’s agency. And sometimes I wonder if we really have an industry or just a bunch of guys making home videos. I always tell people that the only trace of Nigeria in the Oscar archives has to be Sophie Okenedo’s best supporting actress nomination for her role in Hotel Rwanda. Should it be so? Number one or two or three movie industry in the world? Some years back, I went through the Oscar archives and was surprised to see how many countries that you wouldn’t really consider as a ‘filmmaking’ country that actually had films that had received Oscar nods. Compare it to a great ‘football’ nation with no FIFA world cup appearance. It just doesn’t make sense.
I have watched a lot of Oscar movies I know some of the guys in Nollywood can make movies that are as good as those. I mean simple stories with simple locations. We don’t really need to make an Avatar or a Spider-man or another Dark Knight to tell the world that we have arrived. The South African film Tsotsi is a very good example. It won an Oscar for best foreign film and many more international awards. This is the route Nollywood needs to take. Simple movies with great stories. I hope this will finally the year we produce an Oscar film.
In 2011, I would like to see…
At least 5 screenwriting competitions open to only Nigerians. Big directors can use this as an avenue to get good scripts from aspiring screenwriters. Prizes mustn’t really be money but maybe a chance for one’s screenplay to be made.
Cinemas set up in more state capitals. It will give more people the opportunity to see more Nigerian movies. And of course, put more money in the pockets of Nigerian filmmakers.
Chineze Anyaene should make a film that’ll be wholly set in Nigeria. That’ll really show her true strength as a filmmaker. I know sometimes seeing USA and London in Nigerian films has a way of ‘confusing’ us a little. So a film totally set in Nigeria will be great from Chineze.
And of course, a lot more great Nollywood movies.
2010 was really a good year for Nollywood; I sincerely hope 2011 is better.