The ending year has been a good one for the industry, marking the real beginning of Nollywood’s quest to go global.
The big names in film production in Nigeria still dominated the scene, owing specifically to their strategic thinking, which availed the watching public works that were enthralling. Kunle Afolayan, set the ball rolling early in the year with his documentary, Ise dale Yoruba, which took him round the south west region interviewing traditional rulers and filming exotic spots. The essence of the work was to highlight the rich culture of the Yoruba and it did get a lot of commendations.
Following in the same footsteps of promoting African culture was Obi Emelonye, who released his new movie, Onye Ozi, The Messenger. Emelonye after making a mark with films like Mirror Boy and Last Flight to Abuja, decided to shoot ‘Onye Ozi’ to revitalise the dwindling interest in making movies in Igbo language amongst his kinsmen. The film, which has white and black cast was shot in England and has already sparked off the passion to make Igbo language movies in producers like Teco Benson, Dickson Iroegbu, Amayo Philips, Harris Chuma and Gab Onyi amongst others.
Onye Ozi, which has had only the theatrical release also served as the platform to rekindle the acting career of Comedian Okey Bakassi, who did the lead role.
Another producer whose work remained relevant is Lancelot Oduwa Imasuen. After the commercial success of his last film, Adesuwa, Imasuen went back to location for ‘Invasion 1897’, which is the story of the invasion of the Benin Kingdom which happened 200 years ago. The film location in Benin was an assemblage of about 1500 film professionals from three continents- Africa, Asia and Europe. The story marks the climax in the inordinate exploitation of Africa by the West.
This sinister quest began with slavery and later devolved to the famed scramble for Africa where the entire continent was divided among European World powers. The year also heralded a renewed vigour for comedy. From the Enugu angle of the industry, Amayo Uzor Philips kept churning out comics that utilised the acting prowess of actors like Nkem Owoh, John Okafor, Funke Akindele, Charles Inojie and Charles Awurum. The interesting thing is how he broke the work into a serial that stretched into several parts. This was what gave rise to films like Sherikoko and Osuofia’s Wedding.
Events that marked the civil war also presented an entertaining spectacle for those who have followed the blossoming career of Chimamanda Adichie. Her views of the controversial Nigeria-Biafra war captured in, Half of a Yellow Sun adapted into a big budget film, featuring Hollywood stars, Chinwetel Ejiofor, who played Odenigbo and Thandie Newton, who played the role of Olanna. The film which was shot in Calabar, and also featured Onyeka Onwenu and Zack Orji but raised a little issue when the role assigned to Genevieve Nnaji was expunged from the film.
At the Toronto International Film Festival where the film was screened to the public, it sure got the applause it deserved, and has been seen by the film world as a gateway to the quest of Nollywood to gain global acceptability.
Ifeanyi Onyeabor, also started work on another film that has a unique theme. It is centered on the Almajiri syndrome in the northern part of Nigeria. The work is also being seen as one that would open the doors for Nigerians in other industries especially Bollywood. Currently in post production the film has stars from Nigeria, Ghana, Kenya and South Africa. Television also had an exciting year in Nigeria. Aside the consolidation of ‘Tinsel’ which has surpassed the 1000-episode mark in the year, the country welcomed another drama series, ‘Shuga’, directed by Biyi Bandele, who also directed Half of a Yellow Sun.
In 2013, Internet accessibility and appetite for African movies abroad also soared, making Iroko TV, run by Jason Njoku a bigger deal as he offered West African films to world audiences. But a telecommunications company took the step further by offering an application that avails Nigerian films on-the-go for a fee. The idea is already making the producers glad and grateful.