In terms of quality of films, 2016 was better than most as a couple of much buzzed about, big budget projects (at least by Nollywood standards) finally saw the light of the day. Wilfred Okiche sifts through the Nollywood films that had major cinema releases or were premiered during the calendar year and bring you the definitive top 10 list. Ranked in ascending order.
10. Ghana Must Go
The chaotic, plot of Ghana Must Go is not the most original idea of the year but the ridiculousness is saved by extremely funny situational gags that leave audiences clutching their sides with laughter. Ghana Must Go succeeds in becoming the rare comedy that is actually really funny, making comic gold out of ugly history and leaving room to wonder sometimes just how far the cast,- comprising Nkem Owoh, Ada Ameh, Yvonne Okoro,- is willing to go to elicit a laugh or two. Hint: They go far enough.
Director Mildred Okwo’s anticipated follow up to the terrific The Meeting was a tad underwhelming chiefly because of the quality of talent involved, and because it had big shoes to fill. But even Okwo’s lesser efforts easily trump the bulk of what is out there in terms of depth and skill. Seun Ajayi’s brilliant and believable performance is the heart and soul of this tale that preaches the rewards of patience. Rounding out the supporting cast are Lala Akindoju, Enyinna Nwigwe, Tope Tedela and Beverly Naya.
Oloibiri isn’t a perfect film. Some of the writing is in need of an editor’s competent eye, the acting could have been better captured and the extras could have used some more training. The ending is rushed and events fail to occur naturally as much as they are hustled along just for the sake of arriving at a logical conclusion. Oloibiri isn’t the definitive film that tells the Niger Delta story in a deeply effective and engaging manner, but it is a bloody decent start.
7. The CEO
The CEO is a pretty picture. Beautifully shot and expertly rendered, the film is once again, less the expression of an inspired auteur, and more the product of some strategic collaboration with various masters of their craft; in departments like production design, cinematography and sound. Kunle Afolayan continues his hot streak and manages to outdo himself in terms of the scale and ambition of his vision but all the technical good in the world cannot quite cover up the film’s problem with story.
6. Gidi Blues
Femi Odugbemi’s Gidi Blues may feature a love triangle involving actors Gideon Okeke, Hauwa Allahbura and Nancy Isime as the central plotline but even if you were to ignore this obvious necessity for drama and human interaction, the film still works, maybe even better as a love letter to Lagos. Story may not be Odugbemi’s strong suit but visuals are his thing and the thrilling shots of mainstream Lagos as achieved here are almost worth the price of admission.
5. The Arbitration
The Arbitration is Niyi Akinmolayan’s glittery meditation on corporate power structure and how it plays out between both sexes. A fine, competent outing for just about everyone involved, The Arbitration is a Nollywood rarity, a finely acted, adult leaning drama that is big on ideas and wants to be so much more than its obvious constraints. Execution remains a challenge but the team scores cool points for effort.
4. The Wedding Party
Directed by Kemi Adetiba – she of the high concept music videos – The Wedding Party benefits from Adetiba’sbackground as she is able to juggle multiple characters and apportion the exact amount of screen time in order to keep her pacing fast and fun. Produced by the collective of EbonyLifefilms, Inkblot Productions and Koga Studios, and part of the Lagos showcase at the Toronto International Film Festival, The Wedding Party stays true to its promise; a well-presented,glamourous snapshot of modern living. Who can say no to that?
3. Green White Green (And All The Beautiful Colors in My Mosaic of Madness)
Abba T. Makama’s ode to art house cinema got its Lagos premiere at the Lights Camera Africa film festival and was screened at the Africa International Film Festival (AFRIFF) where its leading man, Ifeanyi Dike Jr scored a special jury prize. The stylish, chopped and screwed meta adventure comes dressed as a film within a film, but in essence, it is Makama, trying to make sense via art out of his home country.
2. 93 Days
An almost perfect confluence of funding, talent, skill and passion, 93 Days traces the heroics of the health workers who in 2014, put their lives on the line to stop Ebola in its track. Director Steve Gukas balances his cast and crew like a true professional and churns out a movie that though not without its failings, gives a very convincing, competent rendition of an important slice of contemporary Nigerian history. Bimbo Akintola, Somkele Idhalama and Scottish actor Alastair Mackenzie give career best performances.
Although proudly made in Nigeria with a local cast and crew,the long in the works ’76 wants to play in the big leagues where the best of world cinema comes out to party. Adopting historical events as background for a young marriage’s ultimate test, ’76 is perhaps the most complete piece of work to hit cinemas in a while. Speaking to the Nigerian experience, all the effort put in displayed on screen. The acting is (mostly) rock solid and the technical achievement is stunning to look at. Movies do not have to be perfect to work and this one is proof.
About the writer:
Wilfred Okiche. Medic. Writer. Reader. Critic. Occasional ruffler of feathers. Works in a health centre in Lagos but manages to find the time to pursue other interests. His writing has appeared on various print and online platforms . He has provided editorial assistance to the UK Guardian and appears on the culture television show, Africana Literati. He tweets @drwill20