The Nollywood movie industry has enjoyed massive transformation in recent years, from the colonial age to the golden era, to the video film era, and then the current Nigerian cinema as we know it, we have experienced technological advancements, larger global attention, and fantastic growth in revenue and quality of production over the years. And while these achievements are indeed deserving of a lot of praise and respect, there is still a lot of work to be done, especially with our storytelling.
The fact is that we have a lot of amazing content and thought-provoking movies released in the Nollywood film industry that often gets ignored because they do not fit into the regular Nollywood productions that Nigerians are used to, and this should not be the case. Also, while there is a clear interest in the creativity that Nollywood has to offer, most Africans do not actually have access to a lot of these movies thanks to problems like geoblocking and the general lack of mainstream popularity that surrounds them.
Changing this narrative and doing everything to stand out in an industry that only wants you to get in line, here are amazing Nollywood brains who are trying to be unique while telling the Nigerian story from a brilliant perspective:
1. Abba T Makama:
Abba is a popular award-winning filmmaker who is the founder/creative director of OSIRIS. He was born and bred in Jos, Plateau State and he studied film at New York University before becoming the professional he is today. Makama was once commissioned by Al Jazeera to direct a documentary on the Nigerian film industry, and this project went a long way in proving his prominence in the Nollywood industry.
The documentary which was titled “Nollywood: Something From Nothing,” was broadcast in 2015 and it eventually got nominated for Best Documentary Film at the 2016 African Movie Academy Awards. His 1st first feature film, “Green White Green” has screened in more than 17 international film festivals and it even won Best Nigerian Film at AFRIFF 2016.
His good work as a movie man has kept soaring over the years and one memorable movie he was in charge of, titled “The Lost Okoroshi”, was featured at BFI London Film Festival 2019. To prove his relevance till now, a more recent achievement is his “Juju Stories” project being screened at the Nollywood Week Film Fest 2022 in Paris and also at the New York African Film Festival 2022.
Known as the man who always preaches self-expression and standing out among the crowd, Amma believes that it is the producer’s job to reintroduce Nigerians back to themselves via movies. His projects always lie somewhere between satire and surrealism, and the movie-making collective he works with (rightly named Surreal 16) is also home to equally-talented creatives like Mike Omonua and CJ Obasi, who work alongside him to portray a different side to Nollywood films that are way unique compared to the ones most of us grew up watching.
His popular feature movie, “The Lost Okoroshi,” which was released at the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF), narrates the story of a poor family man, Raymond, who sleeps one night as a human and wakes up possessed by an ancestral masquerade with a costume that cannot be taken of. It is a funny and superb project that does all it can to demystify Nigerian culture without making it come across as just another “juju” drama. “The Lost Okoroshi” is currently streaming on Netflix and viewers have only had good things to say about it.
2. Olive Nwosu:
Olive was born in the city of Lagos and she is a BAFTA-Pigott Scholar and an excellent filmmaker whose mission in Nollywood is to narrate “urgent, cinematic, African stories.”
Known for viewing filmmaking from her meditative and philosophical perspective, Nwosu’s work is always a reflection of her background in trauma psychology, the kind of life experiences she has had on several continents, and her determination to better understand Nigeria and the world she lives in. Her goal is to be an outsider and also challenge the norm while changing what viewers have grown used to with Nigerian cinema over the years.
Her 2019 short film, “Troublemaker,” was set in an Eastern village and the complete cast is made up of people who are not even actors in real life since most of the scenes and dialogues were not even rehearsed.
This unique sense of originality and peek into people’s lived experiences during the Nigerian Civil war made the movie attract a lot of attention from the Nigerian and global audience. “Troublemaker” has been screened at various festivals including Raindance, Africa in Motion Film Festival and Aspen ShortsFest, and it has earned a commendable number of nominations and prizes since it was released.
Nwosu’s 2nd short film, “Egúngún,” was recently commissioned by the British Council and British Film Institute for their MoreFilms4Freedom program, and it even got featured at the New York African Film Festival 2022.
3. Damilola Orimogunje:
Starting his journey as a journalist and scriptwriter, Orimogunje is a talented Nigerian screenwriter and film director whose project has been screened in more than fifty festivals, winning several awards consecutively. His quick rise has been fun to watch as well, especially when we factor in the fact that Dami, like a lot of his colleagues, kicked off his career by shooting low-budget short films that he financed from his own pocket.
However, since he debuted his feature film, “For Maria: Ebun Pataki,” he has grown in leaps and bounds. Known to many as a beautiful, intimate and powerful movie that tackled a very key and ignored point in Nigeria — postpartum depression, the 76-minute-long movie has been hailed in Nigeria and globally, especially after it premiered on Netflix.
Thus far, his recognition has been abundant, and they include the Audience Choice for Best Narrative Feature award at Film Africa 2020, 6 nominations at the African Movie Academy Awards (AMAA) and a screening at the New York African Film Festival. Nigerians are definitely looking forward to what is to come from Damilola, and reports are already saying he is currently working on a new movie titled “Dear Ajayi.”
4. Candice Onyeama:
Candice is a brilliant Nigerian screenwriter and filmmaker who currently lives in the United Kingdom. She owns Genesis Child Films, a production company which concentrates on telling powerful stories that are inspired by women of African descent. Her super sharp, always compelling short films have earned several awards and screened at international festivals around the world, including the BFI London Film Festival, Roving Eye International Film Festival, and the Brazilian African Film Festival.
Her projects have been named and reviewed on popular platforms like Afropunk and Yahoo Entertainment, and her most recent award-winning movie, “Born Again,” has caught the attention of a lot of eyeballs as it focuses on a woman’s inability to get pregnant while touching on the relationship Africans have with religion.
Popular for tackling sensitive topics and never shying away from controversies, Candice’s first short film, “Hush,” is all about a young lady named Uche who loses her ability to speak completely, leading to a lot of emotional trauma within her family. While concentrating on Uche’s silence and mental health in the movie, Onyeama still manages to highlight every other character’s internal battle, focusing on various real-life problems in just under fifteen minutes.
If you are wondering what Candice is up to these days, she is currently working behind the scene ahead of the release of her debut feature movie, “Another I.”
5. A.Y. Makun:
Popular comedian, Ayo Makun is no stranger to the Nollywood industry because of his recent exploits in the country’s movie sector. He was born in Lagos State on August 19, 1971, to his Yoruba parents, and he hails from Ifon in Ondo State, Nigeria under Ose Local Government Area.
With the way he speaks, everyone already knows the entertainer grew up in Warri, Delta State and this is why he has since earned the name “Warri Boy,” with many refusing to believe that he is actually a Yoruba man.
Makun began his comedy career in school after he performed at the “Night of a Thousand Laugh” by Oppa Williams in 2006. Before jumping on such a big stage, AY was already visible in several shows while in school and even outside of his school environment.
While he was still an undergraduate, AY hosted lots of modelling shows including Miss Delta and Miss Delsu, before he finally met Alibaba Akporobome who he still calls his mentor today. Before I get carried away, AY is not on this list because of his comedy exploits, he has actually ventured into Nollywood over the years with very memorable projects that Nigerians will never forget.
AY Makun released the very hilarious “30 Days in Atlanta” in 2014 and it was a box office success, breaking and setting new records along the way. He quickly followed it up with “A Trip to Jamaica,” in 2016, and that project raked in lots of money as well. Not willing to end the streak anytime soon, AY released “10 Days in Sun City” a year later, and as expected, it met with an entertained audience and willing pockets.
Over the years, AY Makun has been known to stick to his formula of quality comedy template and superb plot development to entertain the audience, and we expect it to work wonders again if the comedian decides to drop a new movie project anytime soon. His list of popular movies includes:
30 Days In Atlanta (2014)
A Trip To Jamaica (2016)
Merry Men: The Real Yoruba Demons (2018)
Merry Men (2019).