It is very shocking that in a male-dominated Nollywood industry, the female filmmakers appear to be dominating by making themselves the brains behind the highest-grossing movies the country has been blessed with in recent years. If you feel this is not true, check out this applaudable stat, 5 of the top highest grossing Nollywood movies at the box office between 2016 to 2022 were actually produced by women.
The highest-grossing Nigerian movie ever, “Omo Ghetto; the Saga,” which has raked over N600 million from the cinemas, was produced by popular Nollywood actress, Funke Akindele. To further establish the influence women have in our movie industry, Zulumoke Oyibo, another female Nollywood filmmaker has produced 2 of the 3 highest-grossing Nigerian films in recent times, “The Wedding Party 1 & 2.”
For those who have been living under a rock, Mo Abudu is the brain behind the popular project “Chief Daddy,” which ranks 4th in the box office list of highest-grossing movies, while Jade Abimbola produced “Sugar Rush,” the 5th-highest-grossing Nollywood movie at the box office. All of these facts and stats prove that women are becoming the pacesetters in the male-dominated Nollywood industry, and this is set to remain the trend for a while.
In a recent exclusive interview with PREMIUM TIMES Newspaper at a movie premiere in Ikoyi area of Lagos State, Nollywood filmmaker, Ms Oyibo tried to explain that the women seem to be having the upper hand when it comes to movie production in Nigeria, and most will find it hard to argue against her points.
Ms Oyibo, the co-founder of a popular movie production company, Inkblot Productions, said that the female movie producers in Nigeria simply do a better job by striving beyond every difficulty to have their desired impact on movie projects.
According to her, however, despite the successful careers of these women in recent years, they still battle the biggest challenge of financing their movies because of their gender. Oyibo categorically stated that the fact is most investors prefer to support their male counterparts because most investors are men too.
She believes most male investors focus on funding a man’s dreams than a woman’s aspirations, which creates a need for more women’s representation in the Nollywood industry.
On what aids the combination of her job and her marriage, the movie producer revealed that it is possible because the work of a filmmaker is highly intellectual. Oyibo revealed that even if being a producer comes with a lot of late-night hours that make mothers and wives juggle their marital and work responsibilities, women will always find a way to create a balance, which gives them an edge over the men.
Isioma Osaje, who also manages several top actors and has credits on Chief Daddy and King of Boys, the third-and fourth-highest-grossing Nigerian films, respectively, believes women are getting it right because they put in the work.
Like in other eras of Nigerian cinema, the mainstay filmmakers were men, including Chico Ejiro, Zeb Ejiro, Nnabue, Femi Lasode, Teco Benson, and the Amata brothers and Christian Onu. However, amongst these pillars of men stood Amaka Igwe, and her commercial and critical success in the male-dominated industry proved that women can be major players in the industry as well if they want to. Sadly, she died 8 years ago, but her work and success have surely inspired lots of ladies to work extra hard to correct the male dominance Nollywood has experienced for decades.
Mo Abudu’s 2009 debut, “Fifty,” which tells the story of four women approaching the peak of their careers and lives definitely did its bit to mark a new era for our women. The movie was strictly written and produced by women, and this has since been a constant in films produced by Abudu’s studio, EbonyLife Films.
Her reason, “The media industry is male-dominated, but we are 80 per cent female. I have to create a balance; our head of legal is female, our head of programming is female, our head of strategy is female.”
As our women continue to gain influence, they keep opening the doors for other female filmmakers. But this is not to say that some men have not also done their part to help pave the way for more women in Nollywood. The popular filmmaker and director, Niyi Akinmolayan, for example, has a yearly program that trains 30 women in video editing for free. According to him, “Great knowledge in editing is a great kickstart into directing and producing, so they don’t have to learn on set and be subjected to male madness — harassment.”
Writer, a Lawyer and Public Relations practitioner, Niran Adedokun, who once headed the screening committee and jury of the Best of Nollywood Awards, an award which recognises and rewards Nigerian filmmakers, also agrees that women have helped to advance the Nollywood industry in several ways.
How Women Are Transforming Nollywood:
The truth is that women have always had a place in Nollywood since its inception, however, that was mostly in front of the camera. Behind the scenes, men have always been in control as they produced and directed the biggest films and even dictated the market for Nollywood movies.
Three years ago, however, that male dominance began to fade, thanks to a fresh kind of female mogul swag that is best epitomized by Mo Abudu. Since she launched her first movie in 2015, she has kept ruling the Nigerian box office. 3 movies she executive produced, The Wedding Party 1, The Wedding Party: Destination Dubai and Chief Daddy still sit at the top of the highest-grossing Nigerian movies of all time, and she isn’t done yet. The first Wedding Party grossed 453 million naira, its sequel did 500 million naira and her latest Chief Daddy delivered more than 300 million naira in 21 days.
Four of her films produced by her film company, EbonyLife are among the top 10 highest-grossing Nollywood films to date and her success has led to this new era of women calling the shots in Africa’s biggest film industry.
Since her growth from her sofa on Moments with Mo to Nigerian cinema, the input of Nigerian ladies in Nollywood behind the scenes has increased rapidly. Mary Remmy Njoku, a Nigerian actress known for her role in Blackberry Babes, launched ROK Studios, which produced the popular Husbands of Lagos and is the brain behind lots of films and TV shows showing on iROKOtv.
It will bring joy to a woman’s face when I say that 6 out of 10 most successful films in our country have since been produced by the brilliant trio of Mo Abudu, Kemi Adetiba and Omoni Oboli. This is clear proof that the power has since shifted hands and it is majorly down to Mo’s influence. And as seen in Tope Oshin’s documentary, Shooting It Like A Woman, Nollywood women will not stop doing everything to take over from where the men left off. See 3 other Nigerian women who we’re looking forward to seeing more of in 2022:
1. Kemi Adetiba:
She is known for her crisp, sharp and clear movies that also deliver amazing storylines. Her soothing style definitely enticed lots of Nigerian musicians as she ventured into directing music videos, but this New York Film Academy alumni always had an eye for the movie industry.
Her first movie, The Wedding Party was an instant hit among movie lovers in Nigeria, and it became the first Nigerian film to gross over a million dollars from ticket sales. This made Kemi a star immediately and it flaunted a lot of her skills or ambitions as a Nollywood film director.
She later dropped her sophomore feature, King of Boys, and this went a long way in winning everyone over. It was 3 hours long, scary, bloody, and had zero jokes, but it still managed to keep the audience glued to their seats at the cinemas.
2. Genevieve Nnaji:
She needs no introduction as the story of Nollywood can never be complete without her. Genevieve Nnaji is one of the women who confirmed that Nollywood can indeed go global when Netflix bought her directorial debut, Lionheart, which she co-wrote, produced and starred in.
The comedy movie was not the first Nollywood film on Netflix, however, but it was the first Nigerian Netflix original, meaning it appeared on the streaming giant homepage and got major marketing, unlike the other Nigerian films on the streaming service.
Genevieve ended up having her desired impact as Lionheart generated global buzz and has since been featured in The New York Times, CNN, Variety and Essence magazine.
3. Tope Oshin:
You will not see someone who works harder than Tope Oshin in Nollywood. Years ago, she directed Up North — the biggest film in Nollywood as per sheer scale, and even if the movie became her biggest at the time, it was not her only work. Tope directed 2 other features and a TV series, which cemented her place as the best director Nollywood has seen in recent times.
Oshin might be more popular in her role as a film director, but she is also an amazing producer, casting director, writer, and actor. It is this commendable CV that sets her apart from her peers and we cannot wait to experience more of what she has to offer.
Even if the patriarchy might continue to persist, if recent history tells us anything, it is that women in our movie industry will keep making strides to stake their claim in the ever-booming and ever-evolving movement that is Nollywood.