Despite the uncertainties of 2020, these Nigerian filmmakers defied the odds and rolled out films that will be remembered for years to come.
Every year, hundreds of films are produced in Nigeria for a faithful audience within the country and abroad. This year, the coronavirus pandemic crippled the world's economy forcing Nigerian cinemas and production companies to shut down operations, disrupting what was set to be yet another impressive year for Nollywood's ambitious projects.
Despite the plague and the uncertainties that came with it, there are filmmakers that defied the odds and rolled out films that will be remembered for years to come. These films rode through the obstacles of a worldwide pandemic to bring entertainment and satisfaction to audiences in a year with little to celebrate. From Desmond Ovbiagele's much buzzed about film, "The Milkmaid," to Kunle Afolayan's "Citation," in no particular order, here are the best Nigerian films of 2020.
Directed by Desmond Ovbiagele and starring Maryam Booth and Jammal Ibrahim, "The Milkmaid" explores the harsh reality of insurgency in Northern Nigeria using the story of two Fulani sisters, Aisha and Zainab who are kidnapped.
"The Milkmaid" presents a well-nuanced story, with eye-watering visuals and incredible acting that makes it a delight, even as it tackles an extremely sensitive subject. It is Nigeria's official submission for the 2021 Oscars though it is yet to screen due to failing censorship and classification by the National Film and Video Censors Board (NFVCB).
Read OkayAfrica's interview with the director here.
In Kayode Kasum's October release, "This Lady Called Life," we meet Aiye, a struggling single mother who dreams of being a chef. This beautiful story that chronicles Aiye as she fights against the odds to chase her dreams, wins you over with all the heartwarming moments and the chemistry between the lead actors. The film features Bisola Aiyeola, Efa Iwara, Jemima Osunde, Tina Mba, a cast of some of Nollywood's favorites.
"This Lady Called Life" is currently streaming on Netflix.
Centered on the notorious terrorism in North-eastern Nigeria and inspired by eye-witness accounts of actual events, "Voiceless" tells the story of Salma and Goni, two young women captured by a dreaded terrorist gang along with hundreds of their schoolmates.
Directed by Nollywood veteran, Robert O. Peters, "Voiceless" presents impressive acting from young and promising leads, and although the CGI can be a bit tacky at some points it is compensated for with mesmerizing shots, a solid story, and an incredible score. In its own way, the film also manages to tackle pertinent issues especially for the North East region of Nigeria such as education for the girl child and gender-based violence.
"Voiceless" was released in cinemas back in October.
In Uyaiedu Ikpe-Etim's delicate directorial debut, Adaora, and Ífé, two Nigerian women have to grapple with the realities of navigating dating in Nigeria as they fall in love in a country that frowns at the idea of same-sex relationships and criminalizes it.
"Ìfé" is a well-done representation of a queer relationship that is thought-provoking, brave, and well-done. It stays true to itself, challenges stereotypes, and allows the stories of the main characters to be seen and not sidelined. Much like "The Milkmaid," "Ífé" has also been banned by the Nigerian Film and video censor board. It has, however, screened at various festivals including The Leeds International Film Festival and the Toronto LGBT Film Festival.
"Ìfé" is currently screening on EHTV Network
Set in the border-town of Badagry, Lagos, "Introducing the Kujus" is a dramedy that takes viewers on a journey back home with the Kuju siblings who are tricked by their youngest sister into visiting home in remembrance of their late mother who passed 5 years earlier. For the most part, it is an enjoyable comedy that tells a compelling story, a trait that Nollywood comedies can have the tendency to forget.
The Biodun Stephen directed film casts some of Nollywood's favorite faces including Bisola Aiyeola, Timini Egbuson, Femi Jacobs, and Bimbo Ademoye.
"Introducing The Kujus" is currently showing in cinemas.
After the success of 2019 "Living in Bondage: Breaking Free," Play Network made the decision to remake Amaka Igwe's 1995 movie "Rattlesnake," this time putting a modern context to the original classic story for a new generation.
The result is "Rattlesnake: The Ahanna Story," directed by Ramsey Nouah starring Stan Nze, Osas Ighodaro, Bucci Franklin, Efa Iwara, and Emeka Nwagbaraocha. "The Ahanna Story" gets a lot of things right -- the cinematography is great, the music is amazing and there are near decent performances that make it worthwhile. But, the film's commentary on the disparity between the rich and the poor in Nigeria adds a level of resonance while its brief exploration of unemployment in the country re-emphasizes the corrupt nature of Nigerian politicians.
"Rattlesnake: The Ahanna Story" is currently showing in cinemas.
Many films made in 2020 focus on social issues and Kunle Afolayan's "Citation" is no exception. Based on real events, Afolayan's "Citation" tackles rape culture in Nigerian universities as it follows the story of a post-graduate student, Moremi who speaks out after a popular university professor attempts to rape her.
"Citation" may feel amateurish at points but it is well-meaning and that counts in the positive. The film score is enchanting with sounds that help move the story forward and shots that lure the audience, despite the very long watch time. The film features Temi Otedola, Jimmy Jean-Louis, Joke Silva, and Ini Edo as members of the cast and is currently streaming on Netflix.
Set in Lagos, Nigeria Eyimofe "(This Is My Desire)" tells the stories of Mofe, a factory technician, and Rosa, a hairdresser, on their journey for a better life. With a very relatable story, "Eyimofe" is a charming love/hate letter to Lagos, one that is told through the lead characters on their journey across the ocean.
"Eyimofe" premiered at the Berlinale earlier in the year and has screened at festivals in London, Austria, Netherlands, and Spain. It was directed by Arie and Chuko Esiri and stars Jude Akuwudike, Temi Ami-Williams, Cynthia Ebijie, Sadiq Daba, Tomiwa Edun, Jacobs Alexander, and Chioma 'Chigul' Omeruah.
Find out more about where to catch "Eyimofe" here.
In 2018, Inkblot Productions released "New Money" which chronicled the cliche Nigerian dream of the lead, Toun coming across an unexpected fortune. Two years later, "Quam's Money" is a follow-up that hones in on Quam, a secondary character from the original movie, a security guard turned millionaire and his newfound wealth.
Sequels have the natural tendency to be very sloppy especially when it feels like the story is being milked for anything that can give appropriate screen time, but "Quam's Money," however, tells a story that has the potential to be better than the original. The film was directed by Kayode Kasum and stars Folarin 'Falz' Falana, Nse Ikpe-Etim, Toni Tones, and Michelle Dede.
"Quam's Money" is in theaters now.