From Mo Abudu to Ema Edosio, these women are transforming Nollywood for the better.
Women have had a place in Nollywood since its inception, but that was mostly in front of the camera. Behind the scenes, things have historically been governed by men: they produce and direct the biggest films and generally dictate the market for Nigerian film.
In 2019, the era of overwhelming male dominance is over, thanks to a new type of female mogul personified best by Mo Abudu. Since the release of her first film Fifty in in 2015 she has ruled the Nigerian box office. Three films she executive produced—The Wedding Party 1, The Wedding Party: Destination Dubai and Chief Daddy—sit atop the list of highest grossing Nigerian movies of all time. The original Wedding Party grossed ₦453 million, its sequel did ₦500 million, and her latest Chief Daddy made over ₦300 million in three weeks.
Four of the films produced by her film company EbonyLife are among the top 10 highest grossing Nollywood films. Mo Abudu's success has ushered in a new trend of women making boss moves in Africa's biggest film industry.
Since her transition from her couch on Moments with Mo to film, the involvement of women in Nollywood behind the scenes have increased: Mary Remmy Njoku, a Nollywood actress popular for her role in Blackberry Babes, founded ROK Studios which produced the popular Husbands of Lagos and is responsible for the bulk of movies and series shown on iROKOtv. Six of the 10 most successful Nollywood films have been produced by women: Mo Abudu, Kemi Adetiba and Omoni Oboli.
This is a testament to both women's power in Nollywood and Mo's influence.
As reflected in Tope Oshin's documentary Shooting It Like A Woman, women are beating the odds to succeed in the male-dominated Nigerian film industry and in 2018, the women of Nollywood stepped up their game and made the biggest moves in the industry.
Below are six Nigerian women who we're looking forward to seeing more of this year.
Kemi Adetiba<div id="66417" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="VLZL9G1547507124"><blockquote class="instagram-media" data-instgrm-captioned data-instgrm-version="4" style=" background:#FFF; border:0; border-radius:3px; box-shadow:0 0 1px 0 rgba(0,0,0,0.5),0 1px 10px 0 rgba(0,0,0,0.15); margin: 1px; max-width:658px; padding:0; width:99.375%; width:-webkit-calc(100% - 2px); width:calc(100% - 2px);"> <div style="padding:8px;"> <div style=" background:#F8F8F8; line-height:0; margin-top:40px; padding:50% 0; text-align:center; width:100%;"> <div style=" background:url(data:image/png;base64,iVBORw0KGgoAAAANSUhEUgAAACwAAAAsCAMAAAApWqozAAAAGFBMVEUiIiI9PT0eHh4gIB4hIBkcHBwcHBwcHBydr+JQAAAACHRSTlMABA4YHyQsM5jtaMwAAADfSURBVDjL7ZVBEgMhCAQBAf//42xcNbpAqakcM0ftUmFAAIBE81IqBJdS3lS6zs3bIpB9WED3YYXFPmHRfT8sgyrCP1x8uEUxLMzNWElFOYCV6mHWWwMzdPEKHlhLw7NWJqkHc4uIZphavDzA2JPzUDsBZziNae2S6owH8xPmX8G7zzgKEOPUoYHvGz1TBCxMkd3kwNVbU0gKHkx+iZILf77IofhrY1nYFnB/lQPb79drWOyJVa/DAvg9B/rLB4cC+Nqgdz/TvBbBnr6GBReqn/nRmDgaQEej7WhonozjF+Y2I/fZou/qAAAAAElFTkSuQmCC); display:block; height:44px; margin:0 auto -44px; position:relative; top:-22px; width:44px;"> </div></div><p style=" margin:8px 0 0 0; padding:0 4px;"> <a href="https://www.instagram.com/p/BrFi135l7CX/" style=" color:#000; font-family:Arial,sans-serif; font-size:14px; font-style:normal; font-weight:normal; line-height:17px; text-decoration:none; word-wrap:break-word;" target="_top">Kemi Adetiba on Instagram: “Now that I've got your attention... 😊 @niyiokeowostudio for @guardianlifeng”</a></p> </div></blockquote></div><p><strong>Kemi Adetiba</strong> became popular for her aesthetically-pleasing and story-rich music videos; her refreshing style made her an instant hit among top musicians in the country. Before venturing into directing videos, the <strong>New York Film Academy</strong> alumni had worked in radio and TV as a presenter.</p><p>Her first film <em>The Wedding Party</em> was an instant hit among moviegoers in the country. It was also the first Nigerian film to gross over a million dollars from ticket sales. Instantly, Kemi was a star. But while her first movie was a huge commercial success, it received mixed reviews and did not show much of her skills or ambitions as a film director.</p><p>It was her sophomore feature <em>King of Boys</em>, which she wrote and co-produced, that won everyone over. It is a Nollywood modern-day cult classic. The film screamed audacity. It was three hours long; it was dark and at times bloody, and had no jokes: basically, not a typical commercial Nigerian film. But it became one of the most successful movies of 2018.</p><p>For seven consecutive weeks, it was the number one film in Nigerian cinemas (the longest by a Nollywood film), beating stiff competition from several Hollywood and Nollywood films. It grossed ₦230 million, making it the fifth most successful Nollywood movie of all time and the third most successful from last year, behind EbonyLife's Holiday comedy <em>Chief Daddy </em>and Ay's star-studded <em>Merrymen</em>.</p><p>Also, it had one of the longest runs in Nigerian cinemas by a Nollywood film–13 weeks. And due to huge demand, it was brought to UK audience where it spent two weeks. It is also coming to North America.</p>
Genevieve Nnaji<img lazy-loadable="true" src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8xOTA4NzEwNS9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY1MjcxMzkzNn0.Dmz7SWL5iYZe2dCGQHnNipcuVcGGQEgkzzjk9kGzYT8/img.jpg?width=618&coordinates=0%2C0%2C0%2C0&height=412" id="18ba6" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="ab912eb2732469d2722f7e4013e922e5" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
Photo still from 'Lionheart' via TIFF.<p>The biggest news out of Nollywood last year was Netflix's <a href="https://www.okayafrica.com/genevieve-nnaji-directorial-debut-lionheart-tiff-debut-acquired-netflix/" target="_self">acquisition</a> of <strong>Genevieve Nnaji's</strong> directorial debut <em>Lionheart</em>; she co-wrote, produced and stars in the film. This confirmed what we have known for years but yet to see it materialize: Nollywood is going global.</p><p><strong>Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF)</strong> is one of the film festivals filmmakers from around the world go to premiere their new films with hopes of landing distribution deals from one of the many film companies who court the festival and Nnaji and her team were no different.</p><p>Hours before the screening of <em>Lionheart</em>, which was nominated for the prestigious Grolsch Peoples' Choice Award, <strong>Netflix</strong> announced it has bought global rights to the film, sending shockwaves loaded with excitement around Nollywood fans in the Nigeria and diaspora.</p><p>This comedy, <a href="http://culturecustodian.com/lionheart-genevieves-love-letter-eastern-nigeria/" target="_blank">which is a love letter to Enugu</a>, is not the first Nollywood film on Netflix—there are several—but it is the first Nigerian Netflix original; which means it will appear on the streaming giant homepage and get huge marketing unlike the other Nigerian films on the streaming service.</p><p>The film generated global buzz unlike any other Nollywood product and has been featured in <em>The New York Times</em>, <em>CNN</em>, <em>Variety</em> and <em>Essence</em> magazine.</p>
Mo Abudu<img lazy-loadable="true" src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8xOTA4NzEwNi9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYzMDA3Mjg2NH0.vWBE0T0Ocr6W7wvFsKKei8ZsH9ojHBFKBqW8qyhr99c/img.jpg?width=1200&coordinates=0%2C0%2C0%2C0&height=1800" id="fe4b6" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="542d6188c10d933f75ac2f045f1eac28" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
Photo via Wikimedia Commons.<p>And of course, the list of women pushing the boundaries in Nollywood would not be complete without the mention of media mogul <strong>Mo Abudu</strong>: the woman who has laid the template for making mega blockbusters in Nollywood.</p><p>One of the first international recognitions Nollywood received in 2018 came in the form of a <a href="https://www.okayafrica.com/ebonylife-mo-abudu-sony-deal-dahomey-amazon-warriors/" target="_self">three-series deal</a> between <strong>Sony Pictures Television</strong> and Mo Abudu's <strong>EbonyLife</strong>. One of the series is based on the Dahomey warriors of old Benin.</p><p>However, in a year in which Nollywood got a few international recognition, it is only right the Queen herself got two. As the year came to a close, she was elected a director of the International Academy of Television Arts and Sciences; the organization responsible for the international Emmy Awards.</p><p>"I am pleased about this appointment because it will be an enabler for the recognition of our work in TV and film across the globe." She said on her Instagram page while announcing the appointment.</p><p>Still in 2018, Mo Abudu released her third ₦300 million grosser, the star-studded, family comedy <em>Chief Daddy</em>; which is also her third highest grossing movie of the year in three consecutive years, following <em>The Wedding Party 1 & 2</em>.</p><p>Mo is both hardworking and a smart film executive, as echoed by now frequent collaborator <strong>Niyi Akinmolayan</strong> (director of <em>Chief Daddy </em>and<em> Wedding Party 2</em>): "Mo is the hardest working woman in film I have ever met."</p>
Tope Oshin<img lazy-loadable="true" src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8xOTA4NzExMy9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY0MTAyNTk3M30.QTrt4702AkAXsB-KFpi00eP-NwVkG0tfHo1pRfaB7bE/img.jpg?width=2500&coordinates=0%2C0%2C0%2C0&height=3158" id="5ed4c" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="ec2b9215258e036e1b0cab4a362ff71d" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
Photo via OkayAfrica's 100 Women.<p>There are few women who work harder than <strong>Tope Oshin</strong> in Nollywood. Last year, she directed <em>Up North—</em>the biggest film in Nollywood in terms of sheer scale. "In a single day, for example, we had 15,000 extras." Producer <strong>Editi Effiong</strong> told me. "On our biggest day, our set had 20,000 extras."</p><p>While <em>Up North</em> is her biggest movie from last year, it was not her only work. She directed two other features; <em>New Money</em>, a comedy-drama, and the award-winning <em>We Don't Live Here Anymore</em>, a young-adult drama that focuses on the struggles of being gay in Nigeria, and a TV series; the sixth season of MTV <em>Shuga</em>. Making her the most prolific director from the industry in 2018.</p><p>The<strong> Colorado Film School </strong>graduate may be more popular in her role as a film director, but she has a stellar portfolio as a producer, casting director, writer, and actor. It is this incredible portfolio which features Nigerian first legal drama <em>Castle & Castle, </em>MTV <em>Shuga </em>and <em>The Wedding Party 2 </em>that got her to be included on <a href="https://100women.okayafrica.com/film-tv-articles/2018/2/28/tope-oshin" target="_blank">OkayAfrica's 100 Women list in 2018</a> and becoming a juror for the International Emmy Awards.</p>