Genevieve Nnaji’s ‘Lionheart’ deal good for Nollywood, better for Netflix?

Following announcements at the 2018 Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF), it is no longer news that over-the-top (OTT) media service provider, Netflix has acquired worldwide rights to Genevieve Nnaji’s ‘Lionheart.’

Nnaji teams up again with ‘Road to Yesterday’ producer, Chinny Onwugbenu and screenwriter, Ishaya Bako for her directorial debut, ‘Lionheart.’ The movie stars some of Nollywood’s fondest veterans including; Pete Edochie, Nkem Owoh, Kanayo O. Kanayo and Onyeka Onwenu.

After her father (Pete Edochie) takes a back seat due to health challenges, Adaeze (Genevieve Nnaji) must work alongside her uncle Godswill (Nkem Owoh) to salvage his ailing bus company, Lionheart Transport.

‘Lionheart’ director and star, Genevieve Nnaji, in an interview with CNN’s Richard Quest, said she believed that Netflix liked “the authenticity of the story” and “quality” that’s why it acquired the movie rights. A release date is yet to be announced, but what does this deal mean for involved parties?

After the movie premiered at TIFF, producer Onwugbenu said, “it’s the first Netflix original from Nigeria and they want to do a lot of business.” She added that “the goal is to transport the culture while keeping the story authentic, and Netflix believes in that.”

Netflix launched in Africa in January 2016, and according to a report published on 12 July by BusinessDay in South Africa, MultiChoice has lost about 140,000 subscribers over its last two financial years to the “unregulated competition” from Netflix. There’s however no report showing the effect of Netflix on DStv subscriptions in Nigeria but with a lot of Netflix advertising on Instagram, it’s clear that the OTT player has got eye on the Nigerian market.

While costs of streaming data remain a big hindrance to the wide adoption of Netflix in Nigeria, the appetite for local content is growing. Nnaji has been in Nigeria’s movie industry for about two decades, she is loved for her acting and good looks, and considered a Nollywood A-list celebrity. Nigerians also favour comedy over other genres. So comedy plus Nnaji’s goodwill should translate to some good gains for Netflix.


Image credit: TIFF

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About the author

A lover of the arts who sees film and television through the prism of the Nigerian viewer.