Sugar Rush

The Year that Was: Nollywood in 2019

As we look to an growth in Nigeria’s burgeoning film industry, Nollywood, in the new decade, here’s a recap of events which shaped the industry in 2019.

More entertainers and personalities gave acting a shot

Earlier in the year, it was rumoured that D’Banj would star in Jade Osiberu’s film. Instead we got Banky W. Nonetheless, there were other newbies who came into the acting scene. Big Brother Naija 2018 housemate, Tobi Bakre and vlogger and radio personality Toke Makinwa both made their acting debuts. Bakre first appeared in the Kunle Afolayan film “Mokalik” while Ms Makinwa featured in Omoni Oboli’s political drama “Love is War.” The duo also starred in the action-comedy “Sugar Rush.” Makinwa was prominent in the film’s very opening sequence whilst Bakre proved that he is more than a pretty face.

Songstresses Omawumi Magbele and Waje Iruobe collaborated to produce their first film,”She Is” which they also starred in. Nollywood did not get off to a great start in 2019, so “She Is” represented a sliver of hope. John Asiemo aka Daddy Showkey also made his acting debut in the movie “Seven.”

Grossing N100m at the Boxoffice was a tall order

In 2019, only a hand full of Nollywood movies made over N100 million at the boxoffice. The cinema-going public simply responded to the quality of movies – most of which were not bad technically but lacking in the area of storytelling.

However, Bola Austen-Peters’s “The Bling Lagosians” broke the jinx in the second half of the hear. Her film grossed about N120 million Nigeria and retained the spot of the highest grossing film of 2019 until November when the “Living in Bondage” sequel was released. It is worth mentioning that had Austen-Peters the marketing machinery of Ebonylife Films and the timing of “Sugar Rush,” “The Bling Lagosians” would have raked in more Naira at the boxoffice.

Ramsey Nuoah made his directorial debut

The legacy of “Living in Bondage” and Ramsey Nouah’s status in the industry made his sequel, “Living in Bondage: Breaking Free” sought after. Although lacking in storytelling, Nouah’s directorial debut is praiseworthy. To a large extent, the audience was not disappointed

Despite the odds, some filmmakers pushed the envelope

“The Set Up” and “Seven” were the most pleasant surprises from Nollywood in 2019. Niyi Akinmolayan took the audience back to the days of movies like “The Arbitration, “The Set Up” was truly thrilling. As for “Seven,” it offered some impressive stunts laced with action. “Seven” was indeed a joyride.

Netflix presented a golden opportunity

A good number of Nigerian titles were added to the Netflix catalogue in 2020. Nollywood filmmakers can now also exploit the subscription video-on-demand window for their films, to maximise their return on investment. It is also a great opportunity to export our culture. However, we hope the filmmakers seize this golden opportunity to raise their game. Because, movie lovers do get lethargic of subpar work.

The Academy rejected Genevieve Nnaji’s “Lionheart,” Nigeria’s entry for the 2020 Oscars

There was a lot of hullabaloo about The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’s disqualifying “Lionheart” as a contender in the “Best International Feature Film category.”

However, we chose to see the bright side. Perhaps it will motivate Yoruba, Igbo and Hausa filmmakers to up the ante. South Korea’s “Parasite” is one the most talked films this awards’s season. It is proof that language is not a barrier to acceptance where great art is concerned.

The year wasn’t without disappointments

Only second to “Living in Bondage: Breaking Free,” “The Herbert Macaulay Affair, ” was the most anticipated movie of the year. Sadly, the poor use of the soundtrack and underdeveloped conflicts in the story ruined the film. As for Kunle Afolayan’s “Mokalik” not that it is a bad film, it is just not a popcorn movie. Lastly, though “Heaven’s Hell” was based on some serious themes and had a strong cast, it was flawed by very poor production values.

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About the author

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

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