While she has remained a prominent player in Nigeria’s film industry (Nollywood) with her career spanning over 20 years, in recent years, she has ventured into film production, among other things.
Under her production company, The Entertainment Network (T.E.N.) in collaboration with other partners, she produced her first feature film in 2015, “Road To Yesterday” directed by Ishaya Bako – which has now ushered in her directorial debut, Lionheart.
The movie will have its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) on Saturday, September 8, 2018.
Starring herself, (Genevieve) alongside Pete Edochie, Onyeka Onwenu, Nkem Owoh, amongst others, the film is an inspiring drama which addresses issues around family values, succession, and female empowerment.
“It highlights the various challenges faced by women, particularly in male-dominated industries,” Nnaji told Women and Hollywood.
Odunlade Adekola in a post on his verified Instagram handle @odunomoadekola wrote, “Omg, so sad.” Bisola Badmus, another Nollywood actress who is a close friend of Abimbola also posted “Gone so soon, RIP Omoge Campus,” on her Instagram page.
Toyin Abraham also on social media used prayer emoji and said “Goodnight,” while Ronke Odusanya in her post said she is still in shock over the news of Abimbola’s death.
There were many movie productions in 2017, from the excellent, the good, average and the not so nice – however, it has been described by many as one of Nigeria’s biggest year in movies.
From crashing the box office to bagging awards and international screenings, many have agreed that productions in the Nigerian movie industry (Nollywood), have evolved a great deal from what used to be – cliché-ridden, flat story-lined, poor dialogue stories, coupled with a lot of technical inadequacies, to more refreshing narratives and well put together productions in general.
With a lot of movies now hitting the big screens and receiving more international recognition, here are some of the most talked about and perhaps most successful movies of 2017 going by their overall reactions from the audience – in no particular order.
A kunle Afolayan production that explores the pain felt by parents who lose a child they waited 10 years to have.
The movie explores the idea of reincarnation when the couple, Kate Henshaw (Daine) and Kunle Afolayan (Kabir) lose their son (Roti).
After several days of grief, Daine one day, finds a replica of Roti and starts to believe that perhaps he returned to her.
Subsequently, she has to accept that Juwon is not Roti’s reincarnate and slips back into depression.
The psychological drama is an emotional analysis of grief, mental instability and the ability to find strength to carry on with life after losing a loved one.
Royal Hibiscus Hotel
In the romantic comedy, a disillusioned London chef (Opeoluwa) a role played by Zainab Balongun, visits Nigeria and struggles with her matchmaking mother as well as restoring the family’s rundown hotel.
She’s heartbroken as she discovers her new lover, Deji (Keneth Okoli), is working on a deal to buy the hotel.
An Ebony Life Films production, the movie which was directed by Ishaya Bako had its world premiere on September 9, 2017.
The Wedding Party: Destination Dubai
The romantic comedy film starring Banky W as (Dozie) and Adesua Etomi as (Dunni) is a sequel to ‘The Wedding Party’, which is currently the highest grossing Nollywood movie ever.
The story is about two people genuinely in love and the unnecessary interference of family members as well as the hassles of inter-cultural marriages.
While the first movie explores the flamboyant Nigerian wedding culture, its sequel which was full of humour and warmth, captures the concept of destination weddings, which is gradually gaining ground amongst Nigerians.
The Jade Osiberu movie portrays the family and societal pressure most Nigerian ladies go through when they are getting older and are yet to be married.
Starring Dakore Akande as Isoken, many saw the movie as the perfect comeback for the actress since she has been away from acting for quite a while.
Isoken was a 34-year-old charming, beautiful and successful lady whose family members began to worry about when it seemed like no responsible man was coming to ask for her hand in marriage.
Eventually, she meets a man who everyone considers to be every woman’s dream and they get along fast. However, things take a different turn when she meets another young (Oyinbo) man and begins to doubt her love for Osaze, the character played by Joseph Benjamin.
The Shirley Frimpong-Manso movie is about a couple – Joselyn Dumas as Lulu and OC Ukeje as Tony, who decide to live together in their matrimonial home even after their divorce.
They split the compound and house into two to avoid running into each other. Things take a different turn after Tony brings in an attractive female house help. To get back at him, his ex-wife Lulu hires a hunky young man to help her out.
With so many dramatic twists and turns, the couple go through the phase of trying to figure out their feelings for each other.
Asurf Oluseyi’s first feature film stars the popular internet sensation Kunle Idowu, a.k.a Frank Donga as Akande, who is on a journey to self-discovery.
The movie portrays the daily struggles of a job-hunting graduate and what they go through just to survive which in some cases involves doing menial jobs that do not commensurate with their qualifications.
While the movie is very inspiring and teaches a lot of lessons, it manages to weave in a good amount of comedy. Such is seen in Akande’s relationship with his sister, Yewande played by Toyin Ayimakun.
This action-thriller which stars Ivie Okujaye, tells the story of a homeless teenage mother, who gets herself trapped in prostitution and drug trafficking for seven years to secure a good life for her son.
She decides to quit but her boss who is a ruthless human and drug trafficker is not ready to end the contract.
One of the reasons for the movie’s high rating by majority of its audience is its unique genre which till date remains one yet to be fully tapped by Nigerian film makers.
The movie was directed by Eric Aghimien.
Banana Island Ghost
The comic movie directed by BB Sasore, tells the story of a ghost – Patrick, who doesn’t want to go to heaven because he doesn’t have a soulmate.
After convincing God to give him three days to fall in love, he meets Ijeoma (Chigurl) who is hard to love but they eventually get along.
The movie also showcases God’s relationship with his children as well his undying love. It scores high in its use of music, sound and graphic effects.
10 Days In Sun City
This comedy-drama by AY Makun which sees Akpos on another ‘adventure (to South Africa this time around), is one that some say merely rode on the box office success of the earlier series, ‘A Trip to Jamaica’.
Starring Adesua Etomi as Bianca and AY as Akpos, the movie shows Bianca as a campus beauty queen who Akpos sacrificed his livelihood to make successful.
After successfully winning a national beauty pageant, Bianca, is now an international celebrity rolling with the ‘high and mighty’.
Richard Mofe Damijo (Otunba) who has also invested in her, follows Akpos and Bianca to Sun city and tries to win her over with his wit and charm. He also offers Akpos a huge amount of money to give up his love.
The movie remains the third-highest-grossing Nigerian film by domestic gross and is liked by 96% of its audience, according to google.
Beyonce is set to voice Simba’s childhood friend turned love interest Nala in the live-action remake of Disney’s “The Lion King,” the singer and studio announced Wednesday.
The 36-year-old pop megastar confirmed the long-rumored role in a Facebook post that showed headshots of the voice cast, also revealing that Keegan-Michael Key (“Why Him?”, “Storks”) will be playing a hyena named Kamari.
Alongside Beyonce and mostly previously announced will be Donald Glover as Simba, James Earl Jones reprising his role in the 1994 animated movie as Mufasa, and Chiwetel Ejiofor as his nemesis Scar.
Comedian John Oliver was confirmed as Zazu, while other big names in the production – set for release in July 2019 – include Seth Rogan and Billy Eichner.
“It is a director’s dream to assemble a talented team like this to bring this classic story to life,” said director Jon Favreau, who helmed Disney’s hit live-action remake of “The Jungle Book” (2016), in a statement confirming the cast.
The production will build on Disney’s hugely lucrative reimagining of that movie and several other classics from its vaults — including “Beauty and the Beast,” “Maleficent” and “Cinderella” — for contemporary audiences.
“The Lion King” is one of the biggest animated films of all time, with a lifetime global box-office gross of just under $1 billion.
It won Oscars for the song “Can You Feel the Love Tonight” by Elton John and Tim Rice, and for its score by Hans Zimmer, plus two Grammy Awards, with the soundtrack selling more than 14 million copies.
The stage production made its Broadway debut in 1997 and went on to win six Tony Awards.
Translated into eight languages, the film’s 23 global stage productions have been seen by more than 85 million people. The worldwide gross for the brand exceeds that of any film, Broadway show or other entertainment title in history.
Stunning early footage of the live-action version shown at Disney’s D23 fan convention in Southern California in July climaxed in the iconic moment when Rafiki introduces newborn Simba to the animals of the savannah.
“This is a story that belongs to everyone who grew up with the original film,” said Favreau.
“I wanted to demonstrate that we could be respectful of the source material while bringing it to life using new techniques and technologies.”
Actress Victoria Inyama who was a regular face in Nollywood before she relocated to the United Kingdom after her marriage to Ben Okri stated that Nollywood actors have a lot to learn.
Speaking on Nollywood Uncut on Channels Television, the actress explained her journey to lime light and her future plans.
“I can say for what is going on in U.K, we have access to a lot of things to improve ourselves, what is remaining is just for us to improve ourselves. Here(U.K) a typical director has access to all kinds of information, same with the cameraman compared to Nigeria where they don’t really have access to all that information.
“I think the problem with a lot of is we are not ready to learn something new, we are a bit lazy because learning something new means you have to go out to search for the information or do a couple of courses, it is different here. So they have a lot to learn.”
The actress stated that veteran actor Alex Usifo found her and brought her into Nollywood.
“Acting for me started a long time ago, Alex Usifo saw me and he thought I could be a good actress and that was how it started.”
Speaking about her future plans she stated that she is back to school studying counselling so that she can be a voice for celebrities that have been tongued lash on social media.
“I have to go back to the university, I want to study psychology and major in counselling, because with the likes of social media and blogs I sometimes read about my colleague’s stories on blogs and how people trash them. So I said Victoria you have a voice and at least if you decide to talk, one or two people will listen to you.
“After being in the lime light knowing what goes on in my mind, how I feel when people trash me, that is how a typical popular person will feel when people trash them. We could pretend that we don’t care, but we do care, we actually read some of those comments and we cry, so I said let me study psychology.”
Actor and comedian Afeez Oyetoro popularly known as Saka, has expressed displeasure over what he describes as poor treatment of upcoming actors.
Speaking with Rubbin Minds on Channels Television, the actor explained that there is discrimination between upcoming actors and old actors especially when it comes to payment.
“There is discrimination between the young act and old act, I just believe in time, things will change. Maybe because of the resources available and then because of the organisation we have that is not strong enough to protect the interest of the actor to demand better pay, but things will change, we are working on it.”
Speaking about his personality, Oyetoro who is also a lecturer at Adeniran Ogunsanya College of Education saidthere is a huge difference between his real self and the character ‘Saka’.
“Saka is a very noisy person and he speaks a lot but Afeez Oyetoro is quiet and a little reserved, Afeez is a shy person and a family man. I teach theatre art and the student of theatre art know the difference between Afeez and Saka. In school majority of the people see Afeez the lecturer and not Saka.”
On the future of theatre arts, Saka explained that sponsors are now very much part of it, bringing more hope for a greater future.
“I see a very fantastic future, it was not like this when we started especially for our seniors but now things are working well. Banks and government are coming in, cooperate bodies are coming in, people have started seeing theatre as a real business. Creative people are coming up and a lot of innovation is being introduced in the packaging of entertainment.”
Speaking of his current plans he hinted that he is working on a TV series, ‘We We’ and would soon go on location.
One of the lead actors in Kunle Afolayan’s blockbuster, October 1, Demola Adedoyin, has narrated his experience as an actor.
Speaking on Channels Television‘s Sunrise Saturday the actor explained that he used to be a critic and never had acting as part of his plans.
While he had rejected several offers, he eventually started off with short films before his first feature film, October 1.
“I didn’t set out to be an actor, I actually use to be a critic, even before I declared I wanted to act, I was already getting offers because I use to write a TV show in Abuja.
“I started with short films. When I was in London, I was doing modeling, part-time with my masters and my modeling agent said there was a role in a film that he thinks will suit me well so I should audition for it.
“I thought ok this is the universe speaking to me and then I went and I did the audition and they called me back for the part and we shot the film and as soon as we shot the film I knew it was one of the things I am supposed to do.”
Speaking on the standard of Nollywood compared to Hollywood he said,”Our rise is kind of slow, we are still slowly climbing out of this mediocrity, average, standard, low-budget kind of films.”
Adedoyin who is also a musician explained that he wanted to be many things but his music paved way for his acting career in Nigeria.
“I play a mix of R&B and hip-hop, that is how I got into film in Nigeria. I was recording music in storm records when the director told me he had a TV show he wanted me to play a lead in and that kind of swept me away from the music at the time and I have not really had time to go back into music fully.”
Giving words of advice to fans and upcoming actors he said: “Be sure you really want it, don’t quit because there will be challenges. If it is really what you want then just hang in there and persevere.”
Star Actress Omotola Jolade has no doubt about how bright the future is for Nigeria’s fast-growing movie industry.
In fact, the actress believes that while Nollywood is still in the shadows of Hollywood, both industries would swap status in the future.
She spoke about the industry in an exclusive interview with Channels Television on Saturday, one week before the premiere of ‘Alter Ego’ – the movie which marks her return to the big screen after a four-year break.
“Nollywood is amazing, Nollywood is going to be bigger than Hollywood; it will, mark my words. We are on that path,” she said.
“I have always talked about the fact that we need structure, the basic things that hold a business down. We didn’t have that but now we are building the structure and it is coming into play, now watch us fly.”
The actress who is also known for her philanthropic work and activism explained her motivations.
“I have always been an activist, that is what drives me. I am more of an activist than a humanitarian. For me, my passion is human rights. I look forward to a time in my life where everyone can actually pursue their rights, stand up for their right, and fight for their rights,” she said
“Society is not sane today not because we have the worst president in the world but because we have the worst judiciary. When you have a society that the law works and it is enforced, everyone will fall in line.”
Omotola who has starred in hundreds of movies since 1995 explained her journey and how it all started.
She said, “I lost my dad when I was 12 and I was left with my widowed mum and my siblings. Things were very difficult for my mother, so when I left secondary school at the age of 15, the first thing that came to my mind was how can I help her.
“The natural thing I had was to model and I started modelling and from modelling, I escorted a friend to a movie audition and that was how I started.”
Having been there and done that, Omotala has an advice for young ladies who look up to her.
“My advice to young girls is, know what you want from the beginning; you are never too young to have a dream and you are never too young to start a plan,” she said.
“I remember as far back as when I was 15, I wrote down all my dreams – (and) most of them I have done. So, aim high and don’t be afraid. Dream big, but most especially, write down your goals, vision, dreams and … always read them. Work towards them, be prepared because if an opportunity comes and you are not prepared it will pass you by.”
As the Nigerian filmmaking community continues to expand in numbers and its influence becomes far-reaching, practitioners are seeking ways to not only improve production but the craft which brings it all together.
It is in line with this that Nollywood Actress, Sapphire Ogodo, announced plans to create a platform for aspiring actors to showcase their talent.
The project, which comes in form of a reality TV series tagged ‘actors unleashed’ will also groom participants and give them a competitive edge in the industry.
Speaking in an exclusive interview with Channels TV Entertainment News, Ogodo explained her plans to help people who have the passion for acting but don’t have the platform.
“We are creating this for these new entrants, we are going to imbibe them, own them, brand them and project them into Nollywood, we are having lots of producers, directors and veterans we are working with on this project.
Ogodo who is a product of a reality show herself relocated to Lagos from Abia State, in pursuit of fame and recognition and hopes to help talent at the grassroots level overcome challenges she experienced as a newbie in the industry.
“From my secondary school, I watched the likes of Genevieve, she is the one person that inspired me so much and I believed I was going to make it when I come into the industry. In the industry, you have a lot of people to compete with but I came to the industry I started doing my own thing.”
Her plan is to create movies that are culture based and are produced in several local dialects.
“We are going into the local communities, we are going to people who think they don’t have the voice, we are going to look for the people who don’t have the platform, we are offering value, we are going down to the grassroots.”
The first movie of the project seeks to re-tell the story of how Mary Slessor influenced the end of the barbaric tradition of killing twins in South-South Nigeria
“One of the things that motivated me into coming up with such project besides bringing new entrance and projecting them and making them stars, I am also trying to promote our originality and our heritage and culture. We are doing culture based films, indigenous features in the story. ”
In order to be fully committed to the actors unleashed project, Ogodo has put her acting career on hold.