BY CHRIS IHIDERO
What is it they say about better late than never?
In many ways, 2015 was a fabulous year for Nollywood and television in Nigeria.
Yes, the perennial problems continue to strangle the industry, but from a continuing overcast sky, silver linings broke through on many fronts.
Here are people, and programmes that left a lasting impression on me in 2015, in no particular order.
Adesua Etomi is finally getting there. There, is of course very subjective: Where exactly is there? When I first met Adesua many years ago, Sele Aneni brought her to Amaka Igwe Studios as his choice for the lead role in a TV drama series we had contracted him to direct. I thought she had the looks but wondered if she had the strength and character to carry a TV drama in a leading role. Her work in 2015 say, yes she can.
Adesua has that thing that great actors tend to posses in abundance: the ability to say a lot even when saying nothing. When she smiles, she draws you in; when she cries she makes you cry with her. I have a feeling we are yet to see anything close to her best. My fervent prayer is she doesn’t burn out with too heavy a workload and that she finds a director that can shake her out of a comfort zone.
Oh, I also hope she remains an actor and doesn’t become a celeb or a ‘brand’.
Oris Aigbkhaevbolo I have long held that it was a sorry case that Nigeria had no home-based film critic who engaged the industry consistently and intelligently. Yes we have journalist and reviewers who work or have worked consistently in engaging the industry, think Shaibu Husseini and Onoshe Nwabuikwu. In 2015, Oris ran that race and won by a country mile. For once, it is generally agreed that someone was engaging the industry critically and consistently. This is important, especially when it isn’t prescriptive, and Oris isn’t. His many reviews in 2015 gave fresh perspective to many films and opened up conversations around important aspects of filmmaking in Nigeria, as critiques should do.
I do have my issues with Oris, and we debate this often. Oris’ frames of reference appear to be Hollywood and European filmmaking. In writing, he employs tools from these places in engaging Nollywood, thereby often missing out on contextual specifics and realities. When (if?) Oris ditches these western tropes and engages Nollywood on its own realities and possibilities, we will have a beast on our hands; a beast of a critic that will bring beauty to film criticism. I wait.
M-Net’s Hotel Majestic
For a long time it has been said that the era of one TV drama series catching the interest of a large chunk of the audience is long gone, that we will not see any TV soap or series garner a large following like Zeb Ejiro’s Ripples or Amaka Igwe’s Checkmate did in their days. The reason given for this is the proliferation of TV channels, unlike when all we watched was NTA.
M-Net’s Hotel Majestic achieved this feat in 2015.
It isn’t always easy to pinpoint why a film or a TV series works. And as William Goldman has admonished in his seminal book, “Adventures in the Screen Trade”: “Nobody knows anything … Not one person in the entire motion picture field knows for a certainty what’s going to work. Every time out it’s a guess and, if you’re lucky, an educated one.”
So why did Hotel Majestic work for so many people? Perhaps it is that it was decidedly different from the long running Tinsel. Perhaps it’s that it presents a realistic world with identifiable character who are everyday people, the kind that audiences tend to root for, usually. Perhaps it was also M-Net’s shift to a more telenovella narrative style, prominent use of pidgin English, and locations that were natural settings, different from Tinsel’s studio style which had perhaps become monotonous for audiences.
Truth is, we will never know.
What I do know is that the writing team, led by the very capable and experienced ‘Tunde Aladese, deserve all the praises they can get; same for the directing team of Victor ‘Sanchez’ Aghahowa, ‘Tope Oshin and Pat Oghre.
MTV Shuga Series 4
This one is personal.
I had the honour of producing the 4th installment of MTV’s award-winning and record breaking drama series, Shuga. But this isn’t why it’s on this list.
Shuga is on this list because Nigerian production companies do not usually get the chance to deliver a project of Shuga’s magnitude. It just doesn’t happen.
That Emmanuel Kalu Uduma’s SMAT Media Productions delivered a project like Shuga is historical by itself. That this was done with a crew of 75 people, out of which 70 were home-based Nigerians is why Shuga is on this list. MTVShuga4 is on 152 platforms globally, reaching some 750 million homes.
The next time someone doubts what a properly supported (the producers at MTV Staying Alive Foundation were immensely supportive), properly funded and properly organised Nigerian production company can do, point that person to MTVShuga4.
May 2016 bring good tidings.