BY ‘SEGUN ODEJIMI
Nollywood now boasts of numerous filmmakers who have carved a niche for themselves and are helping to change the “I don’t watch Nollywood films” narrative with their works, consistency, and contributions.
These filmmakers have pushed the envelope and have been unselfish with their creativity so as to ensure that their works not only stand out, but also to stand the test of time.
Even though this list is by no means exhaustive, and I acknowledge that there are plenty more hardworking and talented players in the industry, below are directors whose works I respect and think every Nigerian should be proud of as the world listens to what they have to say through their films.
ABBA T. MAKAMA
Direc-toh, Party of Minister, Quacks, Nollywood: Something out of Nothing, Green White Green, Visions
This New York University graduate has come far with his works. There was a time he had what he called Amebo at Four which I find very amusing. When he dropped Green White Green in 2016, many heralded it as the birth of a new, fearless movement in Nigerian filmmaking with displays of radical ambition. I am yet to see Surreal Collective’s Visions but it is an ambitious work I plan to watch at the ongoing Africa International Film Festival (AFRIFF).
Ojukokoro, Lagos Big Boy
Dare Olaitan directed Ojukokoro, his debut and it was screened at last year’s AFRIFF to a rousing ovation by filmmakers, critics and film lovers.
It was a special film. It’s writing was beautiful and it’s execution was amazing. You could see that the newbie knew what he was doing.
Ojukokoro successfully combined comedy, crime and thriller – something that is not exactly easy to put together and deliver in Nollywood.
I can’t wait to see what Olaitan will make next for the big screen. I’m serious, I can’t wait.
Desperados, Icabod, White Waters, Alero’s Symphony, Moving Train, Sitanda, Across the Niger, ’76
Ojukwu has over the years created and maintained a style for himself. He got really daring with his 2013 film, Across the Niger and despite its seemingly low key cinema run, ’76 was for me, the best film that came out of Nollywood in 2016. It was another daring project – a swim in the sensitive waters of the Nigerian Army and one of the most publicized coup attempts in Nigeria’s political history.
Now, we are all holding our breath for his new effort, Amina which, from the trailer, looks like one to watch out for. My only hope is that the makers give the build-up to that film’s release the publicity it deserves.
The Young Smoker, Journey to Self, Relentless, Amaka’s Kin, In Line, Ever After
This is the female director I respect the most in Nigeria. Tope Oshin has established herself as one of the filmmakers to lead us into the bright future of filmmaking in Nigeria.
There was a time she had directed over 350 episodes of Nigeria’s longest running telenovela, Tinsel. Only recently, her documentary on Nigerian female filmmakers was aired on the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC). I have just watched the trailer for her collaboration with Africa Magic Films, Ever After and I thought the film looks brilliant. Oshin is also one of the directors of the latest season of MTV Shuga which is currently being shot in Lagos.
Wherever she is, Amaka Igwe must be smiling hard at the low-cut donning stunner.
Kajola, Make a Move, Falling, Out of Luck, The Arbitration, Plaything, The Adventures of Lola and Chuchu, The Wedding Party 2
Akinmolayan is brilliant and truth is, you may struggle to find a more ambitious filmmaker in today’s Nollywood than this man.
The Arbitration, his 2016 film was a testament to his steady but huge growth as a filmmaker. In that same year, Akinmolayan shot a short film, made an animated film and, through his blog, helped aspiring filmmakers and creatives understand some of the rudiments of the profession.
He was contracted to direct the second installment of The Wedding Party, a testament to how good his works have been. It will be interesting to see how that film does under the huge expectation it faces as a sequel to Nigeria’s highest grosser.
Phone Swap, Irapada, The Figurine, October 1, The CEO, Roti, The Tribunal, Omugwo
Afolayan is credited with showcasing the “new” Nollywood to the world with his film, The Figurine.
Since making his earlier films, he has settled into big budget productions. The CEO was one of the most expensive Nigerian films made in 2016, after say, 93 Days.
While it will take a lot to convince many (including me) that he should be considered a fine actor, his skills at making films cannot be successfully negatively debated. Afolayan’s attention to production details in his film outshines many and while his recent trio of Omugwo, Roti and The Tribunal was quite underwhelming, he is still very much a director with an eye for talent and one Nollywood can boast of for the future.
Ojuju, O-Town, Visions
For Ojuju, the ‘Fiery’ one plunged into a genre that no Nigerian filmmaker had previously given anything more than a thought. Obasi made a zombie film with as low a budget as you can imagine. Not only did it come out good, it strolled into the lineups of festivals around the world and won him several awards – including the AMVCA.
O-Town followed soon. It was a brave gangster project too. Obasi has described himself as more of an arty filmmaker than a commercial one.
He recently got the nod to put one of international writer, Nnedi Okorafor’s works into motion picture. He will be swimming with Mami Wata in a river he is used to already.
He is one of the Surreal Collective members whose work – Visions – will screen at ongoing AFRIFF.
The Wedding Party
Kemi comes from a family of highly creative humans, but that’s not even the issue.
With The Wedding Party, Adetiba has successfully crossed from the advertising and music video creation world into filmmaking. The success TWP witnessed was relatively unprecedented for a “newbie”. As much as I will personally not give it the gong of being part of Nollywood’s greatest films, her debut film had very good elements that I no choice but to sit up and applaud.
Here’s to more of Kemi Adetiba in Nollywood.
Kpians: The Feast of Souls, Stupid Movie, Common Man, Tunnel, Idahosa
In an industry where many have chosen to sacrifice their artistic reputations for commercial success, what this filmmaker is doing is worth, at the very least, a pat on the back. Stanlee speaks in special effects. And due to the bravery of directors like him, younger practitioners can explore that technical aspect of filmmaking with less fears.
Fingers crossed for his latest work, Idahosa which is a biopic of the Edo State respected preacher, Benson Idahosa.
Braids on a Bald Head, Fuelling Poverty, Road to Yesterday, The Royal Hibiscus Hotel
Bako’s Fuelling Poverty fuelled national discussions as regards fuel subsidy, the Occupy Nigeria movement and poverty. His skills and proficiency at making documentary films are widely recognised. See Braids on a Bald Head, Fuelling Poverty.
In his feature length debut, Road to Yesterday, Bako handles expectations quite well.
Bako has also delved into directing for the television and he isn’t doing badly in there, either. His latest effort, The Royal Hibiscus Hotel will premiere in Nigeria sometime next month.
Keeping Faith, A Place in the Stars, 93 Days
Steve Gukas did Nollywood proud with his work in 93 Days. If you had any doubts with A Place in the Stars (I actually had a few), this latest work of his should, to a very large extent, suspend that conversation. Personally, I did not see more attention paid to detail in any Nollywood film last year than 93 Days. It is a brilliant film by every standard. Yes, I said so.
Omule, Mummy Lagos, Blood and Henna, Wetin Dey, Confusion Na Wa, The Lost Cafe
The Jos film school graduate’s latest work, The Lost Cafe premieres in Nigeria today at AFRIFF.
Gyang is very much one of the directors who would rather make a film that will get 5-star ratings from film buffs than hurriedly put together a slapstick just so Nigerians can throng to the cinemas to watch.
Wetin Dey was brilliant. I saw it again recently and considering the year it was released, it is nothing short of amazing.
30 Days, The Meeting, Suru’Lere, Bankers NGR
Okwo is one who many young filmmakers look up to to fill the “motherly” void caused by Amaka Igwe’s death. Whether she will be able to ever fill it is not the point of discourse in this feature.
Mildred Okwo’s name is here because she had been able to make good films each time she has tried to. The Meeting was a brilliant comedy which successfully satired the higher civil service class of Nigeria. It also threw Femi Jacob’s name into our consciousness. When she made Suru’Lere, the stardom of Seun Ajayi was lit.
She’s good at that too. Making actors into household names. In my books also, The Meeting marked a resurrection for a slipping Rita Dominic.
Okwo decided to do something for the small screen. It hasn’t premiered but I am certain I am not the only one waiting (im)patiently.
Gbomo Gbomo Express, Catch.er
Walter Taylaur loves making films about crime. His 2015 comedy, Gbomo Gbomo Express was about a kidnapping. His latest work, Catch.er centres around a murder.
A look at both films show a coming of age of the filmmaker. Catch.er is a fine film all around. And while the acting in Gbomo Gbomo was sluggish, his 2017 film keeps you racing along with the film. His shots are simply beautiful and if he keeps up like this, Nollywood is sorted in the crime/thriller genre.