By Hazeez Balogun
Nollywood movies for sale in a Nigerian video shop.
2013 was an eventful year in Nollywood, the Nigerian movie scene. During the past year, several monumental events took place in the film industry. A number of great actors died and on the flip side, several promising stars were born. There were quarrels, settlements, marriages and divorces. Awards were won and popular actors were nudged out of the spotlight.
In 2013, the Nigerian film industry had an unprecedented number of breakthroughs. There were more Nollywood films in festivals around the world last year than in any other year. Also, the Nigerian government started the process of redeeming its financial pledge to the industry by giving movie practitioners access to grants. The quality of Nigerian movies also improved considerably with the use of better equipment handled by better-trained crews.
In 2013 as well, Nigerian actress Omotola Jalade-Ekinde was named
one of the world’s 100 most influential people by TIME Magazine, joining the ranks of late writer Chinua Achebe, Afrobeat legend Fela Kuti and living literary legend, Professor Wole Soyinka who have all at one time or the other been named among the world's most influential personalities by the magazine.
2013 started off with the continuation of the battle for the soul of the Actors Guild of Nigeria (AGN). Ibinabo Fiberesima was elected the president of the AGN, an election which many disputed and thus continued to question her emergence as the leader of thespians in Nigeria. There are still pending court cases on the issue. Other similar guilds are also neck-deep in internal crises that have arrested development in the film industry.
The 50 million naira endowment fund provided by Governor Godswill Akpabio of Akwa Ibom State has been another source of rancour amongst industry practitioners especially between members of the Association of Movie Producers (AMP) headed by Zik Zulu Okafor and the Association of Nollywood Core Producers (ANCOP) headed by Alex Eyengho. The governor of Akwa-Ibom State had, at a dinner held by Nollywood with President Jonathan in Lagos, promised to support the industry with 50 million naira which will be won as an award but Okafor and a few others collected the money and allegedly spent it on what it was not originally meant for. The consequent crisis has continued to linger as both parties have been filing suits and counter-suits.
There was also the election to the chairmanship seat of the Lagos State chapter of the AGN which was won by Victor Osuagwu. And like the AGN's national election, Osuagwu’s election is been contested in court.
There were a few marriages in 2013, the most recent being actress Mercy Aigbe's marriage at the Ikoyi Registry in Lagos. Earlier in the year, Foluke Daramola and Kayode Salako got married. Eyebrows were raised at Daramola and Sakako's marriage because Salako left his wife to marry Daramola. Also, a friend of the bride alleged that she had consulted a witchdoctor in order to ensure that Salako married her. Of course, the actress denied the allegation.
Also during the year, actor Ibrahim Chata married Salamat Shaaba Lafiagi, daughter of Senator Mohammed Shaaba Lafiagi.
The most popular breakup in 2013 was undoubtedly Funke Akindele's split from Kehinde Oloyede. The couple's marriage was barely a year old when the two decided to go their separate ways. News of the split first broke when Oloyede made an announcement online. Subsequently, Akindele tried to do some crisis management by sending out press releases stating that her marriage was still intact, but a few weeks afterwards, she confirmed that the marriage had been a rocky one.
There were also rumours that Uche Iwuji’s union to Juwon Lawal was in trouble. The story spread like wildfire until investigations revealed that it was just a hoax.
Several popular actors including Lugard Onoyemu, Bisi Komolafe, Collins Ifeanyi and Justus Esiri passed away in the first half of 2013. These actors all died within a space of six months, leading to a whirlwind of conspiracy theories. A release by AGN president Ibinabo Fiberesima on the deaths read, “With the incessant deaths occurring in the entertainment industry this year, it is high time we put a stop to it. We must surrender our lives to Almighty God irrespective of our religious beliefs. Let’s come together and embark on prayers and commit our industry and practitioners to God. We need serious prayers. We must reject death in the entertainment industry.”
Awards and Events
The first ever African Magic Viewer’s Choice Awards (AMVCA) held in 2013. The award show was as glamorous as expected, with some of the biggest names on the African movie scene present. Hit movie Mirror Boy won the Best Movie award while Nigerian actor OC Ukeje and Ghanaian star Jackie Appiah won the Best Actor and Best Actress awards.
A month after the AMCVA, the 9th African Movie Academy Awards (AMAA) held in Yenagoa, Bayelsa State. Late Justice Esiri got a final honour as he won the Best Actor award posthumously. Hermelinda Cimela scooped the Best Actress award and Nigerian movie, Confusion Na Wa took home the coveted Movie of the Year prize. The 2013 AMAA was better organised than previous editions.
Other major events during the year include the Abuja Film Festival which was a huge success and the African Film Festival (AFRIFF) which many say was not organised as a proper film festival should have been. Other events include the Best of Nollywood (BON) Awards and The Nigerian Movie Awards. Also, the African movie network, Africa Magic, celebrated its 10th anniversary.
Probably the most talked about film of 2013 is the screen adaptation of Chimamanda Adichie’s acclaimed novel, Half of a Yellow Sun. Despite the hype around the movie, it is yet to be seen in Nigeria. It also did not make it to any foreign cinema, apart from screenings at some film festivals where it got middling reviews—the reason for its withdrawal as the opening film of AFRIFF. Other top Nollywood movies of 2013 include The Contract, The Meeting, The Nanny, Cobweb and Torn.
There were several major headlines generated by Nollywood in 2013, but the most outstanding are the outrageous ones. Top on that list is actor Jim Iyke's alleged exorcism on live television. Iyke had visited controversial preacher TB Joshua at the latter's Synagogue Church of All Nations in Lagos. The world watched live as the preacher laid hands on the actor and Iyke began to speak with a disembodied voice as though a demon was speaking through him. There were different reactions to this incident. Many, including renowned director/producer Charles Novia, were quick to rubbish the supposed exorcism, claiming that Iyke was only putting on a show to make money. Iyke replied saying that he was glad that he had made the decision to be saved from evil spirits.
Another major headline was actress Tonto Dikeh's embarrassing tumble at superstar singer Iyanya's concert in London. According to those present at the event, a concert, Dikeh was obviously drunk and could not compose herself on stage.
Every year, there are always new actors and actresses trying to break into Nollywood and 2013 was not an exception.
Notable newbies include Ifeanyi Kalu, Bobby Obodo, Uti Nwachukwu, Linda Ejiofor, Belinda Effah,Ijeoma Agu, Rachel Isaac, Tehila Adiele and Tess Abubakar.
2014 is a promising year for the Nigerian film industry. Let's hope it'll be free of scandals.