2014 was the year Nollywood reigned at the Box Office. Week on week, there were Nollywood movies from both the old as well as the new filmmakers. From action packed thrillers to soft rom-coms, viewers were spoilt for choice. A lot of movies-with-a-message hoping to cure society of her many ills also surfaced most notably Tunde Kelani’s sickle cell awareness film, Dazzling Mirage. It was a mixed bag; mostly average and poor titles that lived mostly on the hype of the stars who featured in them. But some did well above average maybe due to their purses such as the million dollar budget Half of a Yellow Sun and Kunle Afolayan’s highly publicised October 1. Others tried something different like Royal Arts Academy’s musical movie Knocking on Heaven’s Door and Lancelot Imasuen’s epic Invasion 1897. And while we might not believe the hype about the figures grossed, one thing is for sure – Nollywood is gaining momentum in quantity and quality. The world is taking note with our movies now being translated into different languages and being shown on international platforms. Here is our top 10 list of our favourite flicks of 2014.
- Half of a Yellow Sun
Directed by Biyi Bandele, the adaptation of Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche’s award winning novel Half of a Yellow Sun takes the top spot. Not without its flaws, the movie is by far one of the best productions (and most expensive) to come out of Nollywood. The production values, mix of Nollywood and Hollywood actors, the pretty costumes, realistic sets and the musical score help (in some way) to cover up predictable script and unexciting direction.
Half of a Yellow Sun is showing in FilmHouse cinemas this Christmas.
- October 1
Kunle Afolayan’s blockbuster thriller October 1 started winning awards even before it was released. The movie combines elements of suspense, drama, action and romance in different proportions. While we had issues with the different sub-plots, the length (well over two hours) and unnecessary cameo appearance by costume designer turned actress Deola Sagoe, we love the way brand Nigeria is present all through. Factional (fiction and facts) history meets entertainment.
Rent October 1 on Box Office (Dstv Explora)
- Invasion 1897
Lancelot Imasuen’s epic Invasion 1897 is a good attempt to teach some history. The film is based on the invasion of the Benin Kingdom by the British Empire in 1897 and the looting of priceless ancient artifacts of the Benin kingdom. Imasuen outdoes himself with a 1000 member cast, lavish costumes and impressive cinematography. As expected with such a large project, Imasuen would have done with less is more and concentrated less on the special effects and more on the acting and characterisation.
Invasion 1897 is showing is screening in the cinemas.
Clarion Chukwurah as Apaye is the number one reason the film makes the list. From walking out of her marriage with nothing but the clothes on her back to raising six kids with multiple jobs, Apaye is no wilting flower. So good was she in her role that she emerged the Best Actress at this year’s Africa Movie Academy Awards (AMAA). Desmond Elliot could have taken more creative risks to add more colour to the film. But the job was to tell the life story of the real Apaye – Elder Irene Yepayeye Uriah, which he does – unfortunately, two hours is not just enough.
Apaye is out on DVD.
- Render to Caesar
Desmond Ovbiagele’s debut film gives a different perspective (and thankfully) of the Nigerian cops. They are intelligent, handsome and love to their job. Lucky Ejim, Gbenga Akinnagbe and Wale Ojo give solid performances. While the coincidences are one too many, we can forgive them so as to arrive at a neatly wrapped up ending. Also the bomb scene could have been a lot tighter (acting and editing wise) and consistency in the translations would have helped the non-French speaker. Nevertheless, a good effort from the banker turned filmmaker.
Render to Caesar is currently touring the festival circuit.
- Knocking on Heaven’s Door
Adesua Etomi is not just an actress, she is also a brilliant vocalist. For a musical movie, it pays that your lead can hit the notes. She combines it all so effortlessly to give one of the best performances of her career. Supporting acts such as Majid Michel and Blossom Chuks Chukwujekwu also bring their A game on. Unfortunately, the script is predictable and Desmond Elliot’s direction is aimed more at preaching a message against domestic violence rather than creative artistry.
Knocking on Heaven’s Door is showing online.
- A Mile From Home
Tope Tedela’s Best Actor (Drama) win at the 2014 Africa Magic Viewers Choice Awards (AMVCA) was no doubt instrumental to bringing Eric Aghimien’s low budget action flick to our attention. Despite limited resources, the fighting scenes are top notch and so well choreographed that you think it is the real deal. The make-up artist also does a wonderful job to add credibility to all the blood and guts spilled on set. The all familiar story of cultism, greed and murder are all treated. While Tedela delivers, Suku (Chiedozie ‘Sambasa’ Nzeribe), steals the show with his menacing gait.
A Mile From Home is out on DVD.
When old hands like that of Teco Benson are involved in a production, you can take it for granted that certain things would be done right and attention would be paid to detail. This is the case in Accident which won Best Nigerian Film at the 2014 Africa Movie Academy Awards (AMAA). Good production values, strong acting and solid direction. And the legal proceedings – a breath of fresh air – from the dialogue to the costume; these guys did their homework.
Accident is out on DVD.
- Brother’s Keeper
Playing dual identities convincingly like Ramsey Nouah did in Dangerous Twins is not a piece of cake but Majid Michel fares well as Chude/Chidi. Playing along side Omoni Oboli, the two are the perfect on-screen patch. While the script could have done with more heft, finding out the ‘whys’ and ‘hows’ kept us hooked till the end. Poor lighting and erroneous subtitling take away from the film’s high points – suspense, action, drama, tears and romance.
Brother’s Keeper is out on DVD.
- Dazzling Mirage
Tunde Kelani’s highly anticipated movie about sickle cell would have worked better as a documentary or a TV series but performances from seasoned actors such as Kunle Afolayan, Kemi ‘Lala’ Akindoju, Seun Akindele and Taiwo Ajai-Lycett help to make up for it. Worthy of note are the costume which is both cultural and cosmopolitan and cinematography – trademarks of Mainframe productions. Less emphasis on preaching and more on filmmaking would have moved this film up the list.
Dazzling Mirage will be released in Nigerian cinemas in February 2015.
Article was written by Nolly Silver Screen.