After the record-breaking box office performance of 2016’s monster hit, The Wedding Party, Nigerian cinemas have finally woken up to the commercial potential of Nigeria’s film industry. In the past, finding a variety of Nollywood films showing at prime time at the box office was something of a rarity. Not in 2017. The cinemas opened their arms wide open and welcomed a variety of productions – some good, some bad and of course, some ugly. We present to you our top 10 movies of 2017.
In Ojukokoro, a broke manager in a money laundering petrol station decides to rob his employers but quickly finds out that there are different criminals heading for the same cash. A simple armed robbery story told creatively with style and technique. Dare Olaitan leads an ensemble cast sporting fresh and upcoming Nollywood talents to explore the theme of greed, which is the English translation of the film’s title. Not your typical Nollywood movie, Olaitan is experimental in his noir-influenced direction and use of multiple Nigerian languages for mass appeal.
- The Lost Café
An uplifting story about a girl’s decision to rise above her dark family secrets, heartbreak and culture shock to live out her dreams abroad. Kenneth Gyang teams up again with writer turned actress, Tunde Aladese in this arty film shot in Nigeria and Norway. The complexity of the story which cuts across Nigerian and Norwegian language and cultures is handled competently by Gyang. Mostly a dialogue driven movie, the layers of the real and the imagined in the story makes for an engaging viewing.
- A Hotel Called Memory
A Hotel Called Memory is a tone poem set in Lagos, Zanzibar, and Cape Town. Lola, recently separated from her husband in Lagos, seeks solace in Zanzibar, hoping to forget the past and move on with her life. Another boundary pusher in Nollywood, Akin Omotoso’s characters are silent throughout the movie. And what is lost in their voices is made up for in the creative visuals and talented cast from Nigeria and South Africa. The audience is allowed to arrive at their own interpretations and conclusions in A Hotel Called Memory.
Everyone in the Osayande family worries about Isoken. Although she has what appears to have a perfect life – beautiful, successful and surrounded by great family and friends – Isoken is still unmarried at 34 which, in a culture obsessed with married, is serious cause for concern. Jadesola Osiberu makes her directorial debut in this romcom which explores cultural expectations and racial stereotypes. The picture is crisp, the fashion is colourful and the actors are picture perfect. With a lot of Nollywood rom coms sacrificing the story for laughs, Isoken does not tow the line. Attention is paid to the detail – from the screenplay to the production design – making us enjoy the ride to the predictable ending.
- Banana Island Ghost
Banana Island Ghost follows the story of a ghost who has three days to fall in love with his soul mate, the cantankerous firecracker Ijeoma. Sporting a star studded cast with actors from all parts of Nollywood and the UK, BB Sasore impresses with his pictures. Big marks for the cinematography and extra credit for the visual effects and Computer Generated Imagery (CGI). Even with a slew of over the top and distracting product placements, the actors do a good job in making us laugh, smile and laugh some more. Worthy of note is Akah Nnani who plays the bumbling police sergeant.
Catch.er follows the story of an ambitious career woman who is murdered on her wedding anniversary. Her husband becomes the prime suspect. However, a police investigation unearths that there was another in her life who may also have strong motive. Walter Banger Taylaur’s whodunit parades a crop of ‘New Nollywood’ faces who mostly give good account of themselves. However, what is more striking is Taylaur’s creative choices in camera, light, design and sound that elevates the picture to thriller material. And for a change, the Nigerian Police is presented in a more interesting and intelligent way.
- King Invincible
King Invincible is a Nigerian epic film that tells a sprawling tale of love and war. A handsome warlord, Taari is fast transitioning into a wolf due to the curse of the dogs that has been placed on him. He must immediately find the cure to this curse or be forever damned. Femi Adisa puts in a lot of work in transporting us back into a different time period and giving us well choreographed fight scenes. Not without its weaknesses and flaws, King Invincible succeeds in its storytelling where the material though laden with morals does not become preachy. Worthy of commendation is the costume design by Obije Oru.
Hakkunde is an intriguing story of a young graduate who battles everything on his journey to self discovery and actualization. Easily relatable, Hakkunde is the typical Nigerian ‘e go beta’ story – one of much turmoil and equal resilience. It is set in both urban Lagos and rural Kaduna and features a mixed cast of Nollywood and Kannywood actors. The movie raises questions on unemployment, education, agriculture, women’s rights, culture clash, sickle cell anaemia, drug abuse and poverty. The comedic duo of Kunle Idowu and Toyin Abraham give the film the much needed laughs and lightness. Unfortunately, the movie convalesces into youth empowerment propaganda, watering down its earlier creative efforts.
- Slow Country
A homeless teenage mother who gets herself trapped in prostitution and drug trafficking for seven years in order to secure a good life for her son, decides to quit but her boss, a ruthless human and drug trafficker is not ready to let go of his most trusted cash cow. Eric Aghimien has shown again that there is a place for action movies in Nollywood. Returning with his trusted cast of award winning duo Tope Tedela and Sambasa Nzeribe, he stretches his shoestring budget to deliver compelling action sequences, stunts and visuals. The choreography, props and costume all make up for the slow pace and uneven acting.
- Potato Potahto
A divorced couple who decide to share equal space in their ex-matrimonial home soon realize that the ingenious idea is easier said than done. Bent on flexing their egos and scoring points, the two implore various hilarious tactics that soon inflames emotions and turns an already complicated situation into a roller coaster ride. Potato Potahto takes a fresh and different approach in exploring t divorce. Visually, the film success with its delectable costumes and beautiful locations. And while the acting is strong, it does not make up for the sagging screenplay. Nonetheless, the movie is testament to the potential of collaborations across West Africa, in this case, Ghana and Nigeria.
Written by Isabella Akinseye.