WorldStage Newsonline-- Like many other Industries, Nollywood had its own share of ups and downs in the outgoing year. While we witnessed great movies being produced and premiered, some did not fail to remind us of the generally low budgeting nature of the industry as a whole. But, one could see the conscious efforts of producers, directors and even actors to step up the game.
On the whole, one could describe 2011 as the most productive ever. This is because the number of quality movies significantly increased. There were more Nigerian movies shown in cinemas this year than any other year. This alone shows that the quality of movies has greatly improved.
Unlike before, many movie makers now aim the cinema instead of the open market. This also has greatly reduced the piracy level. The down side however is that many Nigerians will end up not watching many good movies. There are still very few cinemas in the country, in fact, some states cannot boast of one. That is why many people have not seen blockbusters like ‘Figurine’. While it is too old to take back to the cinemas, the copyright owners are not willing to make it into home movies. Hence it eludes the average Nigerian.
It has also been a good year for actors and actresses. Almost gone are the days when they are paid N20,000 for a movie. Nollywood actors in 2011 were treated more like stars which they are. The average take home now ranges between N250,000 to N2 million. There have also been a lot of endorsements by products. Corporate Nigeria has finally realised how much influence Nollywood actors have on the people. It was gathered that Kunle Afolayan made close to N50 million from a Glo endorsement deal.
THOSE WE LOST
Nollywood suffered big blows in 2011 as it lost a number of actors and actresses that were iconic. The most popular of them was Sam Loco Efe. The movie veteran died on the 6th of August. Sam Loco started his acting career when he was initially selected as the best actor for his role in “Langbodo,” Nigeria’s only drama entry for FESTAC ’77. Though he took on various roles in his career, he was more known for his comic satires.
The death of Christy Essien also sent a great shock waves across the industry. Though known mostly as a musician, Christy was also an accomplished actress in her time. She died on the June 30th.
Another notable death was that of Ashley Nwosu. The veteran actor died on April 20 in Lagos. Ashley often played the role of husband, Dad, Pimp or ‘Sugar Daddy’, bringing to bare his sheer excellence and talent on screen. He starred in a number of movies including; ‘Endless Night’, ‘Between Two Walls’, ‘Power Brokers’, Foreign Affairs, Gift from the Grave, Lagos Babes and Ghetto Love.
Geraldine Ekeocha, a diva in her own rights also passed on during the year. The actress was popularly known for her snappy character, and ability play both a youngster role and that of an elderly person.
As if not enough, Nollywood writer, producer and actor, Donald Nzubechukwu Okoli also did not make it beyond 2011. The filmmaker who was known as ‘Don’ passed away in his sleep in the early hours of Friday, September 23. Okoli, a Degree holder in Philosophy produced his first film titled ‘Last Command’ in 1998.
Normally, it is always a big deal when an actor or actress gets married. There were a handful of then in 2011. First was the delectable Dakore. The actress had been linked to an affair with an ex vice-president. True or false? It seems she has her eyes for the rich and famous as she finally wedded Olumide, the son of a Nigerian born American based billionaire, Harry Akande on the 16th of January. The two had since disappeared from public eyes.
Imagine this plot- A boy meets a girl; the boy proposes; the girl blows up with joy. Then a dark past of the boy is revealed- he is actually married to another girl! Will the marriage still go on? Watch out for 'Marriage by Force'. It surely sounds like a typical Nollywood movie, featuring Mercy Johnson. The truth is, Mercy actually wedded on July 27 and it was mired with controversies from the start. It was reported that her husband was married to another woman. But despite this, Pastor Chris Okotie went ahead and pronounced them husband and wife.
The most recent one was the wedding of Chinedu Ikedieze, the actor popularly known as Aki. He took a wife, Nneoma Nwaijah according to traditional rites on the November 26th. He sealed it up with a Church wedding, and a star studded reception on the 9th of December.
Though Monalisa Chinda’s marriage collapsed in 2010, it was a marriage in 2011 that closed the chapter. Her husband, Dejo Richard, a movie practitioner and a musician, took a new wife on January 22nd.
SCANDALS AND RUMOURS
The biggest scandal in the movie industry in 2011 was definitely that of Babatunde Omidina, popularly known as Baba Suwe. He was arrested at the Muritala Muhammed airport on suspicion that he had some hard drugs in his system. Though he didn't excrete any drug after about three weeks in NDLEA custody and was vindicated, the comic actor was worse off with the scandal. As compensation, the court later ruled that the NDLEA should pay him N25 million.
Another major shocker was that of the break-up of what many described as a model marriage- the marriage of Kate Henshaw and Roderick Nuttal. It was a bitter gift, as it happened few days to Kate's 40th birthday. The marriage which lasted 12 years produced a daughter. Till now, the two have refused to give any reason for the break up.
Since the exit of Jide Kosoko as the President of the Association of Nigerian Theater Practitioners (ANTP), there has not been peace in the association. As usual, the problem is about who should be the next president. Members of the association are torn between Dele Odule and Victor Asaolu. Till date, the issue is yet to be resolved.
The story of whether Ramsey Nouah is a homosexual also got a space in the scandal page in 2011. The story started as a rumour after the release of the movie, The Perfect Church where he acted as a gay pastor. With this, many Nigerians ran into conclusion that he was a gay. They even said he was dating a Ghanaian actor, Majid.
Mercy Johnson had to wait till November to get her first dose of scandal after marriage. She was said to have been blind. In fact, a magazine displayed a distorted picture of her it's cover, with the headline – Mercy Johnson blind.
THE NOLLYWOOD BABIES
Nollywood is not only productive in quality movies in 2011, but in the area of making babies.
Dakore Egbuson-Akande recently gave birth to a beautiful baby girl. Also, Ex-MBGN Universe and actress, Stephanie Oforka who is married to a footballer, Kalu Uche also gave birth to a baby boy recently. Yoruba-movie actress, Opeyemi Aiyeola had her second son last week.
FLOPS OF THE YEAR
Despite the industry’s many successes, there have been some short comings in some quarters.
Nigerian movie makers failed to make an impact at the African Movie Academy Awards held early this year. Though, Nollywood is the biggest movie industry in Africa, Nigerian movies were not able to get up to five awards, while, Malawi and Ghana had over 10 awards between them.
Abuja Film Festival (AFF) is one the movie festivals to spring up in the country. In its first five years, the festival was such a big deal, but it has slided to obscurity ever since. This year’s event held at the Silverbird Gakeria, Abuja, was one of the worst, as it recorded the lowest turn out since inception.
AFF was not the only flopped film festival. The recently concluded African Film Festival (AFRIFF) in Lagos also had it’s own flaws, as there were a lot of discrepancies in the awards.
NEW KIDS ON THE BLOCK
2011 will be remembered as a year that many new acts emerged. Not that they were entirely new to the industry, but they finally earned major spots in Nollywood.
Joseph Benjamin is one of them. His movie career kicked off as a small boy in 'Tales by Moonlight'. It was not until this year that he became a hot cake. After losing best actor to Olu Jacobs at AMAA early in the year, Joe Ben, as popularly known, has suddenly become a hot cake. He featured in various block busters and was even the host of Project Fame reality TV show.
Femi Jacobs is another actor that really put his foot down this year. After acting in Tinsel for a year, he has become an instant hit, in fact, he acted a lead role in the soon to be released Mildred Okwo movie: The Meeting.
The ladies are not left out. Linda Ejiofor can be described as the revelation of the year. Though, a green horn, she is part of the much expected expected, The Meeting.
The movies that created wave in 2011 were quite much, but a number of them stood out. First at the cinema was Wale Adenuga’s The Perfect Church. The movie was a change from the norm. More of an inspirational and religious, the movie did so well at the cinema that a TV spin-off followed.
The Yoruba movie genre would not be outdone. Jelili, no doubt was the most popular Yoruba movie in 2011. The comedy film featured young actor, Femi Adebayo who also produced and directed it.
ZR7 also did well at the cinema. It brought nostalgic feelings to those who got to watch it only at the cinema. The film produced by Olufemi D. Ogunsanwo and Udoka Oyeka is about secondary school life, and the pranks that students play.
'Two Brides and a Baby' came later in the year. The reviews so far have been wonderful. There are a lot of anticipations and curiosities, with the title sounding like as if it is about the lead actress, Mercy Johnson. But the producer, Blessing Effiong Egbe said, it was shot even before Mercu Johnson's wedded.
Story by Hazeez Balogun (firstname.lastname@example.org)