Home FEATURES THE 5 ‘KING-WOMEN’ CURRENTLY RULING THE NIGERIAN MOVIE INDUSTRY AS DIRECTORS

THE 5 ‘KING-WOMEN’ CURRENTLY RULING THE NIGERIAN MOVIE INDUSTRY AS DIRECTORS

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Joseph Omoniyi

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Arguably, the director holds the ‘auteurship-mantle’ of any movie production and boasts of its visionary imprints. This role in film making was once upon a time overly dominated all over the world, by the male folks, leaving the minute roles like welfare and ‘objective’ characters (acting) to the female counterparts. In fact the name director used to sound naturally masculin. Until the names like, Reni Riefenstahl, Pity Jenkins, PennyMarshall, Kathryn Bigelow, Sofia bCoppola, Jane Campion, Jodie Foster, etc. crept into the industry to make a great mark for thounsands more to draw further.

The narative is not quite different in the Nigerian movie sphere, although, we tend to arrive very late when others are way ahead with thousands of steps. The only business a female used to have on any nigerian film production team was either in front of the camera or very far from it, probably the kitchen. No until the early 90’s, the nigerian movie industry never trusted and deemed the women smart enough to ‘call the shots’ especially from directly behind the camera.

Many have argued that, one of the major reason for the indusry’s reluctancy in letting the ‘fly’ in this direction may be the fear of telling stories from female perspectives. No wonder, the women had to make their own paths, with Amaka Igwe (who died in April 28, 2014), Chinezie Anyaene paving the way  for many others who are not creating a mark but seeting the pace even for their male counterparts.

Today, names like Kemi Adetiba, Tope Oshin, Omoni Oboli, Genevieve Nnaji and Stephenie Linus Okereke have proven and at the same time used their artistic and directorial prowess not just to ‘project’ the industry to the world, but to also raise the bar. Some of their works have not just registered their national presence, but have also made global impacts. They have inded shifted the goal post.

Kemi Adetiba started making her marks professionally as a radio presenter with Rhythm 93.7 FM, where she became the voice behind two nationally syndicated hit shows: Soul’d Out and Sunday at the Seaside.

Kemi Adetiba began to make a transition from being a voice on the radio to being a face on television by producing and presenting several shows on Mnet, which includes Studio 53, Temptation Nigeria. Kemi was also a presenter on Soundcity TV and hosted Maltina Dance All for three consecutive seasons.

After years of success being in front of the camera, Adetiba enrolled into the New York Film Academy to learn the ropes about being behind the cameras and today, her bodies of work as a director are spread across the African continent and beyond its borders. Kemi Adetiba’s short film Across a Bloodied Ocean was screened at the 2009 Pan African Film Festival and National Black Arts Festival.

On 8 September 2016, Kemi Adetiba’s first feature film “The Wedding Party” (a Nigerian Rom-com film) premiered opening night, at the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF), as the opening film of the City-to-City Spotlight.

Tope Oshin Ogun, who was an actor for 12 years, featuring in films like Relentless, cut her teeth in directing, working as an assistant director for The Apprentice Africa and has since become known for directing popular African TV dramas and soap operas such as HushHotel Majestic Tinsel (TV series) and Season 6 of MTV Shuga. Though she has directed several introspective short films such as The Young SmokerTill Death Do Us PartNew Horizons and Ireti, she is known for her 2012 feature film Journey To Self and March 2018 feature film release New Money.

Oshin has produced some of the highest box office breaking movies in Nigeria, including the 2015 romantic film Fifty about four fifty-year-old female Lagos residents, which broke box office records upon release in December 2015, taking N20 million in the first weekend and The Wedding Party 2  as at 2018, the highest grossing Nigerian film.

In 2016, she produced and directed the documentary, Amaka’s Kin: The Women Of Nollywood as a memorial to prominent filmmaker Amaka Igwe, who died in 2014. The documentary addresses issues facing Nigerian female directors, working in a male-dominated industry.

As a follow up to her documentary, in 2017, and as part of the BBC 100 Women season, Tope celebrated the new generation of women filmmakers reinventing Nollywood, by presenting the BBC documentary Nigeria-Shooting It Like A Woman.  Apart from the BBC World Service documentary, Tope’s Amaka’s Kin: The Women Of Nollywood also influenced a lot of other TV shows and literary works alike, including Niran Adedokun’s book Ladies Calling the Shots. She also made and directed award-winning We Don’t Live Here Anymore and Up North.

Tope also has a thriving career as a Casting director and has cast for several film and television projects including all 3 Nigerian seasons of the MTV Staying Alive Foundation drama series Shuga

Since 2015 till date, Tope has served as a juror for the International Emmy Awards.

Omoni Oboli who has been a commercial phenomenon, made her directorial debut in 2014 with “Being Mrs Elliott,” and has since produced and directed “First Lady,” “Okafor’s Law,” “Wives on Strike,” and “Wives on Strike: The Revolution.”

“Wives on Strike” was a hit at the box office, grossing 15 million naira in three days and completing its cinema run with 71 million naira, which earned it a spot as – at time of press – the 8th highest grossing Nollywood movie ever.

Also, Oboli’s 2016 movie “Okafor’s Law” premiered at the Toronto International  Film Festival as part of its City to City programme. The movie eventually grossed 90 million naira in  Nigeria.

Oboli is currently working on a new movie “Moms at War” and a TV adaptation of “Wives on Strike.”

Stephenie Linus Okereke is another Nollywood phenomenon who has proven herself to be multitalented both in front and behind the camera. She finished from the New York Film Academy in 2007 and then almost immediately, released her directorial debut, ‘Through the Glass,’ in which she also starred, wrote and produced. Her movie ‘Dry,’ which she released in 2014 won numerous awards at the 12th edition of the Africa Movie Academy Awards and Africa Magic Viewer’s Choice as well.

Genevieve Nnaji is one of the most accomplished Nigerian filmmakers of all time. Since her career kicked off about 20 years ago, she has featured in over 200 including, ‘Half of a Yellow Sun’ based on Chimamanda Ngozi’s book of the same name about the Nigerian-Biafran War from 1967-70.

In 2015, Nnaji made her debut as a producer when she co-produced ‘Road to yesterday’ which she also featured in.

In 2018, she made her directorial debut with the movie, ‘Lionheart.’ The movie became the first Nollywood movie to be acquired by Netflix before release. It was premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival and got good reviews.

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