2020 was no doubt a killer year for e-commerce brands and the digital services industry. As staying indoors gravitated from being a thing of leisure to a life-saving priority due to COVID, projections for remote work arrangements across many companies quickly became the unconquerable reality.
But beyond professional life, this development kick-started predictable consumption patterns among movie lovers that accelerated the usage of movie streaming platforms like Netflix so much so that some feared cinemas might as well be knocked out of business in no time — even in the face of the contradictory views of showbusiness magnates.
In Nigeria, the ripple effect of this newfound reality was felt as Netflix’s catalogue of Nollywood movies continued to grow. With fresh perspectives on social issues finding their way into the industry’s emerging storylines, a number of newly released movies quickly gained prominence even in the global space and dominated talks on social media.
Not to mince words, TheCable Lifestyle discusses these most talked-about Nollywood films of 2020 and their reception.
‘Citation’ by Kunle Afolayan
It was Temi Otedola’s acting debut and she played the protagonist. ‘Citation‘, a 2020 film that addressed campus sexual assault, quickly started raking in positive reviews not long after it hit the cinema.
‘Citation’ tells the story of a 21-year-old student who takes the case of a randy and famed university professor to the institution’s senate body on account of the latter’s desperate advances at her. Unfolding events eventually pit her world against that of the academic, baring the realities that play out in many male-dominated educational environs.
On how he selected the main character, Afolayan said: “When I have a project, a lot of names come to mind. In her case, she was never in my initial plan. I was already talking to veterans but slept and saw her in my sleep. I saw her on set and was giving her basic directions about the film. When I woke, I called my partner and we pushed for it.”
Among the cast are Jimmy Jean-Louis as Prof. Lucien N’Dyare, Bukunmi Oluwashina, Adjetey Anang as Kwesi, Joke Silva as Angela, Ini Edo as Gloria, Ibukun Awosika, Ropo Ewenla, Gbubemi Ejeye, Yomi Fash-Lanso, Gabriel Afolayan, Oyewole Olowomojuore, Sadiq Daba, Samantha Okanlawon, Bienvenu Neba, and Toyin Bifarin Ogundeji.
‘Òlòturé’ by Mo Abudu
Flixpatrol, a streaming data aggregator platform, had ranked ‘Oloture’ number three in its list spanning the top-10 Nollywood movies on Netflix for 2020 after the crime drama film had aired in October 2020. ‘Oloture’ tells the story of a young and naive journalist who goes undercover to expose the brutal underworld of human trafficking in Lagos.
The movie was based on an investigative report by Tobore Ovuorie, a Nigerian journalist. While it had premiered on October 31, 2019, at Carthage Film Festival in Tunisia, Netflix would later acquire distribution rights to ‘Oloture’ in September 2020. The movie was similarly ranked among the top-10 most-watched movies in the world on Netflix.
Directed by Kenneth Gyang, an award-winning Nigerian filmmaker, the film features Sharon Ooja as Oloture, Omoni Oboli as Alero, and Blossom Chukwujekwu as Emeka, Beverly Osu as Peju, Ada Ameh as Titi, Omowumi Dada as Linda, Segun Arinze as Theo, Adebukola Oladipupo as Beauty, as well as Ikechukwu Onunaku as Chuks.
Other film stars also enlisted are Kemi Lala Akindoju as Blessing, Omawumi as Sandra, Sambasa Nzeribe as Victor, Daniel Etim Effiong as Tony, David Jones David as Sheriff. Emmanuel Ilemobajo as Simon, Eunice Omoregie as Linda’s mother, Gregory Ojefua as Sami, Patrick Doyle as Sir Phillip, Pearl Okorie, Wofai Fada, and Yemi Solade.
‘Living in Bondage: Breaking Free’
It was in May 2020 that ‘Living in Bondage: Breaking Free‘, a supernatural thriller produced by Charles Okpaleke, premiered. Directed by Ramsey Nouah, the film had come as a sequel to ‘Living in Bondage 1’, a 1992 drama thriller film. It got mostly positive reviews and ranked 11 among the highest-grossing Nigerian films after its theatrical run.
Set 25 years after the events of the original movie, the story follows Andy Okeke (Kenneth Okonkwo) who became a clergyman after renouncing his allegiance to the secret cult (now known as Brotherhood of the Six) that made him kill his wife. The sect went global but most Nigerian members who survived the 1996 Otokoto riots fled the country.
Those who featured in the sequel are Ramsey Nouah, Jidekene Achufusi, Kenneth Okonkwo as Andy Okeke Enyinna Nwigwe, Munachi Abii as Kelly Nwankwo, Shawn Faqua, David Jones, Ebele Okaro, Zulu Adigwe, Kanayo O. Kanayo, Ndidi Obi, Bob-Manuel Udokwu, Nancy Isime, Charlene Chisom Ignatius, as well as Chamberlain Usoh.
At the 2020 Africa Magic Viewers Choice Awards (AMVCA), ‘Living in Bondage: Breaking Free’ got 11 nominations and won seven, including ‘Best Overall Movie’, ‘Best Movie West Africa’, and ‘Best Director’ plaques. Criticism had however trailed its production crew after a designer alleged she wasn’t paid for the movie’s graphics and artworks.
‘Rattlesnake: The Ahanna Story’
‘Rattlesnake: The Ahanna Story’ is a 2020 Nigerian coming-of-age mystery thriller action film executive produced by Charles Okpaleke and directed by Ramsey Nouah. It is a remake of the 1995 Nigerian classic action thriller film ‘Rattlesnake’ which was directed by Amaka Igwe. It got a share of the buzz after its theatrical release in November.
The film stars include Stan Nze, Chiwetalu Agu, Osas Ighodaro, Omotola Jalade Ekeinde, and Ayo Makun in the lead roles. It received mixed reviews from critics and went on to rank 24th overall on the list of the highest-grossing Nigerian movies of all time at the end of its theatrical run. It is also acclaimed as one of the best of its kind for the year 2020.
‘The Ahanna Story’ follows Ahanna (Stan Nze), a young man who decides to rob the life he had always wanted and dreamt of. He assembles a group of men called “The Armadas” with different skills to stage a series of spectacular heists. But things take a swift u-turn after the gang suddenly find themselves with fierce enemies on both fanks.
‘Fate of Alakada’ by Toyin Abraham
It starred indigenous musicians like Davido and Peruzzi. ‘Fate of Alakada’ follows Yetunde (played by Toyin Abraham), a young girl from a poor background who, as a result of her inferiority complex, engages in the act of making up stories about her financial and social status to fit in with the crowd.
The film was initially supposed to have its theatrical release on April 10, 2020, but the release was postponed to the first day of October due to the COVID-19 pandemic-induced lockdown. It was put out amid limited seating capacity in Lagos where 33 percent allocated for cinemas to operate as against 50 percent in other states across the country.
Produced by Toyin Abraham, ‘Fake of Alakada’ became the highest-grossing Nigerian film in an opening weekend after the lockdown. The final box office collection of the film stood at N112,149,600 and went onto become the highest-grossing Nigerian film in 2020. The film also became the 14th highest-grossing Nigerian film of all-time.
‘The Milkmaid’ by Desmond Ovbiagele
Of all the Nigerian movies put out in 2020, ‘The Milkmaid’ was the only one selected to represent the country and vie for the ‘Best International Feature Film’ category of the 93rd Academy Awards. It also won the ‘Best Film’, ‘Best Film in an African Language’, ‘Achievement in Makeup’, and ‘The National Film and Video Censors Board (NFVCB) Award for Best Nigerian Film’ categories at the 2020 Africa Movie Academy Awards (AMAA) held in December.
Shot in Taraba state, the movie addresses the issues faced by women caught in the upheaval of insurgency in rural sub-Saharan Africa using the story of Zainab and her sister who were separated by militants. ‘The Milkmaid’ also examines the trauma of internally displaced persons (IDPs) as well as girls forced into early marriage. It stars Ibrahim Jammal, Maryam Booth as Zainab, Gambo Usman Kona, as well as Anthonieta Kalunta as Aisha.
In an interview with TheCable Lifestyle, Ovbiagele said ‘The Milkmaid’ was shot to give a clearer picture of the psychological ordeals of victims of insurgency in northern Nigeria.
“There were a number of approaches I could have taken in realising the story. It could easily have been an action film, just based on the physical confrontation between soldiers and the insurgents but I was more interested in exploring the mindset of both the victims and the extremists,” he had explained.
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