Following the announcement that Genevieve Nnaji’s directorial debut Lionheart will premiere at this year’s Toronto International Film Festival, there’s been this palpable excitement and fever on social media. “Walking into TIFF18 like…” tweeted TIFF via their official account, showing images of Nnaji in lipstick-red pantsuit and making an entrance.
More pointedly, there’s been the collective will for Nnaji to reap more prosperity. The actress has been a veritable figure in Nollywood, and streaming giant Netflix picking up her first directorial effort Lionheart in a global deal is a dazzling accomplishment for Nollwood and Nnaji herself. After Lionheart premiered at TIFF over the weekend, the actress was interviewed by CNN’s Richard Quest on Quest Means Business on Tuesday night, wherein she discussed the Netflix acquisition of Lionheart, which is the first ever Original production from Nollywood the streaming service has bought.
Genevieve spoke about how she gathered funds for making Lionheart, and the chances of Nollywood gaining global acceptance. “For money, we had to self-fund unfortunately. We don’t have adequate funding for movies that we actually intend to go global, there isn’t that provision yet.”
This isn’t surprising. Despite the diasporic appetite for Nollywood movies and the industry considered as the biggest just after Hollywood, the industry still needs a huge pump of funds. And this is largely why the churn of movies from Nollywood have languished in low quality, with boring repetitive formulas. Money can buy ideas, and also efficiently and effectively implement them.
Nnaji’s Lionheart was shot in Enugu, with glistening cinematography work done by Yinka Edward. “I think the authenticity of the story which was what I loved about it. It provided an environment where I could showcase the things that made me proud of our culture, our talent and our values. We focused on quality this time.” Nnaji told Quest.
She also expressed optimism about Nollywood going global, in the context of quality of movies. In addition, the Netflix deal for Lionheart has subverted the gatekeeping power of Nigerian cinemas, and maybe this could be a start in decentering movies from the theater chain.