It’s 2019 and Nollywood movies are still bad. Will it get worse?

Nollywood movies are still staples in cinemas and, five months into 2019, I’m not sure if there has been any outstanding movie that’s worthy of recognition. Till now, Nollywood is still experiencing a crisis that no one wants to admit, wherein movies aren’t just good enough but are forced into cinemas regardless, heralded by buzzy red carpet premieres that sometimes lean towards a theme for the occasion. What’s particularly frustrating about this state of affairs is the routine exaggeration of box office information, a collusion between the cinema chain and filmmakers to paint a picture that a movie is doing well in theaters.

More often than not, this is ‘standard procedure’ to market a movie during its cinema cycle. I have seen directors and producers post pictures of their movies’ fabricated box office date on Instagram, and creating unique celebratory posters for this purpose. Sure, people are now inclined to see Nollywood movies in cinemas than they were before and the cinema chain is more receptive that ever. But inflating box office numbers is just wrong, misleading, and ethically bad. January’s roaster of movies were supposed to offer a sign that Nollywood movies would be better, given that I had seen Kemi Adetiba’s King of Boys and Dare Olaitan’s Knock Out Blessing in 2018, two movies that had its flaws but were sophisticated, wildly entertaining and centered female characters

Okey Oku’s Levi starring Ramsey Nouah was disappointing, while the Enyinna Nwigwe vehicle Baby Steps about a playboy whose life takes an unexpected turn when he wakes to find a baby on his doorstep is as bland as they come. Even indie movies you have not heard before like The Call and Sista Sista were disasters (frankly I didn’t watch them, just read reviews). What makes up a bad Nollywood movie is poor acting, poor editing and production, cliched stories and terrible writing of female characters that have no agency. At least, these are critical things I look out for. Nollywood has long since gravitated towards churning out comedies partly because of the belief that comedy is digestible and relatable, and Nigerians don’t crave ”serious” films.

More disappointingly, this year’s slate of comedies like The Big Fat Lie wasn’t funny, according to Cinema Pointer. Terribly sub-standard too. Perhaps the worst comedies of 2019 is Makate Must Sell and the Papa Ajasco movie Knockout. See reviews here and here. I was looking forward to Moses Eskor’s 1929, a period piece about the famed Aba Women’s Riot but what did we get? First, here’s a 2018 tweet from Nigerian author Chika Unigwe wanting a movie about the Aba Women after watching Black Panther.


I’m still shocked that 1929 was a mess, and these tweets below capture my thoughts.

Amid the morass of bad movies, there was Ishaya Bako’s 4th Republic released in April, a political thriller that had Kate Henshaw in a lead role. The movie had glowing reviews, even from the blisteringly caustic Cinema Pointer. That said, is the crisis of bad Nollywood filmmakers fixable? Yes it is. A time ago, I bemoaned the lack of fresh faces in Nollywood movies. Has there been a breakout actor in the last five years? Someone brimming with distinguishable talent and promise that we are enraptured by their skill and brilliance on the screen? All we see, these days, is the same old faces because filmmakers can’t bank on fresh, inexperienced talent to ”sell” their movies.

By December, a certain studio will release another terribly mediocre but glossy, star-studded comedy, and with nauseatingly relentless marketing. And some of us will absently wait till it comes out on Netflix. As it is, does Nollywood have a future? Hate to break it, but if film practitioners continue to blissfully live in an echo chamber, it will only get worse from here.

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