by Wilfred Okiche
For the year in film, a lot more releases made their way to the theatres and managed to secure star studded red carpet premieres. But after all the cards were played and the groupies had departed, only a precious few of them turned out to be worth their weight in hype.
2014 was the year of Half of a yellow sun. After a short battle with the all-knowing gods at the censors’ board, the film was released to less fanfare than it deserved. Still it packed in the crowds and left viewers sharply divided. 2014 was also the year of Omoni Oboli, the actress who proved she could do it all by starring in, writing, producing or directing in 3 movies that made this year end list. But it was Kunle Afolayan, the gifted and hard tasking director who ran away with the best film of the year. His patriotic pastiche had its few detractors but when all was said and done, October 1 is a triumph of indigenous filmmaking.
While there was quantity, quality was less than plentiful. The later half of this list consists of average fare at best and should not really be competing with the top half, but this is Nollywood and one has to make the best of what is available.
In ascending order we present to you, the 10 best films of 2014.
10) 30 Days in Atlanta
AY Makun showed impeccable comic timing and an unrelenting knack for mining comedy gold in this troublesome project that combined the thrill of its multi-star cast with a healthy serving up of laughs. The plot was barely present, continuity didn’t bother to show up and the screenplay was about as clichéd as they come. But for pure thrill seeking pleasure, if there was a funnier film released this year, we must have missed it.
9) Brother’s Keeper
As Nollywood films go, Brother’s Keeper is a decent attempt. It will not win any awards for originality of presentation but it tells a compelling story of grief and loss and then juices things up by throwing in a murder-mystery into the mix. It is proof that actors can be so much better if they have better material to work with as well as capable hands guiding them.
8) A Mile from home
This one was released in 2013 and almost slipped by unnoticed, scoring a fresh lease only when its star, Tope Tedela won the Africa Magic Viewers Choice Award (AMVCA) for lead actor in a drama. Released on DVD this year, A Mile from home may have its acting and story limitations, but the pure action sequences are a standard for Nollywood films.
7) Being Mrs Elliot
Being Mrs Elliot has some uncomfortable tonal shifts where it isn’t totally sure what it wants to be. A tense thriller, a life affirming drama, slapstick comedy or a more traditional romantic comedy? The film is good, then bad then good again. But throughout the mounting inconsistencies, Omoni Oboli shows her hand as a filmmaker with promise.
6) When love happens
For Seyi Babatope’s predictable but glossy rom com, the sets are pretty, all-star cast even prettier and the costumiers make their presence felt with their delectable mix of corporate suits and Ankara styling. The movie is all too familiar and trudges along most of the time, but one can see that everyone is having fun. Fair enough we say.
5) Render to Caesar
Render to Caesar plays more like an experiment than a confident production. The production hands seem to be finding their touch, their rookie errors made all the more glaring by an insistence on reaching out of their comfort zones even when they have not altogether mastered the basics. But it works when it does. And audacious attempts like these should be encouraged.
4) Half of a yellow sun
Boasting an unprecedented budget by Nollywood standards, the magnificence and sweep of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s story clearly overpowered the director of this window dressed film translation, demanding more than was available to him. On its own, HOAYS, the movie is without the magic of the best love stories, nor the tension of the best war stories. It falls uncomfortably in between both genres, not quite knowing where to settle.
3) Finding Fela
Truthfully, this Alex Gibney directed documentary is about as Hollywood as they come but it’s subject matter; the outsize, fearsome legend that is Fela Anikulapo Kuti is one of the greatest Nigerians that ever lived. So we’ll find some common ground and add the competently shot but not exactly revealing project to our list. Because of course.
2) Devil in the detail
This film addresses the age old issue of infidelity, this time from the angles of both sexes and does not resort to find easy, clichéd answers. Devil in the detail is a nuanced, witty take on the battle of the sexes, does not trade easy blames but finds that both sexes are equally culpable when it comes to brutalizing the other with matters of the heart.
- October 1
In many ways, October 1 is a typical Kunle Afolayan film, what with the ensemble cast, big budget, period setting, ambitious story and dark psychological suspense. The brooding auteur proved once again and maybe for the first time in film this year, that ambition is good and no one can represent Nigeria better than Nigerians. Nollywood is rising indeed. And October 1 is a shining example.
– The writer tweets from @drwill20