Wilfred Okiche: Sola Sobowale, Ramsey, Bimbo… My 10 favourite film performances of 2016 [NEW VOICES]

by Wilfred Okiche

These ones deserve the Oscar. Or AMAA. Or AMVCA. Somebody hand it to them, please.

  1. Nkem Owoh (Ghana Must Go)

It is hard to see where Tunde Babalola’s screenplay ends and Nkem Owoh’s natural freestyle antics begin but as the boisterous, polygamous Mazi Okoro who takes Ghana with a vengeance, Mr Owoh has the time of his life playing a send-up of every other role he has played in his comic heydey. From the moment he shows up onscreen in Yvonne Okoro’s ribald comedy, Owoh proceeds to annihilate everybody else unfortunate enough to share the screen with him.

  1. Wale Ojo (The CEO)

Kunle Afolayan’s The CEO has a lot going on, maybe too much and Wale Ojo as the central character is required to carry the film to its illogical conclusion. He manages to stay head above water when everything else starts sinking and this is due to his charm, discipline and pose which he brings to an unlikeable character. Ojo even survives the film’s messy ending when he is required to inexplicably start speaking Chinese. No mean feat.

  1. Memry Sevanhu (’76)

There were many good performances in ’76, (Rita Dominic, Daniel K. Daniel) but it is Memry Sevanhu’s feckless, hard partying siren that you leave the cinemas wanting to know more of. What happens to her? Does she swallow up that guy whom she eventually shacks up with? Will she continue to dance? It is a testament to the dignity and meaning that Zimbabwean-born Sevanhu brings to a role that could easily have been one-note.

  1. Sola Sobowale (The Wedding Party)

Sola Sobowale’s Tinuade Coker is the life blood of The Wedding Party. Take her out and the film is still fun, but no longer as much. Yes, she is overly dramatic and her histrionics are deliciously over the top. But she is true to her character and you can recognise traces of every Nigerian mother in her. Comedy can be tricky because it is easy to dismiss the antics as mere fooling around, but Sobowale shows us the truth about ourselves in many hilarious little ways.

  1. Olu Jacobs (Oloibiri)

As the brave elder Timipre, Olu Jacobs brings gravitas to a role that could have been forgettable. Instead, his character becomes the MVP of the entire affair. His scenes of verbal sparring with Richard Mofe-Damijo are an upcoming screenwriter’s dream and a budding actor’s lesson notes. Jacobs’ commitment to character keeps the film grounded even when the bullets are going off around him and the bodies start to pile up.

  1. Seun Ajayi (Surul’ere)

Mealdred Okwo’s Surul’ere has its many lapses but Seun Ajayi’s lived in and utterly believable performance is at the heart and soul of this tale that preaches the rewards of patience. Ajayi rises above the screenplay’s deficits and captures the everyman struggle with just a slight frown on his face, or slouch in posture, holding his own amongst his gifted contemporaries. In a just world, after Surul’ere’s star-making turn, Ajayi should have a long list of future projects to choose from.

  1. Ramsey Nouah (’76)

The first half of ’76 is Ramsey Nouah’s showcase as the screenplay takes viewers into the world of high-wire military politics and intrigue. Nouah shows his range as an actor as brings his considerable experience to ground the film with a solid performance that plays down the needless histrionics. Plus he looks divine in a uniform.

  1. Somkele Idhalama (93 Days)

Playing Dr Ada Igonoh, one of the survivors of the dreaded Ebola Virus Disease in 93 Days, there is one scene in which Somkele Idhalama damn near breaks your heart and announces her arrival as a major talent at the same time. She is walking out of the quarantine area, finally free of Ebola. She cuts the tape, walks to her waiting family, turns back once again to face the enemy for the final time and you can see all the emotions of a survivor on her face- joy, hope, guilt, confusion, gratitude. A star is born people.

  1. Alastair Mackenzie (93 Days)

Dr David Brett-Majors of the World Health Organisation (WHO) deserves a national award in particular for his heroic commitment to the clinical care of Ebola patients in Nigeria at a time paranoia was the name of the game among health workers. The portrayal by Scottish actor Alastair Mackenzie is pitch perfect as he disappears into the role and makes you believe he’s been doctoring forever.

  1. Bimbo Akintola (93 Days)

It doesn’t happen all the time but once in a while, an actor turns in a performance that reminds everybody once again why they are a star in the first place. Bimbo Akintola’s quietly effective performance of national heroine Stella Adadevoh is one such moment. Her job would be easy enough if she took the simple route of turning the character into a saint. But in Akintola’s face and affect, you can see the struggles- personal and professional- that any doctor in Adadevoh’s position has to struggle with when faced with the worst possible call imaginable.

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