The performances that had us buzzing all year round. Hand them all their trophies.
- Saeed Funky Mallam – Mr President
Saeed Funky Mallam in the lead role of the clueless titular character is surprisingly decent and his work would definitely have benefited from more purposeful writing. Playing a character that is a fictional mash-up of President Buhari and his predecessor, Goodluck Jonathan, Funky Mallam’s go for broke performance is completely in tune with the film’s madcap tone.
- Ramsey Nouah—Living in Bondage: Breaking Free
Truth be told, Ramsey Nouah is doing no more than playing to his strengths as Richard Williams the supernatural foil to Nnamdi Okeke in the Living in Bondage sequel. He is required to be charming, seductive, smooth and terrifying. Nouah can knock all of these states of play in his sleep and he does. What makes his portrayal memorable however is the amount of fun he seems to be having with it. The extra duties of directing do not let him commit fully but try resisting one of Nollywood’s most durable stars when he insists on putting on a charm offensive.
- Tina Mba – The Set Up
Niyi Akinmolayan’s The Set Up is littered with a galaxy of stars and everyone is perfectly capable of holding their own. The roles are (under) written such that no performer exactly outshines the other but if there is any one that comes dangerously close, it is Tina Mba who plays the mysterious madam nursing a revenge agenda that has been years in the making. Long established as a reliable character actor, Mba grabs a hold of this chunky role and sinks her teeth into it, chewing up the scenery as much as she is given room to.
- Elvina Ibru – The Bling Lagosians
The Bling Lagosians is not subtle at all. Borrowing a cue from the loudness of the production, Elvina Ibru dials up her performance as Mopelola Holloway, the matriarch of the wealthy family at the center of Bolanle Austen-Peters’ directorial debut. Ibru’s take on the kind of women she no doubt, grew up observing, is the chunkiest role on display in The Bling Lagosians and even when it ultimately leads nowhere, she plays it with all the subtlety of Meryl Streep in August: Osage County.
- Swanky JKA – Living in Bondage: Breaking Free
To interprete the role of Nnamdi Okeke in Living in Bondage: Breaking Free, director Ramsey Nouah chose to go with the fresh faced Swanky JKA. It turns out to be somewhat of an inspired choice as Swanky JKA waltzes right onto the screen turning in a playful yet commanding performance that should be a star-making turn in a world with any justice. Believable in equal turns as a struggling young man and a Lagos big boy, Swanky JKA’s good looks fail to divert from his hard work of creating a credible, relatable character.
- Chimezie Imo – Nimbe
The protagonist for which Nimbe is named after is a high school student teenager who succumbs to addiction to a particular vice while searching for release from the pressures of a hostile home environment. Portrayed with an affecting sincerity by Chimezie Imo, Nimbe is a regular kid finding himself and his way around a tough neighborhood. Imo’s work shines through strongly and is a welcome counter to the story’s made-for-tv sensibility.
- Rita Dominic – Light in the Dark
Light in the Dark benefits from Rita Dominic’s sensitive portrayal of a woman who must find a way to heal not just herself but her traumatized family after suffering through a violent attack. Dominic’s character, Jumoke descends into psychological and emotional hell but Dominic plays her with a strength of will that makes the eventual turnaround as credible as can be.
- Damson Idris – Farming
Adewale Akinuoye-Agbaje’s autobiographical directorial debut is an impressive piece of work but the film simply wouldn’t work without the exceptional skills of Damson Idris in the lead role. As the teenager who is loses his way growing up in the United Kingdom and gets involved with a group of racist skinheads, Idris’ soulful strength and intensity carries the film through the rollercoaster of afflictions that the character embraces.
- Kate Henshaw – The Ghost and the House of Truth
To watch Kate Henshaw play officer Folashade ‘Stainless’ Adetola is to observe an actor submit completely to a director’s vision. Director Akin Omotoso must get a lot of the credit for Henshaw’s work as a coolly detached professional tasked with investigating a missing child but it is Henshaw herself who has to wear the character like a second skin and bring her to vivid life. Stainless, emodied by Henshaw in easily a persuasive and definitive career highlight for the veteran performer.
- Jammal Ibrahim – The Delivery Boy
The Delivery Boy is Amir, a terrorist brimming with righteous indignation and controlled fury. He is on his way for a final mission when he crosses paths with a local hooker. Jamal Ibrahim previously seen in Green White Green nails both the physical demands and the emotional contours of his character and a heart-breaking scene where he explains his motivations, exuding strength and vulnerability at the same time, recalls Mo’Nique’s giant Oscar-winning Precious moment.
Wilfred Okiche is a medic, reader, writer, journalist, culture critic, and occasional ruffler of feathers. One of the most influential critics working in the Nigerian culture space, his writing has appeared extensively in platforms like YNaija.com and 360nobs.com. Okiche has provided editorial assistance to the UK Guardian and has had his work published in African Arguments, Africa is a Country and South Africa’s City Press. He has received trainings and acquired experience in multimedia and online journalism. He also appears on the culture television show, Africana Literati. He has participated at critic programs in Lagos, Durban and Rotterdam.