10. Lucy Ameh- Amina
Kaduna state-born Lucy Ameh tapped into all of her feelings- personal, physical and cultural to play what she has described as the role of a lifetime. Yes, she has lines that are repeated constantly till they become almost comical but Ameh is nothing if not committed to the role, giving full-blooded life to her interpretation of the warrior queen from Zazzau.
9. Bimbo Ademoye- Breaded Life
For a while, in films as varied as Sugar Rush and Looking for Baami, Bimbo Ademoye has quietly worked as the not-so-secret weapon, able to play both comic and dramatic, sometimes within the same scene. Breaded Life plays to her strengths as she is once again tasked with portraying a lower-class lass with a heart of gold beneath the rough exterior. She could play this in her sleep at this point.
8. Richard Mofe-Damijo- Fine Wine
It is great that in 2021, RMD remains committed to delivering that old fashioned, charming performance in an old-fashioned, charming romance flick. Roles like this one, that depend on a movie star’s ability to command the screen are no longer as common as one would expect. Genevieve is somewhere not acting in films. Rita Dominic has moved to more challenging actorly fare and RMD himself has been stuck playing father figure roles for some time. Fine Wine is quite the welcome throwback.
7. Nengi Adoki- Juju Stories
After a commanding opening section, the middle act in this anthology series directed by the Surreal 16 Collective goes on a rambling tangent. But for the final story, Suffer the Witch, Nengi Adoki brings the project back to focus with her confident portrayal of a student with an unhealthy obsession for her roommate. Adoki’s Joy exists in a kind of liminal space. She keeps her intentions to herself until she is ready to execute. Adoki’s intelligence makes the character more revealing than she has a right to be.
6. Kehinde Bankole- Prophetess
This almost perpetually underrated scene stealer has been toiling away working with directors who have no idea how to handle the bundles of talent that she brings to any given project. The situation sadly hasn’t changed much but even in a supporting role in Prophetess, this Easter’s money maker, Bankole’s Labake provides the grounding presence that the film desperately needs. The adult in a room full of kids.
5. Paul Utomi- Juju Stories
It is hard to say how much of the performances in Love Potion, the first story in the Surreal 16 anthology. Juju Stories is merely observed by director Mike Omonua. But concluding that as the case would be taking away from the penetrating work of Paul Utomi as the clueless young man whose life is upended by the magic of a love potion. Utomi is in tune with the needs of his director and the quiet weariness that he demonstrates as his life falls apart is a fine example of understated brilliance.
4. Belinda Agedah Yanga- Juju Stories
Love Potion, the opening entry in Juju Stories does not work without Agedah Yanga whose aching desperation is the heart and soul of the film. She is entirely believable as an everyday woman stealing affections- via some supernatural help- from a man she is fully convinced is her soulmate. It is a finely calibrated performance that captures the loneliness, anxieties and depression of a woman of a Nigerian woman of a certain marriageable age.
3. Ijeoma Grace Agu- Swallow
Pop star Niyola making her big screen appearance playing lead in Swallow, Kunle Afolayan’s latest, shares plenty of scenes with Ijeoma Grace Agu. She is better off for it. It is a testament to Grace Agu’s skill as a performer that she is able to pull off double duties, providing some guidance to her colleague. It would be easy enough to steal away scenes, but Grace Agu does something more interesting, taking the lead where there is a vacuum and yielding space for her co-star when appropriate. Not everyone can pull this off obviously.
2. Lateef Adedimeji- Ayinla
Lateef Adedimeji does not just inhabit the late Apala maestro complete with intimate gestures and iconic musical performances. Like the most interesting actors, instead of limiting his interpretation to caricature, he also presents audiences- old and new- with a new route into a character who once lived. Thus, in the process, bringing to life a full blooded human being worth rooting for.
- Meg Otanwa- For Maria (Ebun Pataki)
Meg Otanwa is utterly transfixing in Damilola Orimogunje’s assured debut, an intense chamber piece that is unflinching with its depiction of depression post-partum. Otanwa does so much with her face and with the silences that surround the film, putting up a credible and ultimately heartbreaking account of a woman’s battle the demons of her mental health. Not to be missed/
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.