The Nigerian film industry has undergone great transformations over the years, from the Colonial era to the Golden age, the Video film era and the New Nigerian cinema, we’ve witnessed technological advancements and a wider global outreach, as well as considerable growth in revenue and quality of production. While all of this is commendable and worthy of praise, there is always room for improvement — especially when it comes to our storytelling.
There’s a lot of interesting content and thought-provoking films emerging in the Nigerian film space that often go unnoticed because they don’t fit the typical slap-and-dash or overly glamorized style of Nollywood productions (no shade though, because these can be very entertaining to watch). On the other hand, even when there is interest in creative work that goes beyond Nollywood, Africans on the continent don’t have access to many of these films thanks to bigger issues such as geoblocking and the general lack of mainstream popularity surrounding them. Thus, it becomes all the more important that we highlight the work of our unsung Nigerian creatives.
Here are 4 Nigerian filmmakers who are dancing to the beat of their own drums and inviting us (and the world at large) to view Nigerian stories from a variety of different perspectives:
Abba T Makama
Filmography: Nollywood: Something From Nothing (2015); Green White Green (2016); Visions: Shaitan (2017); The Lost Okoroshi (2019); Juju Stories (2021)
Abba T. Makama is an award-winning filmmaker and the founder/creative director of OSIRIS. Born and raised in Jos, Plateau State, he later studied film at New York University and was commissioned by Al Jazeera to direct a documentary on the Nigerian film industry in 2014. The documentary, titled Nollywood: Something From Nothing, was broadcast in 2015 and went on to be nominated for best documentary film at the 2016 African Movie Academy Awards. His first feature film, Green White Green, has screened at over 17 international film festivals and won Best Nigerian Film at AFRIFF 2016. His work has also been featured at BFILondon Film Festival 2019 and more recently, at the Nollywood Week Film Fest 2022 in Paris and New York African Film Festival 2022.
Big on self-expression and charting one’s own path, Makama believes that it is a filmmaker’s responsibility to reintroduce Nigerians back to themselves through film. His work usually falls somewhere between satire and surrealism, and the filmmaking collective he operates within (aptly called Surreal 16) also houses other like-minded creatives such as Mike Omonua and CJ Obasi who work together to portray a unique side to Nollywood films that is different from what many of us grew up watching. His popular feature film, The Lost Okoroshi, which premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF), tells the story of a struggling family man, Raymond, who goes to bed one night as human and wakes up possessed by an ancestral masquerade with a costume that cannot be removed. This is a humorous and colourful film that plays its part in demystifing Nigerian culture without reducing it to mere ‘juju’ and drama. It’s currently streaming on Netflix.
Filmography: Ivan and Maria (2012); Happiness (2012); Bunny (2013); Troublemaker (2019); Egúngún (2021)
Born in Lagos, Nigeria, Olive Nwosu is a BAFTA-Pigott Scholar and passionate filmmaker whose mission is to tell “urgent, cinematic, African stories.” Often praised for her meditative and philosophical approach to filmmaking, her work is informed by a background in trauma psychology, the nature of her life experiences across multiple continents and her attempts to better understand Nigeria and make meaning of the world. Themes focus on the place of the outsider as well as challenging the status-quo of whom and what viewers have grown accustomed to seeing on screen.
Olive’s 2019 short film Troublemaker is set in a village in Eastern Nigeria and the entire cast is made up of non-actors with most of the scenes and dialogues unrehearsed! It is this distinct sense of authenticity and glimpse into people’s lived experiences during the Nigerian Civil war that makes the film stand out. Troublemaker has played at several festivals including Raindance, Africa in Motion Film Festival and Aspen ShortsFest and has received a considerable number of nominations and prizes since its release. Olive’s second short film, Egúngún, has recently been commissioned by the British Council and British Film institute for their MoreFilms4Freedom program and was very recently featured at the New York African Film Festival 2022.
You can watch Troublemaker on Criterion Channel
Filmography: Mo (2017); Losing My Religion (2018); Family (2018); Heaven Baby (2020); For Maria Ebun Pataki (2020); Stories by Her (2021)
Beginning his creative journey as a journalist and film industry writer, Damilola is a gifted Nigerian screenwriter and film director whose work has screened in over 50 film festivals, winning several awards in quick succession. His rapid success has been exciting to see, especially considering the fact that he, like many of his peers, started out by shooting low-budget short films funded from his own personal savings. But since debuting his feature film, For Maria: Ebun Pataki, things have never been the same for the young filmmaker.
Described by many as a beautifully intimate and powerful film that addresses an important and often overlooked topic in Nigeria — postpartum depression, the 76- minute film has been praised both locally and globally (even more so after it premiered on Netflix earlier this year). So far, the recognition has been plentiful, including the Audience Choice for Best Narrative Feature award at Film Africa 2020, six nominations at the African Movie Academy Awards (AMAA) and a screening at the New York African Film Festival just last month. We look forward to seeing more from Damilola, as rumour has it that he is preparing for the production of another film titled Dear Ajayi.
Stream For Maria: Ebun Pataki on Netflix if you’re looking for some solid acting and a well-shot and heartfelt film.
Filmography: HUSH (2016); Once an Old Lady Sat on My Chest; (2018); My Voice (2019); Born Again (2020)
Candice is an award-winning Nigerian screenwriter and filmmaker based in the United Kingdom, who is the founder of Genesis Child Films, a production company with a focus on powerful stories driven by women of African descent. Her poignant, always vividly-shot short films have won numerous awards and screened at international festivals around the world, including the BFI London Film Festival, Roving Eye International Film Festival, and the Brazilian African Film Festival. Her work has been mentioned and reviewed on platforms including Afropunk and Yahoo Entertainment, and her most recent award-winning film, Born Again, has received a lot of attention, as it casts light on a woman’s inability to conceive and the relationship we tend to have with religion as Africans.
Not new to addressing hard-hitting topics and never one to shy away from them, Candice’s first short film HUSH (2016) focused on a young girl Uche, who loses her ability to speak, which has a ripple emotional effect on her whole family. While Uche’s silence and mental health is at the center of the film, Candice is able to skillfully give insight into each of the character’s internal battles, touching on several real-life and forever relevant issues in under 15 minutes.
These days, Candice continues working hard behind the scenes and is also currently developing her debut feature film, Another I.
You can watch Hush on YouTube now.