NOAH BANJO takes a look at the top female filmmakers in the country calling the shots
Before venturing into filmmaking, this damsel had made a name for herself on radio as a host on Rhythm 93.7FM. She later transitioned to hosting television shows such as ‘Studio 53’ and ‘Temptation Nigeria’ on Mnet. She was also a presenter on Soundcity TV and the host of the popular ‘Maltina DanceAll’ show for three consecutive years. Adetiba has also directed music videos for stars including Banky W, Wizkid, 2baba, Dagrin, Niyola, Olamide and Tiwa Savage.
After studying at the New York Film Academy in 2009, she released a short film titled, ‘Across a Bloodied Ocean’. However, her first feature length movie was ‘The Wedding Party’.
To follow up her success with ‘The Wedding Party’, Adetiba released another blockbuster titled, ‘King of Boys’, which was critically acclaimed and successful at the cinemas. With her movies winning awards and breaking box office records, Kemi Adetiba is regarded as one of the foremost filmmakers in Nollywood.
Many movie lovers know the name, though putting a face to it might be an issue. Emem Isong, who has spent nearly 30 decades in Nollywood, has her footprints in different areas of filmmaking.
With over 40 movies under her belt – where she functioned as producer, screenwriter, or director – she is regarded as one of the purveyors of the new form of the Nigerian movie industry, which has favoured more cinema releases than home videos as it was known for.
In 2010, she founded the Royal Arts Academy alongside Uduak Oguamanam, Anietie Isong and Monalisa Chinda. The academy trains prospective actors.
It almost seems like Mo Abudu does not rest from making headlines regarding her work in film, especially with the recent rights acquisition to make a film about the international fraudster, Ramon Abass, aka Hushpuppi.
Abudu’s career in the media came to the fore with her talk show, ‘Moments with Mo.’ She later went on to create EbonyLife TV which gave birth to EbonyLife Films. With EbonyLife Films, she forayed into movie production, starting with ‘Fifty,’ and proceeding to co-produce ‘The Wedding Party’, ‘The Wedding Party 2’, ‘The Royal Hibiscus Hotel’, ‘Chief Daddy’, ‘Your Excellency’ and ‘Òlòtūré.’
In March 2018, EbonyLife TV and Sony Pictures Television signed a three-year deal that would include co-production of ‘The Dahomey Warriors’, a series about the Amazons who took on French colonialists in a 19th-century West African kingdom. In 2020, EbonyLife announced a partnership with AMC Networks (USA) to produce ‘Nigeria 2099’, an afro-futuristic crime-drama created by Mo Abudu’s company.
Over the years, the filmmaker and media mogul has received recognition for her work in the development of the film industry in Nigeria and Africa at large.
Many saw the growth of this former child actor and how she blossomed into a grounded actor and movie producer. Funke Akindele’s star shone bright as Bisi in the popular sitcom, ‘I Need to Know,’ which ran from 1998 to 2002.
In an industry where many child actors fall off the radar and become irrelevant, Akindele-Bello climbed up the ladder to become a household name. With movies like ‘Omo Ghetto,’ ‘Jenifa,’ ‘Return of Jenifa,’ and ‘Maami,’ she sealed her place among A-list actors in Nollywood. Following the success of ‘Jenifa,’ Akindele released a spinoff TV series titled, ‘Jenifa’s Diary’ from her production house, SceneOne Film Productions.
Not resting on her oars, Akindele keeps appearing in movies and directing some of her projects with the most notable one being ‘Omo Ghetto: The Saga’, which is reportedly Nigeria’s highest grossing movie of all time at over N600m, beating ‘The Wedding Party’, which made N453m.
For someone who is selective about the movies she makes, Mildred Okwo is still not one to overlook in Nollywood. She has built a brand for herself and has noted that her films are “for a certain kind of people”.
Okwo took Nollywood by storm in 2006 following the release of the movie, ‘30 Days,’ which she wrote, directed and co-produced. The movie earned eight nominations at the 2008 Africa Movie Academy Awards, with Joke Silva taking the award for Best Supporting Actress.
Her film, ‘The Meeting,’ a romantic comedy released in 2012, received critical acclaim and was nominated in six categories at the ninth Africa Movie Academy Awards, winning the ‘Achievement in Make-Up’ award. Since then, she has been involved in two more movies which have also received critical acclaim. Okwo was among the Nollywood practitioners who formed the Nigerian Oscars Selection Committee, which was approved by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, to screen Nigerian films for submission under the ‘Best Foreign Language Film’ category at the Academy Awards.
Omoni Oboli has become a household name in Nollywood through her acting, screenwriting and directing. But, only few know that she almost quit acting after a long hiatus to finish her Bachelor’s degree in French from the University of Benin, Edo State, and getting married immediately after.
In her first stint in the movie industry, Oboli starred in five films including ‘Not My Will’, ‘Destined to Die’ and ‘Another Campus Tale.’ However, she made a return to the silver screen in 2009, starring in Kunle Afolayan’s supernatural suspense thriller, ‘The Figurine,’ followed by ‘Anchor Baby’ in 2010. In 2014, Omoni made her directorial debut with the movie, ‘Being Mrs Elliot.’ She has gone on to direct and produce audience favourites such as ‘Okafor’s Law,’ ‘Wives on Strike’, ‘Mums at War’, and ‘Love is War.’
In a saturated and highly competitive industry, Oboli has been recognised for her efforts in Nollywood winning the ‘Big Screen Actress of the Year’ award at the 2014 ELOY Awards and the Sun ‘Nollywood Personality of the Year’ in 2015.
This is one person one can say has lived a colourful life. As a child, Tope Oshin had dreams to become a painter, but got admitted to study Economics at the university before abandoning the course to study Public Administration, then Theatre Arts, TV & Film Production at the Lagos State University.
Oshin built on her interest in filmmaking and later studied Film Production, and Cinematography at the Colorado Film School of the Community College of Aurora, Denver, United States of America, and Met Film School, Ealing Studios, London, United Kingdom, respectively.
For about 12 years, Oshin was in front of the screen as an actress. However, she made a switch to being behind the camera, working as an assistant director for the business reality show, ‘The Apprentice Africa.’ Since then, she has become known for directing popular TV dramas and soap operas such as ‘Hush’, ‘Hotel Majestic,’ ‘Tinsel’ and ‘MTV Shuga’ (Season six).
While Oshin is known for cinema hits such as ‘Up North’ and ‘New Money’ and its follow-up ‘Quam’s Money’, she also produced ‘The Wedding Party 2’ which was a box office hit.
As a tribute to the late Amaka Igwe, she produced and directed the documentary, ‘Amaka’s Kin: The Women Of Nollywood’, which addresses issues facing Nigerian female directors working in a male-dominated industry.
Some might call it a fast rise to the top, others might call it hard work and diligence. What they would not fail to call Jade Osiberu’s work is lacking in quality.
Trained as a computer systems engineer, Osiberu left her job as a software developer to focus full time on movies and her choice has apparently paid off. In 2013, she produced and wrote one of the earliest Nigerian web series, ‘Gidi Up,’ which featured actors like OC Ukeje, Deyemi Okanlawon and Somkele Iyamah.
After setting up her production company, she wrote and directed ‘Isoken,’ which earned her ‘Best Director’ awarf at the 2018 Africa Magic Viewers’ Choice Awards.
More recently, Osiberu produced the critically acclaimed musical biopic of Apala music legend, Ayinla Omowura, titled, ‘Ayinla.’
Setting up a private theatre and then producing for film as well would sound challenging to anyone. It was, however, not beyond Bolanle Austen-Peters. Coming from a legal background and working with the United Nations, her journey to becoming a known figure in live theatre and film exemplifies her love for the arts.
Austen-Peters founded Terra Kulture Arts and Studios Limited to serve as an educational and recreational organisation with the aim to promote Nigerian languages, arts and culture.
She also established her own production company called Bolanle Austen-Peters Productions. To announce its appearance on the Nigerian theatre scene, the company launched its first production, ‘SARO the Musical’ which toured Lagos and was performed in London’s West End.
Austen-Peters also directed the ‘Fela and The Kalakuta Queens’ musical, which is based on the real-life story of Nigerian music icon and activist, Fela Kuti, and the women who stood by him. She also directed ‘Moremi the Musical’, which tells the story of the 12th century Yoruba legend queen who liberated the people of Ile Ife (in modern day Osun State) from the grasp of their enemies.
Her company also produced ‘93 Days’, a film on the Ebola outbreak in Nigeria, which was selected for premiering and viewing at the Toronto International Film Festival, The Chicago Film Festival, the Pan African Film Festival in Los Angeles, the Johannesburg Film Festival, the Africa Film Festival in Cologne/Germany, and nominated for a RapidLion Award. It also received 13 nominations at the 2017 Africa Magic Viewers’ Choice Awards, receiving an award for ‘Best Lighting Designer’. The movie was also nominated in seven categories at the 2017 African Movie Academy Awards.
Bolanle Austen-Peters’ production company also released ‘The Bling Lagosians,’ a movie about the lifestyle of Lagos elite.
Aside from tenacity and hard work, the other thing synonymous to Toyin Abraham is her vibrant and energetic nature. It is almost nearly impossible to see this actress playing solemn roles.
Abraham started her career in the Yoruba sector of the Nigerian movie industry and has since spread her tentacles to English speaking movies as well. She is notable for her movie series, ‘Alakada,’ which is in three parts.
While a number of producers kept making home videos, Toyin was among the pioneers of pushing Yoruba movies to the cinema. This could have been a major factor in her gaining popularity and acceptance amongst Yoruba movie lovers.
With over 35 movies under her belt, Toyin won the award for the ‘Best Actress in a Drama’ at the 2020 Africa Magic Viewers’ Choice Awards for her role in ‘Elevator Baby.’ PUNCH