In the late 00s and early 2010s, we complained about the budgets, the picture quality, the cliche storylines, the recycling of actors, the horrendous scene transitions. Memes were generated, comedians earned numbers from parodying what our film industry represented, and the fact that Nollywood was just behind Bollywood and Hollywood in terms of volume did not cancel out the mediocrity.
Today, we’re at the left hand of the decade, and while production and cinematography have largely improved, the same, sadly, cannot be said of our storytelling.
Feature length works like “The Figurine” and “The Contract” made us see promise in the future of our cinemas. Along with “October 1st”, these brought something different to the mix, and movie enthusiasts in these parts (momentarily) regained their belief in local content. “A Soldier’s Story” had its obvious glitches (with the fight scenes in particular) but the effort was hard to ignore, “Mr & Mrs” laid out big shoes in terms of role interpretation (hi, Nse), and “Surulere” left movie-goers with approving nods.
The second half of the 2010s, however, have seen us take more than a few steps backwards with our movies. The glossy “Wedding Party” and the fairly decent “76” could not cause us to overlook the sub-par “50”, the atrocious “Brother Jekwu” or the box office bombs that the “great” Omoni Oboli put her hands to (oh well, it’s not easy to be writer, director and lead actor all at once).
2017 came with its heavy mix of near-gems, fillers and absolute busts. The success of the first Wedding Party instalment birthed a formula for film-making that would, ultimately, backfire spectacularly. The comedy genre was abused, it was violated, and the product was piss-poor features that made viewers eager to question what it meant to be funny. “Banana Island Ghost “, “Excess Baggage “, “Accidental Spy” and “10 Days In Sun City” were some of the movies that had audiences scream for ticket refunds. Even the sequel to 2016’s “highest grossing film” was a letdown : Wedding Party 2 was a real mess! Drama suffered too, with “My Wife and I” and “Okafor ‘s Law” causing some movie lovers to call for Omoni Oboli to take a break from the silver screen (she featured in four movies in 2017!), owing to a number of performances that induced head-scratching and eye-rolling. “Isoken” was by no means perfect but at least Dakore Akande redeemed herself, and the few good movies like “In Line “, “Body Language” and “Potato Potahto ” did not get the promotion they deserved.
It’s 2018, and we’re almost back to square one, one step closer to the state of affairs we complained about with the low budget Asaba-made films. Bar “New Money “, almost every Nigerian movie churned out this year has left movie goers with headaches, from cheesy screenplays to absolute unfunny flicks that are passed off as comedy. “Royal Hibiscus Hotel” was a disaster, “Crazy People” was a facepalm fest, and “Wives on Strike 2” was not exactly memorable.
Passable lighting and sound cannot balance out horrible scripts anymore. Who are these screenwriters for St. Peter’s sake? The sequences and scene transitions are insufferable, even good acting is no longer enough to deliver us from the horror show! The cliches are now maddening, the attempts at slapstick humour are sickening, and it is apparent that filmmakers have lost the plot around here. Directors have succumbed to the same recycling that the old guard was accused of: how do you explain the fact that Toni Tones has featured in more than five movies this year?
Even prime time TV is unsafe from the rot. Excessive shuffling of writers means that “The Johnsons” stopped being funny eons ago, “Tinsel” is just too safe now, and “Hush” simply doesn’t thrill me anymore. We seemed to have hit gold with our movie-making in the early 2010s: what went wrong?
I tune in to ROK 2 and Africa Magic Showcase, and I wonder why I should choose either of them over Africa Magic Epic. There is so much to cringe about, so much sighing to do over the airwaves. It’s a lot more than flashy premieres and lobbying for entry into international festivals.
Something has to be done about our storytelling, and quickly. Our films are no longer hitting the right notes, and industry players are not thrusting hard enough with their creative output. Nollywood seems to be suffering from a dysfunction of sorts, and unless hands come together to rub things up, we may have a case of Impotence on the cards.
WRITTEN BY: Jerry Chiemeke
Jerry Chiemeke is a lawyer, editor, culture enthusiast and movie buff. His opinion editorials and prose have been published in leading blogs and magazines within the continent. A lover of finger foods, Jerry lives in Lagos, Nigeria. His craft can be accessed at www.jerrychiemeke.com