A look back at all the significant moments of the Nigerian film industry this year.
In the past 12 months, Nollywood has produced either its direct-to-cinemas or straight-to-streaming fleets of titles that have gone on to announce the industry as indeed a force to contend with in the global filmmaking arena.
This year, Nollywood has had its very own film festival, the African International Film Festival (AFRIFF) sang the praises of interesting movies. Some of the titles that were screened at the festival also recorded standout performances at the likes of Sundance, Cannes, TIFF and so on. And now as the year rolls over, what moments stood out in Nollywood this year?
See below the defining moments of the year:
Mami Wata’s Oscars submission breaks two years of no-submission deadlock
Directed by CJ Obasi, Mami Wata, a black and white film in Pidgin English, was announced on Sunday, October 15, 2023, as NOSC’s official selection for the 96th Academy Awards in 2024.
The film’s submission broke the two-year no-submission deadlock Nigeria has had at the Oscars and the fulfilment of the fight by the former NOSC head, Chineze Anyaene-Abonyi, to have Pidgin English included as a foreign language.
Mami Wata tells the tale of an African mermaid in a village that runs into chaos due to disagreements between villagers and the goddess’ intermediary over the deteriorating state of the village.
The Black Book joins the league of big budget movies
In September 2023, Editi Effiong’s highly anticipated thriller title made its debut on Netflix and got everyone talking. At first, its star cast filled with loads of veteran Nollywood actors led by Richard Mofe-Damijo was a major highlight. Along the line the feature film quickly became a global hit, ranking top 10 in various countries across the world.
Things didn’t stop there. It quickly became a blockbuster after the producers disclosed that the project had cost $1 million, a huge number by Nollywood standards. This new height went on to raise major discussions across various platforms on the future of film productions in the country.
Indigenous language epics lead box office numbers as the highest-grossing Nollywood titles.
Titles in English ranking top on the list of highest-grossing movies isn’t a surprising thing. But indigenous language epics took the spotlight this year.
First on the list is a feature-length film titled Orisa by Odunlade Adekola. Making its debut across cinemas nationwide on July 21, 2023, the movie broke the record of the highest-grossing opening film in Nollywood and the biggest epic opening of the year with ₦27.6 million.
After screening across cinemas nationwide for 14 weeks, Orisa made its exit from the box office with a total gross of ₦127.89 million, becoming the highest-grossing Nollywood title for 2023, so far.
Next in line is Kesari by Ibrahim Yekini which made its debut on August 25, 2023, and became the third highest-grossing Nollywood title for 2023, with a total gross of ₦78,106,925. Other films like Afamefuna which is in Igbo have shown great potential with over ₦33 million in just under two weeks.
NetNaija downloading site shut down
NetNaija was a movie downloading site available to the public, looking to access pirated copies of various titles. The issue of piracy was a huge discussion earlier in the year, with the likes of Femi Adebayo lending a strong voice to the situation.
The highly popular downloading website, announced in September 2023, that it would be discontinuing its services. The post online read, “It started as a personal hobby, then grew to a group archive, and then achieved enormous popularity, turning it into a fan favorite. Finally, it is sad for us to say goodbye to movies on Netnaija”.
Jagun Jagun ranked fifth on the non-English global chart in just a week
Produced by Femi Adebayo, official Netflix data showed that on August 15, 2023, it had over 2.1 million hours of viewing time on the streaming platform. It also was in the top 10 list in 17 countries.
This record was a new one for the Nigerian film industry but also exciting that it was achieved by a Yoruba epic movie.
Thrilling international festival representations
- Orah: produced and directed by Nigerian filmmaker Lonzo Nzekwe, the feature title was one of the selected African films that screened at the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF), where it also picked up a huge distribution deal.
- I Do Not Come To You By Chance: Executively produced by Genevieve Nnaji, the title is a book adaptation of Adaobi Tricia Nwaubani‘s award-winning debut novel of the same name. The project made its world premiere at TIFF 2023.
- Mo Abudu‘s directorial debut short films Her Perfect Life and Iyawo Mi (My Wife) which premiered on October 6, 2023, featured in several festivals including Oscar-qualifying film festivals this year, Martha’s Vineyard African American Film Festival, Rhode Island Film Festival, and the HollyShorts Film Festival.
- Vote True, a three-minute short film won the prize of the Best Voiceover category at this year’s Cannes World Film Festival.
- CJ Obasi’s award-winning black and white movie Mami Wata had its world premiere at Sundance in January and also bagged home the World Cinema Dramatic: Special Jury Award for Cinematography.
Groundbreaking of Lagos Film City
On October 18, 2023, the Lagos State Government, led by Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu, conducted the ceremonial groundbreaking of the Lagos Film City in Ejinrin, Epe Lagos.
The $100 million project sits on a land area of 100 hectares of land and is expected to be a creative hub that provides more opportunities for the youths.