Say what you might but the Nigerian movie is positively evolving. Although, we are not at par with our Hollywood and Bollywood counterparts yet, we can agree that we are not too far behind. We can also agree that it was not totally bad back in the days. With the rise of clips and snippets from old Nollywood movies that have gone viral, there are theories that the best of Nollywood stories were told back then, and if those contemporaries had the technology that the present day Nollywood has, they would have made a lot of Netflix worthy, record- breaking, blockbusters too. Some even say, we had the best of acting back then. This theory is arguable but that is a story for another post. So we have made a list of movies that we think were game changers in the 90’s and would have had cinemas overflowing if they were made today.
- Living in Bondage
This movie has credits for being the film that officially heralded what we know today as the Nigerian movie industry. It is ‘officially’ Nigeria’s first movie. Directed by Chris Obi Rapu, written and produced by Kenneth Nnebue and Okechukwu Ogunjiofor in 1992. It is a tale of a young man Andy (Kenneth Okonkwo), who joins a cult and murders his wife Merit, to perform a ritual and become rich. Following her death, Andy’s sudden wealth raises suspicion from Merit’s family who accuse him of murdering her which he denies. He faces series of problems after then as he is haunted by her ghost, and also duped by his mistress. He later ran mad after he refused to pacify his late wife’s spirit by blinding and castrating himself. A former prostitute he had earlier offered to the cult as a decoy before his deceit was exposed takes him to her church where he finally confesses to Merit’s murder. In the film’s final scene, he praises God with the Evangelical Christians who assure Andy God will forgive him. This movie is the classic of Nigerian classics, and guess what? There’s a sequel to this movie in 2019! And best believe that the sequel broke box office records. The sequel was directed by super star actor, Ramsey Nouah and it stars old Nollywood superstars and some new generation actors as well.
This romantic drama which rocked our screens in 1996 starred the likes of Richard Mofe Damijo and Ego Boyo. It was directed by Amaka Igwe, of blessed memory. The film tells the story of a young man Tega (Richard Mofe Damijo) who came from a wealthy background, and falls in love with a girl from an opposite background to his; Peggy (Ego Boyo), and eventually marries her. However, their marriage is put to the test when hidden secrets unfold, Tega’s ex-wife re-appears in his life, and his ex-boss relationship with his wife when she was young is also exposed. The film was one of the highest selling home video productions in 1996. At the time of the movie’s production, Nigeria videos were distributed with the production of a large number of tapes at once, which are then distributed to various marketers. At that time, while an average sale for movies during the period was about 30,000-50,000, the part one of the movie sold about 150,000 copies. It is listed among the best 20 movies of Nollywood that will never be forgotten.
- Mortal Inheritance
Mortal Inheritance hit our screens in 1996 and had us in our deepest feelings. This movie broke through any ‘hard guy’ level and left every eye that watched it watery. Produced by Zeb Ejiro, directed by Andy Amenechi and written by Bond Emeruwa. The film is a romantic drama about a woman dealing with sickle-cell anaemia, who happens to be a Yoruba woman as well, Kemi, played by Omotola Jalade-Ekeinde. She beat the odds of dying young as a sickle cell carrier and upon reaching adulthood, she fell in love with Chike, an Igbo man, and the events that occur after that throws light into cultural resistance to inter ethnic marriages in Nigeria. To make matters worse, she discovers after all the struggle that Chike, the love of her life, has the AS genotype. Yup! That’s how we felt too. Devastated.
- Ti Oluwa Ni Ile
Ti Oluwa Ni Ile is a Nollywood (Yoruba) drama directed by Tunde Kelani. Released in 1993 through Mainframe Films and Television Productions, the film was Tunde Kelani’s directorial debut. Ti Oluwa Ni Ile which translates The Land Belongs to God was a one of a kind movie. The film was produced by Kareem Adepoju popularly known as Baba Wande. The movie was about a clique of greedy land speculators who enlisted the help of a traditional chief to sell off an ancestral land, and as we all know, the gods in the Nollywood movies in those days, do not take such matters lightly. And as expected, the selfish act brought great problems to everyone that was involved.
Even the title rings a bell to those that didn’t watch it. This is because, it did not matter if you watched this film or not, people talked about it so much that those that did not actually watch the movie knew all that happened in the movie via words of mouth. Saworoide is a 1999 film directed by Tunde Kelani and released through Mainframe Films and Television Productions. Saworoide depicts the setting of an old Yoruba norm in the town of Jogbo where a person cannot be crowned king without the Saworoide being played by the right person. The Saworoide in English translation is talking drum or a brass bell. Hmmm…takes to back to the good ol’ days right?
Sango: The Legendary African King is a 1997 epic Nigerian film, written by Wale Ogunyemi, produced and directed by Obafemi Lasode. The film depicts the life and reign of the legendary fifteenth century African king Sango, who ruled as the Alaafin of Oyo and became an important deity of the Yoruba people. In 1998, the film was screened by the Film Society of Lincoln Center, New York City, U.S.A. as part of the 4th New York African Film Festival. In February 1999, the film was screened at the 7th Pan African Film Festival in Los Angeles. In April 2002, the film was selected to open the Minneapolis–Saint Paul International Film Festival. The film won several awards. Asides the originality and peculiarity of the movie, the character of Sango, played by Wale Adebayo, was a script excellently delivered. At some point, I felt the guy was a real god, who came to Starr in a movie, it was that real.
- Most Wanted
Most Wanted is another unforgettable movie that was produced in 1998. The story is centered on four girls, who were unemployed graduates that failed at getting a job and then decided to try robbery. They disguise themselves as men, and swiftly carry out their operations. They were so smooth that no one could even believe those robberies were performed by ladies. The unexpected turn in the movie came when one of the girls fell in love with a police officer who was supposed to be tracing them down. The movie starred Bob Manuel-Udokwu as the policeman, who found out his lover was a member of the “Most Wanted” criminal gang. The movie starred veteran Nollywood actors such as Regina Askia, Ibinabo Fiberisima, Ayo Adesanya, Liz Benson and Antar Laniyan. Like its name, the movie when it was released was the most wanted in Nigeria.
- Glamour Girls
Ace Nigerian filmmaker, Kenneth Nnebue, scored many Nollywood firsts with his 1994 movie, Glamour Girls. We not only remember Liz Benson, Eucharia Anunobi and Zack Orji, we also remember that the movie starred other talented actors like Sola Fosudo, Tina Amuzian, Dolly Unachuckwu, Babara Odoh, late Jennifer Okere, Ernest Obi, Ngozi Ezeonu, and others. Although certain scenes and characters were criticized for raunchiness and nudity, many praised the bravery of the lead actors such as Zack Orji and Euxharia Anunobi’s bathroom scene which caused a lot of controversy and another controversial scene which had a woman wash her private part and then cook with the water to win a man’s heart. The film was embraced because its plots where thicker and more interesting; and above all, it was a change from the Hollywood movies that dominated the Nigerian market at that time.
Ever heard the name ‘ Domitilla” used to describe a sex worker in Nigeria? This was the movie that started it. Released in 1996, it tells a story about young girls and their quest for money and material things especially in big cities; their greed, obsessive needs, the hustle for survival, and its dire consequences. The movie starred Sandra Achums, the late Enebeli Elebuwa, Kate Henshaw, Basorge Tariah Jnr, and Ann Njemanze. The film was produced by Zeb Ejiro, and it is undoubtedly one of the biggest movies of that time, and the phenomenon even relates to the present day society.
- Nneka the pretty serpent
Nneka the Pretty Serpent was listed as one of the most influential home videos in Nigeria. The movie launched the likes of Ndidi Obi, Eucharia Anunobi, Ngozi Ezeonu and Rita Nzelu, Sam Loco and Kanayo O.Kanayo into stardom. It was directed by veteran director, Zeb Ejiro and featured cameo appearances by actors late James Iroha, Claude Eke and singer Nelly Uchendu. ‘Nneka the Pretty Serpent’ tells the story of a mermaid disguised as human whose mission on earth was to go after any married man who she fancies, uses her supernatural powers to hypnotize and later destroy them.
These movies might not had top notch cinematography but it had great story lines and stellar acting. While we appreciate where Nollywood is going, we also appreciate what we were given when the resources and technology were relatively more difficult to come by. Well done veterans, you paved the way!