In 2015, such Nollywood productions as Dry, Gbomo Gbomo Express and The Visit among others were released to rave reviews and audiences’ delight. But which of these films qualify to be crowned Nollywood’s best of the year? If you have seen any of these films, you will agree with me that choosing the best is a tough call; most controversial especially when appraised from a sole perspective as I am about to. But that notwithstanding, a compilation of influential  films has been made. And using certain yardsticks (especially audience-anticipation/reception, social media buzz, financial success, quality of story/production and award nominations, the best of these films shall be determined and thus named Scripts Mercantile’s film of the year 2015.
Let us first consider O-Town, C.J Obasi’s second feature. There was so much social media buzz heralding the release of this film, and good enough the gangster thriller lived up to the expectation owing mostly to quality storytelling and a lineup of seasoned cast members. Writing for Bella Naija, Oris Aigbokhaevbolo rendered [perhaps] the best Nigerian film critique on O-Town. According to him, O-Town focuses on Peace (played by Paul Utomi) who wants to be king of the streets. But there is an already existing kingpin who he must confront. On this backdrop therefore, the film brings intrigues to the audience coupled with lots of violence which the critic observed may not augur with Nigeria’s already tarnished foreign perception. But then a film is a film, and often times what matters most is the quality of the story told, how it is told and the intentions for telling it. And speaking of Obasi’s capacity as a filmmaker, his brilliance is evident in this film which is my favourite from him yet. But does O-Town qualify as Nollywood film of the year? Well there is no need rushing into conclusions, especially not when we have yet another interesting film to consider- Fifty!
Fifty was directed by Biyi Bandele who previously adapted Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche’s Half of a Yellow Sun to the screen. Now one of the things most fascinating about this film is the bringing together of top Nollywood actors whose names ring lots of bells- Nse Ikpe-Etim, Dakore Akande, Omoni Oboli and others. Their great performances were all wrapped into this film, executive-produced by Mo Abudu who is undoubtedly Nigeria’s Oprah Winfrey. It tells the stories of upper class, sophisticated and beautiful Lagos women who are successful in their careers yet embroiled in their personal problems ranging from infidelity, quest for love and a life threatening disease. Believe me, this film is classy, and it has to be especially with the huge sums of money Ms. Abudu splashed on it. And its purpose of portraying strong, independent and modern African womanhood is certainly undefeated. Already, it has garnered international interest following a nomination at the British Film Institute where it premiered in October. But is this our film of the year? We shall decide shortly after we consider Gbomo Gbomo Express.
Like Fifty above, Gbomo Gbomo Express has a lineup of familiar Nollywood faces alongside the newcomers, and I am delighted about this film for several reasons one of which is having a close friend of mine serve in the crew. But could this be a deciding factor you may wonder; of course not! The film’s content indeed justifies its place on this list, and places Walter Taylaur as both a prominent Nigerian screenwriter and director. This film is both a comedy and a crime thriller all rolled into one; record producer C.E.O Austin Mba (played by Ramsey Nouah) is kidnapped by a trio of inexperienced criminals a few nights before the signing of a major contract worth fifty million naira. The criminals earlier stumbled on information about the deal through a source that will be revealed at the end of the film. Meanwhile Austin is kidnapped alongside a rich socialite Cassandra (Osas Ighodaro) whom he meets at a club where he had gone to celebrate the incoming deal. The kidnappers then want the money, and Austin’s partner at the record label who is also the company’s lawyer- Rotimi Lawal (Blossom ChukwuJekwu) is required to get the money for the criminals. But he cannot because as he informs them Austin’s signature is needed for the contract to be sealed. As the plot thickens (and believe me it does thicken), there is much suspicion with a dash of violence and pure comedy. The height of the comedy for me is when Austin and Cassandra almost managed to escape, but she had gone back to get her very expensive shoe only to get recaptured. Austin surrenders himself for her. Super love? Perhaps. Anyway, Austin receives the torture of his life for having masterminded the escape. And to prevent further torture from coming his way, Cassandra decided to contact his very wealthy stepmother instead to get the money. This works, but for the meantime while the main mystery remains about who had tipped the criminals about the existence of the fifty million naira deal!
Road to Yesterday is yet another impressive 2015 Nollywood release as well as Genevieve Nnaji’s much anticipated production debut. But so are The Visit, A Soldier’s Story and most especially Dry are equally fascinating enough. Now Dry is the film of the year, and this conclusion was reached after a lot of rumination. Stephanie Linus did give the world a Nigerian film to reckon with; a very-researched, well written and impeccably-produced film. According to a source:
“The film’s theme focuses on Vesicovaginal fistula condition and underaged marriage among young women, narrating the story of a thirteen-year-old girl, Halima (Zubaida Ibrahim Fagge), whose poor uneducated parents marry her off to Sani (Tijjani Faraga), a 60-year-old man, who constantly rapes her. Halima gets pregnant and suffers Vesicovaginal Fistula (VVF) after child delivery; she’s consequently abandoned by her husband and discriminated against in the society. Zara (Stephanie Okereke), a medical doctor who also suffered a horrific childhood meets Halima; she tries to help her get through her situation and also save other young women under such circumstance”
-Story written by Emmanuel Benson. A happy yuletide to everyone. Be fun.