How do you rate a good movie? For many people, all it takes to be cinematically entertained is having films whose characters give their best performances, with the directing perfect, and the editing slick.
For 2015, even though we still were insulted with Alaba-produced watery stories, the Nigerian movie industry was blessed with feminist cinema and productions that tell women’s stories through the eyes of women (produced/directed). So, how many of these made it into our top five movies of the year?
Here’s what we have:
A lot has been written about child marriages and Vesicovaginal Fistula (VVF). A lot has also been said about this movie. Stephanie Okereke-Linus’ Dryis a monumental achievement, one whose success can not be overstated. Dryput a face to the girl-child whose sufferings start at birth after she is declared a female human; born for the sole purpose of quenching the needs of the privileged male human. Coupled with cultural and religious expectations, she is quickly married off to the man who is many times older, who rapes her and and puts her in the family. His actions are justified because religion, because society. And when she suffers VVF after childbirth, she becomes a ‘curse’ to the same man who had called her his ‘treasure.’ Dryis about how much we fail the female human. It reminds us of women-hating which is many times wrapped in gaudy, patronising praises. Dryis a nightmare that never goes away, until we challenge the norm. The movie reached into my stomach and dug everything out, until I was breathless. It should be a must-watch; an academic requirement that should be shown in schools, churches and mosques, all places of gathering. We need to be reminded, everyday, of the many times we fail the girl-child.
2. Road to yesterday
This Genevieve Nnaji production debut got seven Africa Magic Viewers Choice Awards (AMVCA 2016) nominations, and it deserved all the nods. Told in a series of flashbacks,Road to Yesterday is an incredibly sad story about a couple attempting to find their way back to each other, to the good times they shared before betrayal rocked their relationship. It is a somber and sober movie that explores two personal yet intertwined histories, a quality achieved by the director who was keen on capturing humanity through stories. Crowned with Genevieve Nnaji’s above-par-performance, something many people missed during her acting haitus, it is the kind of movie you’d want to return to again and again.
3. Oxford Gardens
Obi Emelonye has made a name for himself and with this film, he chose to break away from the typical Nigerian story and introduce a Nigerian audience to a story of love and boxing, a rare feature common only in Hollywood films. Starring a professional boxer, Oxford Gardens is about two very different people who meet for the first time in a park, both of them nursing heartbreaking secrets. They had been stoic about what life had served them until they found themselves. It is quite gut wrenching watching the two lost souls struggle to wade through each other’s fears, hopes, faith, their nerve-wringing emotions culminating in redemptive love. This movie takes you through how life is for a Nigerian boxer who almost loses everything, how he trains for his greatest fight – the fight for his career and the battle for love.
Biyi Bandele’s scandalous tale of four vivacious middle-aged women who are forced to challenge society norms, religion, marriage and divorce, and what many perceive as ‘values’, is gripping. And this is because the movie attempts to pull down the typical cultures that make it difficult for diverse women, especially women who are in their late 40s and early 50s, to achieve their life goals. A typical Nollywood movie largely portrays the middle-age woman as a human being tottering at the brink, humbly sitting at her husband’s feet. For ages, women in this age group have been assumed to have no life, unlike their male counterparts. Fifty unabashedly pulls down those lies. There are insights into why a woman would opt for an extra-marital affair and an abortion. We see the forced modesty many women flawlessly carry while dealing with shambolic marriages, more. Fifity is brilliantly delivered.
5. Gone too far
Destiny Ekaragha’s debut feature is a rambling comedy about the culture clash between two brothers who discover themselves later in life. One arrives London from Nigeria and cannot understand the mannerisms of his brother who has lived all his life in Peckham, London, and vice versa. There is a lot of fighting between the brothers because each fails to understand why the other acts the way he does; what one perceives as being street-smart translates as stark stupidity to the other. But the sparring brothers form a tag team at the end of the day to battle outside forces that try to bring them down. Though many people may pass it off as a not-too-deep movie, the movie sneaks up on you because the director fluidly captures cultural values, racial tensions and family bond.