African film makers are pushing boundaries and telling African stories that are now loved by many, globally. Nigeria’s young film industry, Nollywood, leads the way followed closely by Gollywood. Here is a listing of LADYBRILLEmag.com’s 10+ African Filmmakers in Africa you should know, from West Africa.
Desmond Elliot shot into limelight in the early 2000’s when he starred in Nigeria’s soap opera, ‘Everyday People.’ Since then, he has become an actor to be highly reckoned with rubbing the shine off actors like Nollywood’s Ramsey Nouah and Emeka Ike.
Born to a Yoruba father (Southern Nigeria) and Igbo mother (Eastern Nigeria), and raised at an earlier age in Northern Nigeria, Elliot has featured in movies such as “Missing Angel” (Parts 1&2), “Reloaded” (Parts 1&2), “Signs of time”, “Kolomental”, “Yahoo Millionaire”, “Sweet Tomorrow” and many others.
The prolific actor who has become a household name and has won several awards for his contribution in the growth of the movie industry has ventured into movie production, and made his debut producing ‘Reloaded’ in 2008, a film which many declared to be a re-definition point for Nollywood. He followed ‘Reloaded’s’ success with ‘Guilty Pleasures’ in 2009, another blockbuster that has received numerous applause and commendations from Nollywood film lovers on the continent and abroad. Meet Desmond Elliot in his recent interview with Afrogist TV’s Harriet Tayo-Arokoyu.
Emem Isong, cool, calm and unassuming, Isong’s rich and burgeoning profile as a script writer, producer and director is a breath of fresh air for Nollywood fans. With her dexterity and unusual approach to creating characters and making sure that they are performed to the letter, she has endeared herself to many who look out for any production that has her name on it.
Quitting the banking profession in the early ‘90s, Isong fully stepped into the world of her dreams as scriptwriter and producer in 1994 and has films such as ‘Edikan,’ ‘Breaking Point,’ ‘She Devil,’ ‘A Minute To Midnight,’ ‘Master Stroke,’ ‘Play Boy,’and Emotional, ‘Private Sin,’ among many, to her credits. Her knack for spotting the next big star in Nollywood has led her to discover some of the industry’s biggest names including Nollywood’s Stella Damasus and Dakore Egbuson. In recent times, she has collaborated with the likes of Actor/Director Desmond Elliot and Actress Uche Jombo in churning out hit blockbuster movies including ‘Nollywood Hustlers’ and ‘Guilty Pleasures.’ Her latest flick ‘Bursting Out’ stars Nollywood’s Genevieve Nnaji and Gollywood’s Michel Majid. Watch the trailer here.
Isong recently established a movie academy which she runs with the help of her closest buddies in the industry.
Stephanie Okereke: Equipped with a degree in English and Literary Studies from the University of Calabar, Stephanie Okereke has become a pioneer in Nollywood’s film industry climbing peaks which many thought impossible. Starting her acting career during her teenage years, the young Okereke had her eyes set only for the top.
Having contested and coming second runner up in the 2002 ‘Most Beautiful Girl In Nigeria Pageant,’ she transitioned into modeling, but Nollywood had a magnetic pull that was irresistible for her. This soon saw Okereke returning to her first love, acting. She has since featured in over ninety movies and has been nominated in the biggest of national and international awards carting home several awards for her prowess as an actor in the process.
Okereke, always a go getter, has not surprisingly pioneered the way for her peers as the first woman in Nollywood to write, direct and produce her own movie titled, ‘Through the Glass’, in which she also acted. Okereke held the first ever major movie premiere in Nigeria and her film ‘Through the Glass’ was said to be the first Nigerian produced film to “gross over 10million Naira at the box office” within a week of its debut at the box office. A graduate of the New York Film Academy, she became the first filmmaker, in 2010, to bring the prestigious New York Film Academy to Nigeria to train future film makers. (Watch Ladybrille Magazine’s Hollywood coverage of “Through the Glass” with Okereke here.)
In recent times, Okereke was selected and acted on the same stage with Hollywood’s Meryl Streep on a United Nations Foundation Project, titled ‘Seven’ making Nollywood and her country proud.
Lancelot Imasuen: From the streets of Benin City, Nigeria, a young determined nine year old boy began his trip to limelight when he joined the drama group in his church. A lot of the people who may have thought he was wasting his time would be surprised at how far the young boy has gone today.
With over a hundred and fifty movies to his credit, most of them box office and one of the most popular being ‘Isakabba’, which came in Parts 1 to 4, Lancelot ‘De Guvnor’ Imasuen has built himself not only a name but an empire that cannot be rivaled in the Nigeria entertainment industry.
He is a movie producer and director par excellence, whose extra care for details has endeared him to his audience. His works amazingly have received credits both home and abroad and make movie lovers anticipatory. Before re-inventing himself as a movie maker, Lancelot had a stint in media organizations such as Edo Broadcasting Service, Radio Nigeria and Nigeria Television Authority from where he learned the rudiments of video photography and production.
His films have been featured in foreign films festivals such as the New York film festival receiving wide acclaim from his audience outside of these shores he has also had his movie ‘Behind Closed Door’ screened in Washington DC, and is the first Nigerian movie director to do so.
Kunle Afolayan: Of the most surprising fastest rising producers cum directors, Kunle Afolayan certainly finds a place conspicuously, especially after his overwhelmingly successful outing at the 2010 African Movie Academy Awards (AMAA) with his latest work, ‘The Figurine.’ ‘The Figurine’ had Afolayan take home five awards, two of which were achievements in cinematography and in visual effects. With this feat, the thunderous applause has failed to cease for the son of the late Ade Afolayan, himself a one time actor.
Kunle, however, did not begin his foray in life in the entertainment industry. He began as a banker. In 2005, he decided to finally obey and follow his passion for acting into Nollywood. The resultant effect is certainly not one to bring about regrets. Afolayan has made his fans proud and begging for more with his roles as an actor in Nigeria’s ‘Yoruba’ film industry, a sub-genre of Nollywood.
The graduate of Digital Filmmaking from the New York Film Academy (NYFA) has, to his credit, ‘Irapada’ his first work which won a ‘Best Indigenous Award in the AMAA 2007 Awards.
Watch the interview with Afolayan by Apinke Magazine here.
Dickson Iroegbu has a penchant for treading where many would not dare, but that singular act of boldness has brought him fame and recognition as a movie producer and director. With films like ‘Romantic Attraction, ‘Days of Glory,’ and ‘Mayor’ which won him ‘Best Director’ at the maiden edition of AMAA Awards in 2005, Iroegbu has definitely had his name etched in the history of Nollywood.
Although he studied Business Administration at the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria (Northern Nigeria), his passion for creative writing especially of poems was to be his induction into the entertainment industry. He has gone on to produce even more daring films such as ‘Women’s Cot’ which received nominations at the 2006 AMAA Awards. Iroegbu has been praised for his undaunting personality and is among the top twenty producers/directors in Nollywood.
Tutored under the best of Nollywood production hands like Andy Amenechi (Andy Best) and Teco Benson, the ‘Kill the Bride’ producer seems to have gone underground in recent times, but one can be sure that he is cooking up something and that whatever it is, will definitely make for good savor.
Shirley Frimpong-Manso, CEO of Sparrow Movie Productions, Shirley Frimpong Manso, is one Gollywood film maker who has a resume that would throw a fearful heart off track. Having a precise focus of where she was headed early in life, she enrolled at Ghana’s National Film and Television Institute, after her secondary education at Mfantsiman Girls Secondary School. She did this while at the same time working with a radio station. Manso later went on to register her company Sparrow Productions in August 2003 and has only accolades trailing her work ever since.
Manso’s film/TV experience include a television series titled, ‘Different Shades of Blue,’ a TV food program ‘Personalities Kitchen’ and producing two semi-finalists for the Miss World event within five years. Her major film credits include ‘Life and Living it,’ ‘Scorned,’ ‘A Sting In A Tale,’ ‘Checkmate’ and ‘The Perfect Picture’ for which she clinched the best director award at the AMAA Awards.
She is a film writer, director, producer and is emerging as the biggest force to reckon with in terms of quality Ghanaian/African movies. Other awards she has received include but is not limited to the 18th Annual Pan African Film & Arts Festival for her movie, ‘A Sting In A Tale.’ Manso is also a new and proud mother of a baby boy. Watch a ‘Sting In a Tale’ on Ladybrillemag.com here.
Akofa Asiedu Edjeani, Vice President of the Turning Point Film Fund, is a renowned Ghanaian actress and Gollywood producer whose movie ‘I sing of a well’ got 11 nods at the 2010 AMAA nominee’s party and later went on to win the best sound, costume and special jury prize at the just concluded awards.
Edjeani attended Ghana’s St. Thomas Aquinas Secondary School where she completed her sixth form. She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Theatre Arts which she earned from the University of Ghana, Legon. The laurels have been pouring in, having won an award for her movie, ‘My Mother’s Heart.’ Her initial effort at film’s production is titled, ‘Fools in love’ and is said to be a must watch.
Kwaw Ansah was born Kwaw Paintsil Ansah in 1941 in Agona Swedru, Ghana. He had his early education in Accra, Ghana, before moving to London to study Theatre design at the London Polytechnic. For one who discovered his passion for film productions early, it is not surprising to note that he pursued his dream further by acquiring other academic laurels such as a two years stint in New York where he studied Performing Arts at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts from 1963 to 1965.
In 1965 he moved to Los Angeles to study at the American Musical and Dramatic Academy. His tenacity and passion for film drove him further to learn the jobs of a production assistant and set designer. His repertoire of resume seems larger than the man whose foray into film production has seen him come up with two plays, ‘The Adoption’ and ‘Mother’s Tears.’ He has also debuted motion pictures such as, ‘Love Brewed in the African Pot,’ and ‘Heritage Africa’ both of which has won awards.
Since his last film ‘Heritage Africa,’ Ansah has been said to limit his work to documentaries. Ansah currently resides in Ghana where he contributes to the development of Gollywood and mentors young people to help nurture their dreams.
Despite the challenges the Country Sierra Leone has encountered, it has still managed to build some strong entertainment influences such as Jimmy Bangura popularly known as Jimmy B, who is said to be making Sierra Leone proud in the United Kingdom, where two of his outstanding movies have made huge impact after being screened on the popular SKY Television, watched by millions of viewers across Europe.
Jimmy B, would be quick to tell you he was not necessarily born with a silver spoon and had to work his way to where he is today, from his days as a “beach bum” who left home at 11 did odd jobs around and but at 17 luck smiled at him when he got sponsorship to study in the United where he also got involved in the entertainment industry. He also delved into music production that he took to a very large scale before venturing into movies production.
Bangura has to his credits a low budget feature titled “Only for Love”, “The Assassins” and “For The Love Of Money” (Parts 1 & 2) in which he was the main cast, these took Sierra Leoneans by surprise as they were screened on Channel 329, which was mostly dominated by Nigerian and Ghanaian movies.
Jimmy B, plans to re-enact in Sierra Leone, a Sollywood as it is obtainable in Nigeria’s Nollywood, Ghana’s Gollywood and India’s Bollywood, the same way he created a music industry years back. He was the first to set up a professional studio in Sierra Leone called Paradise Studios after the war ended in 2002.
Pascal Atuma, a Nigerian born and bred Hollywood based actor, screenwriter, director and producer, rounds off our 10+ Most Wanted Film Makers in Africa feature. The film maker who has a lot of credits to his name has written, directed and produced recent films like American Nurse and Hurricane in the Rose Garden, both of which enjoy nationwide distributions across the USA, Canada and Europe. Listen in on Atuma’s interview with Golden Icons here and here.
~Article by Peace C.A. Ogbuagu
~Edited by Uduak Oduok