We close out Ladybrille Magazine November 2010 Film Edition and usher in December with our feature on our select 25 African screen gods and goddesses we think you should know! Before we begin, hats off to Ghana (Gollywood)’s film industry and its contributions to African Cinema. Ghana’s brilliant actors like Jackie Appiah, Chris Attoh, John Dumelo, Nadia Buari, Van Vicker, Majid Michel and Yvonne Nelson, among many, are names we look forward to featuring in 2011 on Ladybrille. This article, however, is dedicated to Nollywood’s film industry, an industry that has been the primary driving force of African cinema, globally.
Nollywood’s Film Industry: Birth & Infancy
If you just stumbled on this article and wonder what Nollywood (Nigeria’s English Speaking Film Industry) is all about, allow us to recapitulate and then share with you our brilliant 25.
An industry with estimated revenue of $250million per year, Nollywood is the second largest film producing industry after Bollywood (India’s film industry) in the world. Its origins date back to the 1960s with credit given to its trailblazers Ola Balogun and Hubert Ogunde, both filmmakers from Southern Nigeria. Ogunde and Balogun’s attempt at a film industry, however, was futile due to lack of infrastructure, among many issues. In 1992, a more successful attempt took place via way of Kenneth Nnebue. As the story goes, Nnebue a Lagos business man from Eastern Nigeria needed to unload a shipment of blank videotapes. Convinced the videotapes would sell faster if he placed some content on it, Nnebue wrote and recorded a screenplay for his low-budget movie titled ‘Living in Bondage.’
‘Living in Bondage’ was performed in his native dialect, Ibo, and subtitled in English. The movie was an instant hit selling 200,000 to 500,000 copies! Nnebue ever the savvy businessman decided he could make even more money if he teased his film into two parts. Nnebue’s tactics worked and gave birth to Nollywood as we know it today; an industry characterized by dramatic African stories infused with witchcraft, African traditional religion, customs, Christianity and modern day Nigeria.
Nollywood Industry, the Toddler/Walking Stage
Nollywood ultimately evolved from exclusively Ibo speaking films to films in other region specific dialects: Yoruba (South), Hausa (North), Efik (East) etc. While English films existed, they had not made an impact nationwide or globally, yet. In 2003, the industry’s English and international film revolution began. Nollywood filmmaker Kingsley Ogoro under his production company produced ‘Osuofia in London.’ Ogoro starred Nkem Owoh, Nigerian comedian and actor, as lead role (Osuofia). The script itself was strong. It was about a lazy village deer hunter (Osuofia) married with five daughters who had poor money management skills and had numerous creditors after him, despite the financial help his daughters provided. Just when he seemed to reach a breaking point, good fortune smiled on him as he discovered he was the recipient of a large inheritance by one of his now deceased relative(s) in London.
Excited and anxious to live the good life, he travels to London and his adventure as a new immigrant in a foreign land unfolds in a witty, comical and hilarious experience juxtaposing Nigerian and British cultures.
‘Osuofia’ was an instant hit and connected with audiences worldwide and to date remains one of the most popular and highest grossing film in Nollywood.
Nollywood Industry, Chilldhood & Adolescence Stage
Currently, Nollywood has outgrown childhood and is now in its adolescence/teenage stage. Since ‘Osuofia in London,’ the industry continues to gain the world’s attention despite its guerilla filmmaking tactics and churning out of movies in very short periods, 2-4weeks, at best. Further, unlike Hollywood and Bollywood, which enjoy multiple streams of income through cinematic exhibition and licensing deals, among others, Nollywood’s primary revenue stream is from its home videos shot using digital video technology (now digital video cameras in HD).
In addition, in terms of distribution, in contrast to the aforementioned film industries where major studios handle distribution, Nollywood films are distributed, primarily, by local marketers within Nigeria. International distribution is practically non-existent; and most Nollywood films which flood the continent and Western markets are pirated.
The lack of solid infrastructure including distribution systems, a weak judiciary/law enforcement agency of copyright laws and lack of funding (most films are self-funded by the film makers), among others, has serious blows to this growing teenager and contributes to the continued poor quality films the industry is notorious for.
Nevertheless, consistent with its adolescence stage, Nollywood is slowly but surely maturing in many ways. This 2010, fans and stakeholders in Nollywood have begun to see commitments and actions towards major improvements in the industry. A handful of Nollywood filmmakers, especially given pressure from the highly competitive Gollywood industry, are improving the overall production quality and packaging of their films. A few have also enrolled in professional film schools in Europe and the USA. Also, for the first time in Nollywood history, this year, the world saw the launch of red carpet premieres on par with that in Bollywood and Hollywood. Stephanie Okereke’s ‘Through the Glass’ led the way followed subsequently by screenings of films like Emem Isong’s ‘Bursting Out,’ Kunle Afolayan’s ‘The Figurine’ and Niyi Akinmolayan’s first ever sci-fi Nollywood film ‘Kajola.’
Film actors and filmmakers are also investing in their personal brand image. Many, this year, embraced and retained PR agencies who now handle both their social media and media relationships with fans and the press. Film trailers are also becoming a norm as filmmakers push on and offline marketing and promotions for their new releases; a few even provide film review copies and/or invitations to press for private screenings.
Further, potential financial stakeholders have also begun putting their monies where that mouth is. In August of this year, the World Bank announced its intention to invest $30 US million dollars in the industry. Just this past November, Nigeria’s President Jonathan Goodluck announced an estimated $200million dollar investment in the entertainment industry specifically identifying Nollywood as one of the recipient of these funds.
Finally, Nollywood has also seen law enforcement step up in enforcing its intellectual property rights. This past month, New York Police raided and seized 10,000 pirated copies of Nollywood films from nine (9) unauthorized distributors/retailers. New York’s District Attorney promised prosecution and jail time for these infringers.
Against this recapitulated historical backdrop, here is our BRILLIANT select 25 who have played a significant role in making Nollywood gain the global recognition it enjoys today. We hope you enjoy meeting them!
The Big Screen Pioneers
1. Richard Evans Eyimofe Mofe-Damijo (RMD): Often called “Africa’s Denzel Washington,” RMD is one of Nigeria’s film icons who made his debut as an actor in the early ‘80s acting in a soap opera called ‘Ripples.’ He ultimately transitioned onto the big screen and has captivated audiences globally in numerous Nollywood blockbuster hits including ‘Private Sin’ (2003) and ‘Critical Decision (2004). He is known for his charismatic roles and outstanding performances and has won numerous awards including ‘Best Actor in a Leading role’ at the 2005 Africa Movie Academy Awards (AMAA). RMD is currently an attorney, film entrepreneur and Commissioner of Culture and Tourism in Delta State (South-South) where he hails from.
2. Joke Silva: Equally charismatic and a film icon, Joke Silva is a beautiful and compelling actress on the big screen. Uniquely at ease, regardless of what character she portrays and extremely articulate, Silva who is a household name in Nigeria raises the profile of any film she appears in. Like RMD, she began acting in the early ‘80s and has since featured in over 100 films including the award winning ‘Amazing Grace’ by film director Jeta Amata. Silva received her acting education, primarily, at the Weber Douglas Academy of Dramatic Arts in London, England. She is the recipient of numerous awards including the 2006 ‘Best Actress,’ 2008 ‘Best Actress’ and the 2010 ‘Best Actress in a Leading Role’ awards at AMAA. Silva co-owns Lufodo Film Productions with her husband Olu Jacobs, a veteran Nollywood actor. She is a fierce advocate on women issues and sits on numerous boards enhancing and furthering the human rights of women in Africa.
3. Olu Jacobs: Married to the beautiful Joke Silva, Olu Jacobs is a household name in Nigeria. Originally from the city of Abeokuta in Ogun State (South-West Nigeria), Jacobs received his training at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts in London, England. After school, he acted in numerous films and television shows in England including John Irvin’s war film ‘The Dogs of War’ before making his way into Nollywood. Within Nollywood, he has acted in over 100 films. He is the recipient of countless awards including ‘Best Actor in a Leading Role’ at the 2007 AMAA Awards.
4. Zachee (Zack) Ama Orji: Of Ibo descent (South-East), was born in Libreville, Gabon in 1961. He spent his early childhood in French speaking African countries Cameroon, Benin and Togo where he attended grade and high schools; excelling both in academia and sports. It was during his childhood in these foreign countries that he fell in love with the magic of the big screen. Actors like Bruce Lee, Amitabh Bachchan and Clint Eastwood were some of his childhood heroes he hoped to, one day, emulate. Nevertheless, Orji chose the corporate world obtaining a B.Sc in Estate Management, in 1984, from the University of Nsukka in Nigeria. A fluent French speaker, after college, he worked as an interpreter for Nigerian businessmen who traveled and transacted business with Benin and Togo. Orji continued his business interests but later began responding to his calling in the creative industries. He shortly after became a shoe designer. Un/fortunately, as fate would have it, Orji’s thriving shoe design business was robbed living him penniless.
Devastated and trying to find immediate work to sustain him, Orji applied for a job as a salesman in a freight forwarding company. It was during his work as a salesman for the company that he, one day, met scriptwriters who offered him a role in his first film titled ‘The Unforgiven,’ an Ibo film subtitled in English. Orji starred in the film and the rest, as they say, is history. Orji since his entrance into Nollywood has won numerous awards for his outstanding craftsmanship and contributions to the industry. He is a fierce advocate for inter-continental and international collaborations to move the film industry forward. And, oh yes. He is also a musician.
5. Patience Ozokwor: Fondly referred to as ‘Mama G,’ Patience Ozokwor has earned a reputation for her powerfully executed roles as mother in Nollywood films, particularly wicked mother/step-mother. A teacher by training and a broadcaster, Ozokwor was discovered by prominent Nigerian TV actor Chief Zebrudaya when he cast her for a commercial that encouraged citizens in Anambra State (Eastern Nigeria) to obtain an education. Ozokwor stood out in her role and impressed Chief Zebrudaya who encouraged her to continue acting. In 1998, she acted in her first film and has never looked back. To date, she has acted in over 200 films. She is also a musician.
6. Nkem Owoh: With an ability to truly capture the essence of the characters he plays and connect with such broad audiences locally and internationally, Nkem Owoh has got to be the funniest Nollywood male actor that has ever graced the big screen. A graduate with a degree in Engineering from the University of Ilorin (Nothern Nigeria), the Enugu (Eastern Nigeria) native made his debut in director Kingsley Ogoro’s award winning film, ‘Osuofia in London.’ In the film, Osuofia played a village man who travels to London to collect an inheritance left by his deceased relative. What follows when he gets to London, as the film unfolds, is nothing short of ribs cracking laughter throughout the entire film. A recipient of numerous awards, in 2005, Owoh who is also a musician debuted his controversial yet comedic hit single ‘I Go Chop Your Dollar;’ a song that mocked the 419 “Nigerian” fraud scheme and the greed of the allegedly naive Westerners who seek to reap where they do not sow.
7. Eucharia Anunobi: One of Nigeria’s most prominent and controversial actresses Anunobi became a recognized name in Nnebue’s 1993 controversial Nollywood flick ‘Glamour Girls,’ a film about women who craved money, power and sex in the cosmopolitan city of Lagos and orchestrated a high profile prostitution ring. Anunobi put on a strong performance that subsequently earned her the nickname, “Sharon Stone’ of Nigeria.” Equally as articulate as Joke Silva, Anunobi is a graduate of English from the University of Nigeria, Nsukka. She took a long hiatus from Nollywood and was last reported to have allegedly acted in a 2008 film by actor and filmmaker Desmond Elliot. It remains to be seen whether she will return to the big screen. We hope so.
8. Elizabeth (Liz) Benson: Just like Anunobi, we are unsure how soon this Calabar (South-South) born actress who has also taken a long hiatus from Nollywood will return to acting. Nevertheless, Benson is considered one of Nollywood’s first ladies and closes out our list of modern day pioneers in the industry. Benson began acting in 1990 and was popular on Nigerian television networks as early as 1993. However, like Anunobi, her most memorable film that helped secure a place in the hearts of Nollywood fans was Nnebue’s controversial blockbuster movie ‘Glamour Girls.’ Benson has acted in over 50 films. She is now an evangelist.
The Shot Callers
8. Genevieve Nnaji: With over 230,000 fans on Facebook and a fast growing fan base on twitter, the world is now familiar with Imo born (South-East) actress Genevieve Nnaji, thanks to Oprah’s show profiling her as one of the ‘World’s Most Famous People in the World.’ Nnaji who began acting in Nollywood films in 1998 is considered one of the highest paid actors in the industry (estimated $6, 500 per film). She has acted in diverse roles but it appears is most loved for her non-conformist rebellious characters in Nollywood films.
Expanding her portfolio, Nnaji had a very brief attempt/stint as a singer but has enjoyed more success as brand ambassador for various fashion and beauty companies including Lux Soap (2004) and MUD Cosmetics (2010). She is also the owner of her own fashion brand St. Genevieve. Nnaji appeared, for the first time, on CNN as Connector of the Day this past month. She has won numerous prestigious awards and is currently a 2010 nominee for The Future Awards Nigeria’s Young Person of the Year.
9. Stephanie Okereke: With over 217,000 fans on Facebook, one word best captures Okereke, “pacesetter.” An actress and a fashion and film entrepreneur, Okereke, like Nnaji, is loved for her numerous anti-conformist roles on the big screen. A graduate of the New York Film Academy (NYFA), she is the first Nollywood actress to bring NYFA to Nigeria to train aspiring filmmakers on filmmaking, the first to act alongside an A-list Hollywood actress (Meryl Streep) on the stage play ‘Seven’ in New York; and the first, among many firsts, to pioneer the launch of the first ever red carpet Hollywood styled premiere in Nigeria which is now a norm.
Okereke began acting in the 1997 but her big break came in 2002 when she acted in the blockbuster movie ‘Emotional Crack’ by filmmaker Emem Isong. The film earned (8) awards and was subsequently screened at the African Film Festival in New York in 2004. Okereke also earned two awards from ‘Emotional crack’ and has since earned other countless prestigious awards including the 2008 Beyond the Tears Humanitarian Awards for her work against rape and vesico vaginal fistula and HIV/AIDS. This past October, Okereke was featured on CNN as part of the network’s feature on Nigeria’s 50th Anniversary celebrations.
10. Omotola Jalade-Ekeinde: What is there not to love about this screen goddess popularly known as ‘Omosexy?’ A gorgeous mother of four who makes balancing work and motherhood effortlessly chic, Jalade-Ekeinde is a go-getter whose charming smile and creative talent lights up the big screen whenever she appears. A down to earth personality with a fashion sense that keeps fans and media on their toes, she is known for her versatility and challenging roles in Nollywood films. While Jalade-Ekeinde has been acting as early as 1993, her big break came in the 1995 Nollywod flick ‘Mortal Inheritance,’ where Jalade-Ekeinde played a compelling lead role as a sickle cell-patient earning her a couple of awards including ‘Best Actress.’
She has acted in over 250 films and won over twenty five awards both locally and internationally. When Jalade-Ekeinde is not busy putting smiles on the faces of millions, she is actively involved in numerous initiatives for youths and women across the continent. In recent times, Jalade-Ekeinde added yet another title, ‘Musician’ to her many accolades with the launch of her Sophomore album ‘Me, Myself and Eyes.’
11. Rita Dominic: A down to earth personality who is loved by many with an award winning style sense, Rita Dominic is the last of four children from a royal family. She discovered her passion for acting in early childhood through her now deceased mother who also encouraged her participation in numerous TV shows and competitions. In her teens, she competed in even more shows in high school winning several competitions. In 1998, she starred in her first Nollywood flick ‘A time to kill.’ In 1999, she earned her Bachelor of Arts Degree in Theater Arts from the University of Port Harcourt.
She has acted in over 100 films including the critically acclaimed ‘White Waters,’ a film which received 12 nominations at the 2008 AMAA Awards and won four awards including an award for ‘Best Cinematography and Best Sound.’ Dominic has just established a production firm, The Audrey Silva Company, whose mission and tagline is to provide “African entertainment at millennium pace,” a phrase she says means “the quality of our projects must reflect the same.”
12. Stella Damasus: From the onset, Stella Damasus had her eyes set on being an Opera singer. As a means to an end and at the encouragement of her mother, she gave acting a try. In 1992, she acted in her first Nollywood film titled ‘Abused.’ Since then she has appeared in over 50 films. In 2009, she was the recipient of the 2009 AMAA Awards ‘Best Actress in a Leading Role.’
Damasus obtained her Bachelor of Arts degree in Theatre Arts, with honors, from the University of Lagos. In 2004 she lost her husband and business partner Jaiye Aboderin (RIP). Nevertheless, she has shown amazing strength and continues to operate her film production company. Whether she is dancing on ‘Celebrity Takes 2,’ think dancing with the stars, singing or acting, Damasus captivates her audience and appears to bring 110% of herself to anything she commits to.
13. Jim Iyke Esomugha: What defines a great actor? Is he defined by his ability to superbly execute his roles to the point where many have an extremely hard time separating fact from fiction? If so, then Jim Iyke definitely fits the bill. Iyke’s potent delivery as the bad guy in Nollywood films has him loved and hated by Nollywood film fans. Capitalizing on the love-hate relationship, Iyke has launched a relatively new music and film production company called ‘Untamed.’ His latest projects under ‘Untamed’ includes his work as a musician, a reality TV show ‘Jewel for Jim’(think The Bachelor) Untamed Production films ‘Two Dollars’ and ‘Shades of White.’
Like Orji, Iyke was born in Libreville, Gabon and is a graduate of Philosophy from the University of Jos (Northern Nigeria). He has acted in over 250films and is also the founder of Jim Iyke Foundation for Children with Special Disabilities. When given the opportunity by filmmakers, Iyke shows his versatility and acting potency extends into non-bad guy roles.
14. Desmond Elliot is an actor that has become more refined with each appearance on the big screen. Of Yoruba (South-West) and Igbo (South-East) heritage, Elliot is a 2003 graduate of Economics from Lagos State University. He began acting at the encouragement of a friend in soap operas. From soaps he transitioned into films and has appeared in over 200 films to date. His career highlights includes his lead role in Emem Isong’s ‘Men Who Cheat’1999 film. In 2009, Elliot was nominated at the Nigeria Entertainment Awards for ‘Best Actor.’ Lately, he has been seen co-producing and directing some of Nollywood’s biggest blockbuster films like ‘Reloaded’ and ‘Guilty Pleasures.’
15. Ramsey Tokunbo Nouah, for a long time, with his good looks and charm seemed relegated to only playing Nollywood’s so called “lover boy” on screen. Thankfully, Nouah has broken away from the stereotypical roles and now shows more versatility with recent films like Kunle Afolayan’s ‘The Figurine.’ The thirty-six year old who is of Nigerian and Israeli heritage has acted in over 100 Nollywood films. He is a father of four children and the 2010 recipient of ‘Best Actor in a Leading role’ at the 2000 AMAA Awards.
16. Kalu Egbui Ikeagwu is an actor with potential global crossover appeal that we hope he maximizes in the nearest future. A British-Nigerian, Ikeagwu made his way into acting thanks to his father who, while the family lived in England, wanted to make sure his son never forgot his Nigerian-Ibo heritage.
A University graduate in English Literature, his first Nollywood film was in Emem Isong’s ‘For real.’ He has since acted in numerous Nollywood films and recently in ‘Rapt In Eire,’ an Irish produced film. He authors a witty and funny personal blog chronicling his life in showbiz.
17. Ini Edo: In 2003, no one saw Ini Edo, the beautiful and controversial (mainly for her style sense) actress coming until her performance in ‘World’s Apart.’ In ‘World’s Apart,’ Edo played lead female role as an illiterate village girl who caught the attention and ultimately love of a Prince. Her performance was phenomenal earning her a huge fan following and admiration. Since ‘World’s Apart,’ Edo has starred in over a 100films and continues to thrill audiences. An actress with a growing fan base of over 150,000 on Facebook, Edo is a graduate in Theater Arts from the University of Uyo, Akwa-Ibom State (South-South) where she hails from.
18. Offiong Kate Henshaw-Nuttall was born in Cross River State (South-South) and is the oldest of four children in her family. She obtained her medical training at Lagos University Teaching Hospital and later worked at Bauchi State General hospital (Northern Nigeria).
In 1993 Henshaw-Nuttall landed a role in ‘When the Sun Sets’ her major Nollywood film and has subsequently starred in numerous films. In 2008 she was the recipient of AMAA’s ‘Best Actress in a Leading Role’ Award for her performance in the film ‘Stronger than Pain.’ She is presently the brand ambassador for ‘Onga Seasoning,’ a Nigerian spice/food company.
19. Dakore Omobola Egbuson is hard to miss. The beautiful actress wears her hair in dreadlocks, a style that remains an anomaly for most Nigerian women. Born in the Niger Delta region, the multi-talented actress is known for her roles in Nollywood films ‘Emotional Crack,’ ‘Dangerous Sisters’ and ‘Before the Sunrise.’ Egbuson attended the University of Lagos and subsequently became a TV host. While working as a host, her world coincided with film producer Emem Isong who asked her to act in a film. Although she acted in Isong’s film, the film was never published/distributed. Nevertheless, a year later, she got the opportunity to act in a lead role with another producer in a film titled “Silent Tears.” Egbuson’s performance was impressive and opened more doors including an opportunity to star in the award winning Emem Isong film ‘Emotional Crack’ cited above.
Egbuson is the current brand ambassador for the popular soft drink in Africa called ‘Malta’ by Amstel Malta. She is also a musician.
20. Chinedu Ikedieze is one little person in a big world who cites Gary Coleman (RIP) as a mentor. Like Coleman, Ikedieze embodies the larger than life personality Coleman had on screen. A dwarf who walks 7ft tall, Ikedieze brings his highly confident personality to the big screen making the millions who have the privilege of watching him laugh and feel good. Born December 12th, 1977, the soon to be thirty-three year old studied Mass Communications at IMT in Enugu (South-East). While he has been acting for a while, he became a household name after his role alongside fellow dwarf actor Osita Iheme in the Nollywood blockbuster Aki Na Ukwa. For his many accomplishments and stellar contributions to African cinema, against all odds, he received a Lifetime Achievement Awards at 2007 AMAA Awards.
The Fresh Faces
21. Omoni Oboli is from Delta State in Nigeria. The thirty-two year old actress and writer completed high school at the prestigious Delta Steel Company Technical High School and subsequently majored in French at the University of Benin. She began acting in 1996. In June 2007 ‘the Rivals’ a movie she co-produced with fashion model Blessing Effiom won ‘Best International Drama’ at the New York International Independent Film & Video Festival. ‘Rivals’ was the first Nigerian film to be premiered since the festival’s inception in 2003. This year, Oboli bagged an award for ‘Best Actress’ for her role in Nigerian-Canadian Lonzo Nzekwe’s ‘Anchor Baby’ film at the Harlem International Film Festival in New York. ‘Anchor Baby’ tells the story of an illegal African immigrant couple (wife is Oboli and she is pregnant) who are ordered by the US Immigration to leave the country voluntarily. Instead of leaving, they go into hiding determined to have their baby in the USA so their child can become an automatic citizen.
22. Mercy Johnson: Nollywood’s talented actress and sex symbol has male fans begging for “mercy” while her female fans aspire to have a body like hers. Making no apologies for her duo combination of talents and curves, Johnson manages to dominate the big screen in any role she plays, regardless of her small a part she plays.
Johnson’s big break came in 2002 when she acted in a Nollywood film called ‘The Maid.’ Subsequent Johnson films that have wooed the hearts of millions include ‘Kill the Bride’ and the latest ‘White Hunter’ which shows a humorous side to the usually flirty and emotional roles she tends to play.
23. Nse Ikpe-Etim is a “Jane” of all trades master of many. An assertive personality on and off screen who has no qualms letting it be known what she wants, Etim has worked in the finance, fashion and media industries before venturing onto the big screen. She attended high school at the Federal Government College in Illorin and received a Bachelor of Arts in Theater Arts from the University of Calabar. Her big break came in her roles in the films ‘Reloaded’ and ‘Guilty Pleasures’ where she held her own against some of Nollywood’s top actors and actresses. She stood out and was nominated for ‘Best Actress’ at the 2009 AMAA Awards. In September of this year, she emerged winner of the ‘Best Actress of the Year’ at the Nigeria Entertainment Awards.
24. Mbong Amata is one of the newest faces on the block yet you would think she has been acting for decades. Her roles underscore an important point in Nollywood; quality trumps and should trump quantity, anytime. To date, she has acted in very few yet impressive films like ‘Reloaded,’ ‘Amazing Grace,’ and ‘Niger Delta.’ Her most memorable film cited by fans is her role as lead female in ‘Amazing Grace,’ the story of how John Newton came to pen the lyrics to the well known hymnal ‘Amazing Grace,’ a hymn from the Efik/Calabar people. The film has been called “One of the Most Important Black History Films of the Decade.” Amata recently married Film Director Jeta Amata who produced ‘Amazing Grace’ and is a proud mother of a baby boy.
25. Funke Akindele: As far as we are concerned, there is no one more fitting to close out our list of ‘25 Screen Gods and Goddesses You Should Know’ than Funke Akindele. Picture this. In a society where education is a BIG deal and the uneducated and poor endure endless insults and abuse; Akindele has single-handedly managed to give such persons a voice. Acting with superior intelligence, creative finesse and an amazing sense of humor, she reinforces an underlying message to love self whether you be rich or poor, educated or not.
A graduate with a degree in Mass Communication from Ogun State Polytechnic and a Law degree from University of Lagos, Akindele was born on August 24th, 1976 in Lagos. While she pursued the aforementioned traditional degree, her passion lay in acting. After numerous futile attempts auditioning and being rejected for English Nollywood films, the actress who lived the stereotypical life of a starving artist decided to try her luck with Yoruba films. It worked like a charm.
In 2008, her “ginormous” break came in the Yoruba film titled ‘Jenifa.’ Jenifa shares a parallel script with ‘Osuofia in London.’ It is a story of an illiterate village girl who decides she wants to make it in the big city. Fulfilling her desire, she gains entrance into school in the big city where she ultimately relocates to. While in school, she encounters the big city and the affluent lifestyle of the rich and famous. Further, despite the mockery and insults she receives based on her social status and poor style sense, she remains undaunted in her goal to be one of the “big gelz.” In fact, she displays an unmatched confidence that is highly oblivious to her reality.
Akindele’s ‘Jenifa’ was an instant hit nationwide and “accidentally” birthed a multitude of slangs now used in Nigerian pop/youth culture. Her performance earned her the 2009 AMAA Awards ‘Actress of the Year,’ the 2009 The Future Awards ‘Actor of the Year’ and the 2008 City People ‘Best Actress of the Year’ Award. She is also a producer and director and has featured in over 50 combined films in Yoruba and English.
~Article by Uduak Oduok
~Photodescription in main feature: Dakore Egbuson
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