The Best Nollywood Films of 2020

For some time it seemed as though it would be impossible to get up to 10 films worthy of inclusion into any serious list about good movies from Nigerian cinema. Well, so it was.

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The usual trick is to include poor films in their year-end list just so it gets to 10. I won’t be doing that; I can’t be doing that. My own trick is in the headline.

As I was saying, it has proven impossible to get up to 10 really good movies this year. That is for two reasons: Nollywood is still not producing enough films of quality and for most of the year, our cinemas were shuttered, truncating many a filmmaker’s plan. This, of course, meant that the internet became even more of a snatcher of our attention — as though that wasn’t the case already. This is why the list below is a mix of Netflix and the big screen. Some of the year’s biggest movies the world over were from Netflix, which would have its mettle tested at the Oscars for next year.

Two things worth mentioning:

a. The list below proves a thing most watchers of Nollywood on the big screen have known for years: our film industry is more adept at comedies than any other genre. Many times, the hilarity of these films comes from individual performances — as is the case with any Funke Akindele or Toyin Abraham movies. This year, though, the director Kayode Kasum has proven to have a handle on Nollywood comedy in a way that merges lowbrow humour with semi-sophistication. Little wonder he is the man behind one of the films below.

b. Nollywood still isn’t ambitious enough in artistic terms — or maybe it is, but the results have been too poor to receive commendation. In any case, 2020 has no heavyweights in the epic mould like with King of Boys or in the groundbreaking mould as with The Figurine or in the philosophical mould like Confusion Na Wa. In a year with few big screen releases, the movies that were worth the time spent in the cinema or the data used in streaming them were a bunch of comedies and one film with a moral seriousness indistinguishable from tragedy.

c. The list is limited to films that were available to the public either via the big screen or streaming from January 1 to December 20. I recognise that this takes out some films from consideration.

Ladies and Gentlemen, here are the best movies Nollywood gave us in 2020. In related news, I’ll be taking you through the Best of 2020 Lists through early January. Follow the lists here by signing up for the Oris newsletter here.

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4. KAMBILI

It is perhaps unsurprising that Nancy Isime can carry a romantic comedy. In Kayode Kasum’s Kambili, she has to take a character from slacker to superwoman. She does that well enough and gets assistance from Jidekene Achufusi, Venita Akpofure, and a brutish but wholly entertaining Mawuli Gavor. You can read my longer review elsewhere on this platform.

3. FINDING HUBBY

The second romantic comedy on the list started life as a blog series from the author Tunde Leye. If you missed it, you got the chance to see it on the big screen as Ade Laoye took up the role of Oyin Clegg in Finding Hubby as directed by Femi Ogunsanwo. If you still missed it, let’s hope it comes on a streaming platform or on cable. Oyin and her two friends work through the romantic economy in this light-hearted film that turns quite dark towards its end. If you are one of those that believe in lessons at the end of stories, then the lesson here is that love and matrimony might be easy for some — but for others, it’s a tricky manoeuvre.

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2. INTRODUCING THE KUJUS

In Introducing the Kujus, directed by Biodun Stephen, members of a family come together for their mother’s remembrance. But there are old wounds that need stitching before anything celebratory can happen. Bisola Aiyeola is the film’s heart (and one of its producers). But everybody else, including Kunle Remi, Timini Egbuson, and Femi Jacobs, are well-suited to their roles.

1. OLOTURE

The only non-comedy film here is the year’s best. It stars Sharon Ooja as the naïve titular journalist that goes undercover to investigate a human trafficking set-up. That good intention takes her through an unforeseen experience. It is rare that films that rank high on lists like this find quite the audience — yet, somehow, that has been the case with this Kenneth Gyang directed film. According to stats released by Netflix, the film has been well-received in about two dozen countries. Nollywood, it appears, might yet find its way.

Follow the lists by signing up for the Oris newsletter here. Happy New Year!

Please subscribe to my newsletter here: https://mailchi.mp/2dd54326e9f8/oris-newsletter

Nigeria’s most acclaimed writer-reviewer. Business: www.criticsandbylines.com.

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