It’s the last day of 2016. A befitting day to share my list of favorite movies from the previous 365 days.
I have delayed this list till the very end of the year because I wanted to ensure I watched as much as I could and didn’t miss out any gems, unfortunately, I still wasn’t able to watch all the Nollywood films released in cinemas this year. Nonetheless, I was able to watch more than 80% of the films which gives me adequate material to pick from, it also makes it somewhat more difficult to pic my favorites for the year; but I will.
Notice I say my favorites, not the best, not the most entertaining, not the top films, not the most technically intriguing, my favorites. I say this because a lot of people have decided to attack top ten lists everywhere, even going as far as attacking the ‘questionable judgment’ of the makers of such lists.
While everyone is entitled to their opinions, the manner of delivering such opinions should be a balance between objectivity and subjectivity. You know why? Well, because art has always and will always be a tad subjective. It’s not like Math where 1+1 should give rise to 2; it has objective elements like sound, picture quality and maybe even acting and subjective elements like taste for genre and maybe even plot execution. That’s why, no matter what, there will always be differing opinions about the best films made in a year, whether in Hollywood or Nollywood.
So, what I would really love to see more in 2017 is a case where negative opinions about movies are allowed to thrive as long as they don’t attack anybody’s person. I guess what I’m trying to say is that, dear filmmaker, no matter what, you are going to make films that some people won’t like and they will let you know, deal with it.
I would also like to see more of us film critics remember that Art is indeed subjective and consider whether a film has fulfilled its purpose before tearing it to sheds. Remember, you will definitely have personal biases, don’t let it all out in the name of a review.
Finally, I would like to urge the general public to watch more Nigerian films in cinema. You see, all your talk about wanting your money back because a film didn’t meet your expectations seems folly since you can’t do the same for any of the crappy movies Hollywood sends to our cinemas yearly. So what I will advise you to do is read through reviews, check out trailers, read synopses, study the work of Nollywood actors and directors like you do that of their Hollywood counterparts, and determine which films you may enjoy. Notice the ‘may’, well you could still be disappointed. The reason many people end up having bad cinema experiences is because they go in with unrealistic expectations, don’t fall victim, be smart with your selections, but don’t sit down and proclaim yourself a Non-Nollywood Watcher… if you do, then you are unimportant in the grand scheme of things.
Now when you do enjoy a film, please refrain from the best ‘Nollywood film ever’ slogan; I say this cos most of you haven’t even seen many films released in Cinema so your basis for such declarations is irrational, I mean what are you comparing to? A better slogan would be, ‘the Nollywood film I’ve enjoyed the most’. It makes more sense, but what do I know?
Lest I get too side-tracked, allow me to share with you my FAVORITE films of 2016:
12. Wives on Strike by Omoni Oboli
The first thing that came to my mind when I finished watching Wives on Strike was, ‘this is Dry but it has been repackaged to fit the appeal of the Nigerian audience’. Before you people start, I do not mean this film is similar to Dry or a copy, I mean the film tackles similar issues as those tackled in Dry, but does so with the humor Nigerian audiences cling to in film.
Filled with an ensemble cast and featuring genuinely funny scenes, Wives on Strike continues to show the path Omoni has chosen for her features; one that may struggle to gain critical acclaim, but will definitely not struggle to find an audience to fill cinema seats.
As for me, I genuinely enjoyed the film and it beat at least 13 other films to make this list, so, there.
11. Romance is Overrated by Belinda Yanga Agedah
Not everytime straight narrative, sometimes 3 shorts make one feature. That’s what you get when you watch Belinda Yanga Agedah’s debut into Nollywood, 3 short films with some inter connectivity that play on the concept of love and its complex nature.
For me, this film is an Ojoro one, as it gives you three different narratives from 3 different cast increasing its chances of you enjoying at least one. What sealed it on my list though is just how different it was to most of the other films I saw and the arrangement of the shorts.
10. It’s Her Day by Aniedi Anwah
Bovi is one of my favorite comedians. But for some reason, I wasn’t too excited to hear that he was about to star in a feature film written and produced by him. Maybe because of my past experience with films made by comedians, I just wasn’t in the mood for more.
I still went to watch it. And though it was such a huge improvement, it still featured a certain lack of attention to much more than the comedy; where it was less slapstick, the production and set design left little to be desired. I just could not tie the narrative to the delivery, but hey it was a good comedy and I enjoyed it, so I guess the cinema experience made up a bit for its flaws.
9. Surulere by Mildred Okwo
Since 2012’s The Meeting, I have been steadily waiting for Mildred Okwo to drop a new project. Well, 2016 saw that dream come true in Surulere, an enjoyable comedy about the life and trials of Arinze, a young man from the slums struggling to find his way in life. Featuring memorable performances and a bit of romance, Surulere would have ended up higher on my list if it had a less soppy ending.
8. Couple of Days by Lord Tanner
One of the earliest films to be released in 2016, Couple of Days was the first film to be a contender for my top films of the year. It’s easy for early releases to get knocked off as new films get released but this romantic drama featuring four couples in varying degrees of the thing called marriage managed to feature on the final list. *amendment* Lol, so I got called out for not saying what I loved about Couple of Days, so here goes – Plot – Couple of Days is open and honest in its tackle of potential marital issues, it also does a good job of letting the audience into the lives of the couples on screen.
Acting – I probably have a thing for ensemble casts as I feel any character has the potential to create a curve ball in the script. As for the ensemble here, it felt well put together and everyone seemed to fit in quite well.
Lord Tanner does do a good job of lacing the film with comedy, something that seems inevitable in a successful Nollywood film; I do hope he hasn’t forgotten that he promised us part two. We are waiting for ‘Couple of Days After….’
7. The Wedding Party by Kemi Adetiba
The Wedding Party is the breakout star of 2016. Probably the most talked about Nollywood film to hit cinemas ever and the one many have declared, ‘Nollywood’s best yet’, Kemi Adetiba’s foray into feature film making is every director’s dream come true.
Hoisted on the incredible performance by Sola Sobowale, The Wedding Party is a synergy of good production quality (though I had my issues with the ADR), excellent marketing and a finished product that resonates with the audience. Talk about a combination that works!
The movie is on its way to becoming the highest grossing Nollwood film in Nigerian cinemas, a feat I hope gets broken more frequently as the industry develops, for now though, it sits comfortable as my favorite comedy for 2016 and No. 7 on my list.
6. Dinner by Jay Franklyn Jituboh
I almost missed Dinner in the cinemas. Actually, when I eventually saw it, only one cinema in Lagos was showing it. Thankfully, I saw it, meaning the one film I wanted to see that slipped me was Oloibiri, but you can’t always get what you want.
Anyways, Dinner is another film on the list that features couples and drama. In fact, it also features Okey Uzoeshi & Enyinna Nwigwe but pairs them with different female leads.
I guess what I liked the most about Dinner was the general tone and pace of the film, how much emotion I could feel from the cast (I badly wanted to tell some of them off from my seat in the cinema hall), and Deyemi’s character – talk about not having a filter. First experience watching a Jay Franklyn Jituboh film, sure looking forward to more.
5. Just Not Married by Uduak-Obong Patrick
So, immediately I saw this film, I knew it would make my year-end list, no jokes. A crime action story of a good boy gone bad in order to save his ailing mother, Just Not Married is a gritty tale told in such a simple, authentic manner. It also features some of my favorite acting performances of the year.
I guess I wasn’t the only one who loved JNM as it got selected for TIFF and has been winning awards, left right and centre. Kudos to the production team, I look forward to what they have to offer in 2017.
4. 93 Days by Steve Gukas
I remember watching 93 days a few weeks after my dad passed on. I probably cried through the film, I swear. Looking back now, I was probably just in the zone. I say this because, my biggest problem when writing my review of the film was that it failed to translate the pain/suffering/dismay/hope I believe immediate family members to the affected would have been going through.
Regardless, 93 Days was a very relevant film to be made and had its core cast deliver amazingly. It is also one of Nollywood’s top films technically. For those of you that want our stories in film, 93 Days documents some of our not so distant history – although many have argued that it was too soon, oh well.
3. North East by Muyiwa Aluko
I don’t like romantic films. I really don’t. They get utterly ridiculous, downright unrealistic, and totally irritating. Ok not all of them, I LOVE ‘The Vow’, probably my favorite romantic film ever.
Well, now I’ve found my favorite Nollywood romantic film. North East is the follow up to last year’s ‘Love Regardless’ another romantic film by Muyiwa Aluko that I enjoyed. Filled with refreshing performances from its cast, scenes that left butterflies in my stomach and a plot that tackles prejudices head-on and with finesse, North East is a film I would recommend to anyone. Muyiwa Aluko has found a fan in me and I cannot wait for his next film.
2. 76 by Izu Ojukwu
I doubt there can be a conversation talking about top films this year that will not involve the movie ’76. A fictional love story told on the back drop of the failed 1976 Coup d’état in Nigeria, featuring the assassination of then Head of State, Muritala Mohammed, ’76 is the definition of thoroughness in film making. From the beautifully layered plot, to the scriptwriting, costume and lighting, acting and music, ’76 transports the audience to an era where Nigeria felt a little bit more authentic than it is today.
For a film that took forever to be released, I was pleased with the finished product. I just hope the next project on this scale does not take so long to make.
1. The Arbitration by Niyi Akinmolayan
I doubt my No. 1 film comes as a surprise to anyone. I’ve been saying it since I saw the film that it was my favorite. No doubt some came close to dethroning it but it remained steadfast.
The Arbitration is kinda like a war story where you begin rooting for one party then details are unveiled and your allegiances change swiftly. See, when I started watching and I realized Dara was suing her former boss, a married man she had an affair with for rape, I was intrigued to know how it occurred. You see, I felt no empathy towards her character yet cos baby girl knowingly was sleeping with another woman’s husband.
Move on to the both of them narrating what happened and I lost all ounce of empathy… was she being serious? Let me not say too much, for those that haven’t seen it, I hear its coming to Netflix soon.
Ultimately, The Arbitration is a bold film. A film that tackles a potent issue from a different point of view. A film that goes deep to let you know that you have not even begun to strike the surface at the prejudice that may occur when power scales are tilted, a film with outstanding acting, beautiful cinematography, superb directing, and good music. It is my favorite for 2016, solidifying my love for Niyi Akinmolayan.
Before I round things up though, I would like to mention Green White Green. If you observe from my lists, I have dealt with only cinema films and films that have officially been released to the mass public. However, there are some films that I saw this year that are already contenders for my 2017 year-end list, unfortunately, since I hear Green White Green may not hit cinemas, I would like to urge everyone to look out for it whenever it’s available to watch somewhere/anywhere. It is definitely in my top 5 films of this year but I’m a stickler for rules so it couldn’t make this list.
Ok…. You can sound off in the comments now. 2016 has been fun, Cheers to even better and greater films in 2017!