Top 10 Indigenous Nigerian Films And Their Worth

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Nigeria’s film industry, Nollywood, is a powerhouse of creativity. But within this vast landscape lies a treasure trove of films made in indigenous Nigerian languages, offering a unique window into the country’s rich cultural tapestry. Here’s a look at 10 such films and their significance according to Naijassador:

Kunle Afolayan’s “Mokalik” (Yoruba) Box office: N46.9 million

In Kunle Afolayan’s “Mokalik” (Yoruba for “mechanic”), we meet Ponmile, a privileged eleven-year-old yanked from his comfortable life for a day as a mechanic’s apprentice. This coming-of-age tale explores societal expectations through Ponmile’s struggles. Faced with the harsh realities of the workshop and the camaraderie he finds there; he must choose between his family’s academic aspirations and the newfound world that challenges him.

Filmed in Lagos and rich with Yoruba dialogue, “Mokalik” is a humorous yet thought-provoking look at tradition, class, and the difficult decisions young people face. This award-winning comedy-drama explores social commentary and witty dialogue to make it a classic. The movie cast includes Nigerian singer, Simi, Toni Afolayan, Femi Adebayo, Tobi Bakare and many more.

Biyi Bandele “Half of a Yellow Sun” (English and Igbo) Box office: N340 million

Biyi Bandele’s “Half of a Yellow Sun” isn’t the novel itself, but a 2013 film adaptation of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s powerful historical fiction. Bandele’s direction brings the story of the Nigerian Civil War to life. The film follows intertwined characters: Olanna, a fiercely independent woman, and Ugwu, a young houseboy caught in the conflict.

Through their perspectives, we witness the war’s devastating impact on love, family, and identity. Despite the backdrop of violence, “Half of a Yellow Sun” celebrates human resilience and the fight for a better future. The movie cast includes Chiwetel Ejiofor, Thandiwe Newton, John Boyega, Genevieve Nnaji, Zack Oji and others.

Funke Akindele “A Tribe Called Judah” (English) Box office: N1 billion

Funke Akindele’s “A Tribe Called Judah” isn’t just a movie; it’s a Nollywood record-breaker. Released in December 2023, the film became the first Nigerian production to surpass 1 billion Naira at the box office, solidifying Akindele’s place as the industry’s highest-grossing director. The heartwarming and comedic drama follows Jedidah Judah (played by Akindele herself), a single mother of five sons, each from a different tribe and father. Facing financial hardship, the family hatches a plan to rob a mall, only to find themselves entangled with another group of robbers.

 “A Tribe Called Judah” resonated with audiences for its relatable story of family struggles, laced with Akindele’s signature humour. The film’s success is a testament to her talent for creating compelling narratives that celebrate Nigerian culture and resonate with a global audience. The cast of the movie includes Funke Akindele, Timi Egbuson, Olumide Oworu, Tobi Makinde, Uzee Usman, Jide Kene Achufusi and many more stars.

Kemi Adetiba “The Wedding Party” (English) Box office: N453 million

Kemi Adetiba’s “The Wedding Party” isn’t your typical rom-com. However, it follows the journey of lovebirds Dunni and Dozie as they prepare for their lavish Nigerian wedding. But hilarious cultural clashes, overzealous family members, and a sprinkle of exes turn their dream wedding into a side-splitting nightmare. Spoken in both English Yoruba and Igbo, the film captures the essence of a big Nigerian wedding with its vibrant energy and emphasis on family.

Expect flamboyant outfits, chaotic planning sessions, and enough dance moves to fill a music video. This record-breaking film became a pop culture phenomenon, not only for its humour but for its relatable portrayal of the highs and lows of navigating traditions and family expectations in the face of love. The cast includes Adesuwa Etomi-Wellington, Banky W, Richard Mofe-Damijo, Sola Sobowale, Alibaba and many more.

Ramsey Nouah “Living in Bondage: Breaking Free” (English and Igbo) Box office: N168.7 million

Ramsey Nouah’s directorial debut, “Living in Bondage: Breaking Free,” isn’t just a film; it’s a Nollywood event. A sequel to the 1992 cult classic, it blends modern themes with supernatural elements. An ambitious young man, seduced by the enigmatic tycoon played by Nouah himself, is lured into the world of occult rituals for wealth and power. The film explores the age-old struggle between ambition and morality, set against a backdrop of contemporary Lagos.

“Breaking Free” not only revived interest in the original but became a critical and commercial success, solidifying Nouah’s place as a multi-talented force in Nollywood. Some of the movie casts are Ramsey Nouah, Jide Kene Achufusi, Kanayo O Kanayo, Kenneth Okonkwo, Nancy Isime and many more.

Kenneth Gyang “Oloture” (English) Box office: Not available

Kenneth Gyang’s “Oloture” is a hard-hitting 2019 crime drama that exposes the brutal reality of sex trafficking in Nigeria. Sharon Ooja delivers a powerful performance as an undercover journalist who infiltrates a prostitution ring. Told primarily in Yoruba and English, the film sheds light on the plight of exploited women and the ruthlessness of the traffickers. “Oloture” doesn’t shy away from difficult themes, showcasing the dangers faced by these women.

While praised for its realism and Gyang’s skilled direction, the film has also sparked discussions about its graphic content. Despite this, “Oloture” contributes significantly to Nigerian cinema, raising awareness about a critical social issue.

Kunle Afolayan “The Figurine” (English) Box office: 30 million

In Kunle Afolayan’s suspenseful thriller, “The Figurine” (Araromire), two friends, Sola and Femi, stumble upon a mysterious figurine during their mandatory National Youth Service Corps duty. Legend whispers of the figurine’s power: seven years of good luck followed by seven years of misfortune. Sola, a carefree soul, takes the figurine, and his life flourishes. He lands a job, marries his love, and builds a family. But as the seven years pass, a dark cloud descends.

Afolayan masterfully weaves Yoruba cultural elements into the story, leaving the audience to question: is it the figurine’s curse or a chilling coincidence? The film explores themes of fate, greed, and the consequences of choices, all delivered in a captivating blend of Yoruba and English.

Kemi Adetiba “King of Boys” (Yoruba and English Box office N245 million)

Kemi Adetiba’s “King of Boys” is a 2018 Nigerian crime thriller that dives into the dark underbelly of Lagos. The film centres around Alhaja Eniola Salami (Sola Sobowale), a powerful businesswoman with a hidden past. By day, she’s a philanthropist and respected community leader. By night, she’s the ruthless “King of Boys,” ruling the underworld and wielding immense influence.

Eniola’s ambition takes her into politics, but her criminal connections threaten to unravel everything. A thrilling power struggle ensues, forcing her to confront the choices leading to this precarious position. “King of Boys” explores themes of ambition, corruption, and the complexities of power structures in Nigeria. The film is praised for its strong female lead, exploration of social issues, and fast-paced action sequences. A sequel, “King of Boys: The Return of the King,” was released in 2021, with a third instalment currently in pre-production.

Funke Akindele Battle on Buka Street (English, Yoruba and Igbo Box office N 668 million)

Funke Akindele’s 2022 directorial effort, “Battle on Buka Street,” is a comedy-drama simmering with sibling rivalry and culinary competition. Yejide (played by Akindele herself) runs the most popular buka (food stall) on the street. Her reign is threatened when her archenemy Awele, her step-sister, sets up shop right next door.

Their feud, fueled by childhood animosity stemming from their mothers’ rivalry, explodes into hilarious antics as they try to outdo each other with tastier dishes and crazier marketing tactics. This box office hit, featuring Mercy Johnson, Sola Sobowale, and Nkem Owoh, is a delightful exploration of family dynamics, peppered with Nollywood’s signature humour and a dash of social commentary.

Loukman Ali “Brotherhood” (English) Box office: N328 million

Brotherhood,” a 2022 action-crime film directed by Ugandan filmmaker Loukman Ali, tells the story of twin brothers, Akin and Wale, who take divergent paths in life. Orphaned at a young age, they navigate the harsh realities of Lagos. Wale chooses the straight and narrow, becoming a police officer. Akin, on the other hand, falls into a life of crime. Released to mixed reviews, “Brotherhood” boasts impressive visuals and high-octane action sequences.

While some critics praised the film’s exploration of brotherhood and societal pressures, others felt the character development lacked depth. Notably, Loukman Ali exited the project before its completion due to creative differences. Despite this, “Brotherhood” remains a significant entry in Nollywood, showcasing the evolving landscape of Nigerian cinema.

Conclusion

These are just a few examples of the many gems waiting to be discovered in the world of Nigerian indigenous filmmaking. Each film offers a unique perspective, fostering cultural appreciation and sparking conversations that transcend language barriers. So, the next time you’re looking for a film to watch, delve into the treasure trove of Nigerian indigenous cinema and discover the beauty of storytelling that stays true to its roots.

Written by: Sarah Aboje

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