2017 has witnessed more disappointing movies that failed to impress than remarkable ones.
It is baffling how certain films actually go through the process of being made and then released into cinemas. To elicit anticipation, these bad films are star-studded and heavily promoted. A sharp contrast to 2016, 2017 became an endless river of films that have no business existing.
The year started well with “King Invincible” – a decent film with riveting fight scenes and stirring performances – but lost that start to a slate of mediocre movies like “Basira in London,” “Hire a Man” and “American Driver.” All of them profit-minded and largely unconcerned about quality.
As the year went by, terrible, mundane and incomprehensible works such as “Christmas is Coming,” “Celebrity Marriage” and “Accidental Spy,” which should perhaps have gone straight to Alaba market, got theatrical releases.
Of course, the year also had its fair share of brilliant movies, from “Ojukokoro” to “Slow Country” to “Isoken” to “Catch.er.”
We have also enjoyed comedy movies like “Banana Island Ghost,” “Picture Perfect,” “The Wedding Party 2,” “Potato Potahto” and “Omugwo.”
There have also been unexpected pleasant surprises in “Through Her Eyes,” “Hell or High Waters,” “Glimpse,” “Tiwa’s Baggage” and “Ovy’s Voice.”
Also encouraging were the arrival of debut filmmakers with “King Invincible,” “What Lies Within,” “Something Wicked” and “Bariga Sugar.”
But, for every “Ojukokoro” and “Potato Potahto,” there’s a dozen of “Excess Luggage,” “Alakada Reloaded,” “Stormy Hearts,” “Blood in the Lagoon” and “Blogger’s Wife.”
2017 has simply been bereft of quality movies, the kind driven by characters and not drone shots.
Who is to blame for all the garbage we have seen this year?
Promotional poster for A Trip to Jamaica
The commercial success of movies such as “30 Days in Atlanta” and “A Trip to Jamaica” have, over time, paved the way for Nollywood’s fixation with bad movies.
The bad news is, this proportion of average films is likely to get worse over the next few years. As long as bad movies succeed at the box office, the industry will continue to experience mediocrity.
It is important to note that the major goal of the decision-maker who approves movies is to make a profit. And apparently, what makes a movie fit for the cinema is the number of people who are likely to consume it.
This means that since “A Trip to Jamaica” has grossed 178 million naira, a duplicate of the incoherent movie should be made – thus the reason why the likes of “Dance to my Beat” and “Lost in London” are released in cinemas and not straight to DVD.
Nollywood has gradually become an industry with a phobia of investing in original movies or genres. Why gamble on an original script that audiences may or may not accept when you can just stick to genres and concepts that have been successful?
The money-grubbers receive intense promotions and are seen by everybody, while the creatively ambitious films get seen by just a few.
Consider this: In 2016, Abba Makama’s “Green White Green,” one of the eight Nollywood movies that screened at the Toronto International Film Festival and enjoyed positive reviews from Variety, Indiewire and Vice, was rejected by Nigerian distributors, who felt that the movie-going public hasn’t evolved to a level where they can assimilate certain types of work.
In the same 2016, one of the best films of the year, “93 Days,” was a commercial flop.
What is more confusing than the effrontery with which these bad films are made and released is the sincere acceptance of them by moviegoers.
Perhaps, the current state of the Nigerian cinema is simply a reflection of the ‘terrible taste’ of the movie-going public.
Take the case of “Alakada Reloaded,” a film considered to be one of the most disappointing films of 2017, due to its comically bad writing, exaggerated acting and incoherent plot. Despite its flaws, the movie grossed 25 million naira in just three days.
If the box office figures are to be believed, audiences are more excited about creatively lazy movies than the brilliant ones.
For many cinema goers, it has been an underwhelming movie year, but in revenue, Nollywood seems to be on the rise.
According to Moses Babatope, the industry is expected to gross 2 billion naira at the box office; this is twice what was realized in 2016.
While we anticipate Tade Ogidan’s “The Statue, Izu Ojukwu’s “Amina,” and Genevieve Nnaji’s “Lions Heart” in 2018, the consistent success of mostly mediocre movies is an indication that collectively, Nollywood movies will not be getting better any time soon.