Nigeria is gifted with vast amount of talent in the entertainment sector from music to the movie industry but while the former is has been the shining light in the sector as Afrobeats continue to conquer the world continent after continent, awards after awards, the movie industry has always taken the back seat in international collaborations and global consumption.
Nollywood actor Jimmy Odukoya might not seem like a household name to many people but in October 2021, he got an online message from Hollywood telling him he has been selected to act in an upcoming hollywood film. According to the actor in a press conference promoting the new Hollywood movie ‘The Woman King’ he said, “it’s a blessing because I didn’t go looking for Hollywood, Hollywood came looking for me.”
At the time he got the role, he lost a family member and according to him, that was a bittersweet moment for him as he had to get consolidatory as well as congratulatory messages at the same time. The Nollywood actor sees this as his breakout project not just locally but internationally on a motion studio picture film.
Odukoya plays the villain of the movie, Oba Ade, an Oyo general who can’t stand the idea of a woman being a soldier and becomes the antagonist to the ‘Agojie’, the all women warrior of the Dahomey kingdom and their general Nanisca played by Viola Davis’ an award winning Hollywood actor.
Odukoya speaking on sharing the screen with Davis said, “I always loved viola as an actor, especially in her role with how to get away with murder series, and when i was told i was going to act along with her, I was excited but i believe that if you play alongside the best, you have to bring your best. Just to talk with her, to see her work ethic, her dedication, hunger, drive and winning award and she’s still driven, hungry, humble, it’s such an inspiring thing to see,”
Just as Wizkid cracked the barrier when he featured in Drakes ‘One Dance’ which became a global hit making him the first Afrobeats artist to chart on and top the US Billboard Hot 100, the sudden hype of the Gina Prince-Bythewood’s film could see Odukoya nominated for top hollywood actors as he plays one of the villain in the film.
Action movie genre
Nigerians are huge consumers of the action movie genre as moviegoers have spent more money on the genre than any other genre in cinemas. In 2021, action movies saw a whooping N2.3 billion with Hollywood movies accounting for almost 70 percent of that number.
Odukoya mentioned that one of the reasons why Nollywood shy away from doing action movies is the technicality that comes with making those kinds of movies. “Action is hit or miss, you can’t hide. You can hide in drama as it can be subjective, in action there is no inbetween,”
He also mentioned that Nollywood needs to improve in structure for Hollywood to make any kind of future collaboration with the industry. Inconsistency in electricity, and a controlled environment for shooting films were the reasons he gave that hinders the collaborations of the two industries.
He gave kudos to those who despite the structure have beat the system and made great films. “The fact that we shoot the things that we do in this structure is amazing, imagine what the apple will be if we had so much more. Secondly, it’s the intentionality of quality because most times we push the topic of quantity over quality, but intentional attention to detail can change everything from costume to sound scoring to cinematography, prop and weaponry, everything needed to tell a good story,” He said.
Odukoya added that despite the technicality, action movies produced by Nollywood that could be well received by cinemas globally can be done and our local talent can hack the technicalities that Hollywood wants.
Telling our own African stories.
The movie, though fictional, is a depiction of real people that existed in Benin from the 1600s until 1904 and up until a certain Marvel film ‘Black Panther’ that had the characters of female warriors known as the Dinomelaje, not many knew of the existence of these aspects of history.
“In black panther the ‘Dinomelaje’ was an all women army and people hadn’t seen that but they were based off the Agojie who were real women and were described as the real amazons of Africa who actually existed and fought battles. It’s a conversation starter and people want to see women in power fighting just like the ‘300’ movie but the female version,” Odukoya said.
The topic of slavery was not put up in the ad campaigns but is one of the main elements of the film. Slavery has been an evil on earth for many civilizations and Africa was the gold rush of slavery, this is the first mainstream film that depicts that it was African kingdom themselves that rounded up slaves for the European traders and not only did they sell their prisoners of war but also sold their own people.
The movie also points out that the human product was worth so much money, the temptation was just too great and was a short sighted situation.
There is a sense of responsibility of us telling our stories, we are no just doing it for entertainment but for our heritage and culture,”
Odukoya also mentioned that he had to call for the change of the name of his character from ‘Okia Abua’ to ‘Oba Ade’ which represented the character better as a Yoruba man playing an ancient Yoruba warlord. He mentioned that authenticity would be lacking if we allow other people to tell our stories for us.
“When we tell our story, it is preserving history that has been lost. There is so much about the people, the continent that is unknown from the richest kings to the warriors and the story behind them. We have so much in abundance that needs to be told and we don’t know how important it is to connect it to our heritage and our culture,” Odukoya said.
The adoption of streaming services in Nigeria for both local audiences and filmmakers presents a chance for increased collaboration between Hollywood and Nollywood because the platform, which features both local and foreign content, can be viewed by millions of people around the world and allows for the discovery of more local talent by major international motion picture productions.
“Because of the introduction of Netflix and Amazon, we are seeing more producers take a stab at action with king of boys and the new movie ‘Brotherhood’ coming out soon, ‘Gangs of Lagos’ and they are now daring to push the envelope and forcing us to develop structures to do it,”
The Woman King, which will be released in cinemas on the 16th of September 2022, stars Hollywood actor with Nigerian roots John Boyega, and several South African actors coming together to create a masterclass of a movie written by Maria Bello and Dana Stevens.