2021 was a trying year for so many sectors. The COVID-19 pandemic has had a major impact on the film industry in 2020 and 2021, just like it did across other sectors like the arts and sports. All over the world, theatres and cinemas were closed to reduce the spread of the virus and this caused movie screenings, film releases, and film festivals to be postponed or moved online. Festivals like the African Smartphone International Film Festival (ASIFF) is one of such that had to be held virtually. Nollywood was not shielded from the global effect of the pandemic. The biggest or most talked about movies of 2020 were released on streaming platforms and not cinemas. Thankfully, 2021 saw the return of the film industry.
The year had several impressive releases, some of which made waves both financially and culturally. Here’s a list of top Nollywood films from 2021.
La Femme Anjola
La femme Anjola is a psychological-thriller film about a young male stockbroker whose life is thrown into chaos when he falls for a femme fatale married to a wealthy gangster. The film stars Rita Dominic, Nonso Bassey, Mumbi Maina and Femi Jacobs and is produced by Mildred Okwo and Rita Dominic of The Audrey Silva Company, the producers of the acclaimed movie ‘The Meeting’.
According to CEAN’s (Cinema Exhibitors Association of Nigeria) report, ‘La Femme Anjola’ held second place at the box office grossing N8,102,100 in its first week from screening in 49 locations. The film also garnered four nominations from African Movie Academy Awards including Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Nigerian Film, and Best Sound.
Juju Stories is a 3-part feature film exploring supernatural themes based on urban legends in Nigerian superstition and folklore. Written and directed by C.J. Obasi, Abba Makama and Michael Omonua, the film features three stories: “Love Potion” by Omonua, “YAM” by Makama, and “Suffer The Witch” by Obasi.
The cast includes notable acts like Timini Egbuson, Bukola Oladipupo, Pat Utomi, Nengi Adoko, and Elvis Poko.
Juju Stories addresses juju in contemporary Lagos through three stories. In Love Potion, by Omonua, an unmarried woman agrees to use juju (charm) to find herself a perfect partner.
In Yam, by Makama, consequences arise when a street urchin picks up seeming money from the roadside.
In Suffer the Witch, by Obasi, love and friendship turn into an obsession, when a young college woman attracts her crush’s interest.
Juju Stories first premiered at the 2021 edition of the Locarno Film Festival. It won the Boccalino d’Oro award for best film and was nominated for other notable international awards. It then screened at AFRIFF and it is showing in Canal Olympia cinemas. CJ Obasi, one of the directors and Oge Obasi, the producer announced that the movie would be available in cinemas nationwide from the 21st of January due to popular demand.
Prophetess is a 2021 Nigerian sports comedy film directed by Niyi Akinmolayan. The film stars Toyin Abraham, Uzor Arukwe, Stan Nze and Tina Mba in the lead roles. The movie centres on a local prophetess who makes bold fake predictions about the outcome of a local club football match that goes beyond her control. Prophetess is another collaboration between Niyi Akinmolayan and Toyin Abraham after Elevator Baby. The film was predominantly shot in Ibadan. It was set in Layole village in Oyo State. Prophetess had its theatrical release on 2, April 2021 and was unveiled to positive reviews from critics. It also became a success at the box office, making over ₦43 million in just four days in the opening weekend despite the restricted seating capacity due to the COVID-19 guidelines and restrictions. The film grossed ₦108 million in the first four weeks after its release.
King of Boys: The Return of the King
Technically not a movie, this critically acclaimed hit is a 7-part limited series directed by Kemi Adetiba. Released in August 2021 exclusively on Netflix, it is a sequel to the 2018 Nigerian crime political thriller film, King of Boys. Sola Sobowale and Toni Tones reprised their roles as older and younger versions of Eniola Salami respectively with Reminisce, Illbliss, Akin Lewis, Osas Ighodaro and Keppy Ekpenyong also reprising their roles. New cast members include Nse Ikpe-Etim, Richard Mofe Damijo, Efa Iwara, Deyemi Okanlawon and Charlie Boy.
The web series impacted pop culture, ruling social media with videos, memes and excerpts from the show mostly involving tussle and wordplay between Sobowale and Etim’s Characters. The King of Boys also proudly seized the number one spot on Netflix for weeks recording one of the highest views of a Nigerian project in terms of millions.
Ayinla is a musical eponymous film based on the life of Ayinla Yusuf popularly known as Ayinla Omowura, an Apala musician who was stabbed to death by his manager named Bayewu in a bar fight on May 6, 1980, at Abeokuta. The film premiered on June 13, 2021, in Lagos and was released to theatres five days later.
Helmed by Tunde Kelani, the film was set in the 1970s and early 1980s and shot in Abeokuta, Ogun State. Lateef Adedimeji took on the role of Ayinla, starring alongside Omowumi Dada, Bimbo Manuel, Ade Laoye, Kunle Afolayan, Bimbo Ademoye, and activist and comedian, Mr Macaroni. Its success is largely due to Adedimeji Lateef’s acting, Tunde Kelani’s directing, and the nostalgic elements in the film.
It is worthy to be noted that the film raked in ₦91,308,900 million in the box office, making it the fourth highest-grossing film of 2021.