Sunday, December 8, 2013

Charles Novia's Best Five Nollywood Actresses

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By Charles Novia

I watched a number of films this year and as many as were being churned out in all the zones, I had to pin-point my search to specifics. As a filmmaker, with many years of experience to my credit, I know good acting when I see it. Acting is inborn while talent is general but depth in acting is few among actors. And so, my blog has decided to award and possibly reward actors with citations and accolades for their art in a preceding and current year. I and my editorial staff think this will be a good and unbiased reward system.

I drew up my conclusions about the names on this list after watching them in stand-out roles in some movies released in late 2012 to the last quarter of 2013. I consulted a few of my colleagues about my list; tested film directors and there was an unanimity on 70% of the criteria I used in arriving at my conclusion. They all agreed with me 100% on the choice for the Number One Actress in 2013.

This list is wholly based on my perception , criteria and experience. I consulted as much as possible and decided too to add my blogazine as part of the award process. In essence, this means that these actresses mentioned here would be given special award plaques in the first quarter of 2014 by for being part of this list. I do not seek to compete with the numerous awards strewn all over the place but to add a sane and credible voice to a general reward system for talent. Ours will be different because it is a critics award, not lobbied for nor coveted. It is just a plain and honest award for artistic excellence.

For those who may not agree with me on the choice of actresses in this list, you are free to draw your own conclusions. However, note that this is not a list of ‘The Top Actresses in Nollywood based on over-exposure on Red Carpets’ or some whimsical fan base. This list is based on talent, characterisation, body of artistic work for the year in review and most of all interpretation of the roles the actresses played. None was judged on nebulous criteria such as ‘how many years one has spent acting’ or awards won in other climes in the year in question. Whether new or old, the actresses on this list gave a rousing performance in 2013 and I applaud them.

( Note to bloggers and other online sites; if you wish to lift this article for use on your blogs, kindly ensure you credit By now, you should know all about plagiarism and its implications. Just do the right thing and we all would be fine. Thank you)

So, here are the Best 5 Nollywood Actresses in 2013. ( The term ‘Actress’ used here is to differentiate the gender as there is a ‘Top 5 Nollywood Actors of 2013′ coming up on this blog this week)

Rita had a good year. Winning ‘Best Actress’ a couple of times (among many nominations ) for the movie ‘The Meeting’. I also watched her in another recently released movie, ‘Finding Mercy’ but felt that she gave a listless and lukewarm performance in that flick. In ‘The Meeting’, Rita was smoking. I would say that for the first time since I have been seeing her in movies, she found the right script which explored her acting depths. Rita is a Theatre Arts Graduate from Uniport and that is usually an advantage for actors with such credentials from Drama School. What is expected from such actors has to come to the fore someday in Nollywood, when the right script meets the right Director and the fundamentals of a good production are met. ‘The Meeting’ is that kind of production.

Rita subsumed her character and aided the cackle points of the comedy. With make-up which aimed to transform and accentuate her character, she found it easy to give us all a good performance. However, I found some grey areas of her acting bordering between slapstick and sublimal comedy especially the part where she called out ‘Code Red’ , which was a typical Nollywood play-to-the-gallery moment. But her acting on those few bits can be forgiven because she had a screen presence of mind. Rita Dominic has more to prove in Nollywood, either as an actress or as a Producer. If it is the former, then she has to be careful about her choice of scripts from now on because there might be false slips ahead. A good actress anyday, she is.

Now this would raise eyebrows with people asking if Yvonne is from Nollywood since she is associated more with Ghana. Nomencletures do not matter to me. Nollywood is a global brand and is a huge platform for all African actors to make their mark. Besides, Yvonne’s movie, ‘The Contract’, was released in the cinemas in Nigeria in 2013 which meets a part of the criteria I used in drawing up this list.
I must confess that I had not watched much of Yvonne’s movies before ‘The Contract’. I just knew her name from a few social media buzz which was neither here nor there for me. So when I watched her performance in ‘The Contract’,  my curiousity gave way to admiration.

She interpreted the role quite well. There was an almost effortless transistion of moods and emotions in her characterisation and she had the audience eating out of the palms of her hands all through the movie. She  came off looking like she had something to prove with that movie both as Producer and lead actress and I think she succeeded. There was nothing forced about her nuances in the movie, which projected a rare self-assuredness lacking in many of her counterparts. Since Ghana is her chosen country of citizenship, I would say she is an asset to her country in the acting field.

A surprise resignation from ‘TINSEL’in 2012 , made most people wonder if Damilola knew what she was doing. She gave reasons for leaving the televsion serial; to concentrate on her acting career. Watching her in Michelle Bello’s ‘Flower Girl’ brought home the wisdom in her career curve.

I have always held the notion that Damilola has a powerful screen presence. There’s something sultry and appealing about her looks on screen. Very few actors have that aura. In Damilola’s case, I thought it wasn’t yet explored to the maximum. In ‘Flower Girl’, that screen aura combined with a visible attempt at internalisation and visualisation by Damilola in her role, made many see her in a whole new light.

Finally, the stirrings of a Super Actress is beginning to show. ‘Flower Girl’ is a romantic comedy modelled after the genre as it is done in Hollywood. Attempting to get it right needs the right male and female actors in the lead roles. Damilola was the right pick for the female lead. She knew when to turn on the charm and when to disarm in the movie. She gave it her best and it showed. Hopefully, she would maintain the tempo and energy in her new movies after ‘Flower Girl’.

Many people would not remember her name and it is likely many would have forgotten her as the winner of ‘The Next Movie Star’ Reality show a couple of years back. But such credentials are not important when it comes to judging her abilities as an actor. Tamara was simply awesome in the movie ‘Desperate Housegirls’! She gave an organic and jaw-dropping performance which must her won her new fans and etched her name somewhere on the consciousness of movie lovers.

There was a closeness to method acting when watching her in ‘Desperate Housegirls’ and she must be commended for making acting interesting again especially as we have been assailed with talentless actors and actresses in the past few years. I predict that Tamara is going to shine in a few months but that illumination depends on the kind of scripts she chooses and the Directors she works with. But then, she is good. Quite good.

Mercy would be my number one choice for ‘Best Actress’ in 2013. She has simply been awesome in the her movies this year. There’s something ultra-natural and organic about Mercy Johnson which confounds even her critics. She can act. She delivers. In four movies I watched in 2013, which she starred in, she was the epitome of delightful characterisation. Watch her in the ‘Dumebi’ spawn of movies and you would appreciate how her talent has evolved since she came back from her Maternity Break.

Mercy is a chameleonic actress, one with the uncanny ability to immerse herself in her roles. She can play the victimised House Maid in one movie and switch to the Lady Boss in the next. In fact, if the role suits her, she comes out smoking. She is arguably the Best Actress for 2013. You can quote me on that.


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