Wednesday, December 10, 2014

The Top 5 Best Actresses In Nollywood 2014

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By Charles Novia

As 2014 comes to an end, I and a few professional critics, keeping to the criteria we used last year, have drawn up a list once again for 2014. We watched quite a number of films which were considered outstanding and through a professional process of elimination, shortlisted names were finally arrived at.

May I state here that these actresses on this list have been judged on universal  templates for acting and not on what I term ‘perceived popularity’on red carpets, social media or feisty fan clubs. There is a clear difference between being an overt socialite with tepid performances in afterthought movies ‘just to be relevant’ and wholeheartedly taking the business of acting seriously.

In 2014, there was an improvement in the acting capacities of a number of actresses, both old and new. With special mention to Africa Magic’s Original Films and ‘Tinsel’, one could appreciate the trajectory of purpose many of such offerings gave to Nollywood.

However, I believe those soaps, serials and films might just be tilting us away from the ‘Africanness’ in our acting styles. Many of the up and coming actors in such programmes act more Westernized and far removed from the organic characterizations which our early and classic Nollywood movies were known for. But that is an aside and one which I will leave poignant till I elaborate more on a later, incisive post.

Using criteria such as interpretation, characterization, internalization, enunciation, and actor’s visualization among others, the following are my top five Actresses for the year 2014.

1.Nse Ikpe Etim

And my Number One Actress would be Nse Ikpe Etim (maritally known as Nse Sule). And why wouldn’t she be ? Having watched her in three movies released in 2014, there was little one could fault in her powerful sense of interpretation, internalization and ‘chameleonic’ characterization in the movies ‘Devil in the detail’, ‘ I Come Lagos’ and ‘Purple Rose’.

To the trained eye, when an actress does her research, it is easy and quite a pleasure to watch that thespian mesmerize the audience. Nse falls in that category of silent but sure actresses whose works speak more for her than anything else. In ‘Devil in the Detail’, she gives us a self-assured portrayal of a wife whose fidelity is called to question by her suspicious husband. Nse’s nuances, dramatic pauses and body language in the role leaves one awe-struck. This is a lady who knows her onions.

2.Onyeka Onwenu

Despite my reservations about the film adaptation of ‘Half of a Yellow Sun’, one of the delightful comforts for me from the movie was Onyeka Onwenu’s fantastic role as ‘Mama’. With an elegant career in music which has spanned over thirty years, Onyeka’s moonlighting to Nollywood seems to have finally found its artistic rewards in HOAYS.

Her mannerisms, facial expressions, voice modulations and characterization as an over-protective mother are all almost flawless in the movie . It’s as if in HOAYS, she set out to prove a point and only the blind would argue that she did not achieve her artistic aim. It must be quite a fulfilling experience to straddle, and arguably successfully too, two important sectors of Nigerian Entertainment; music and movies.

Onyeka Onwenu deserves our commendation. Well, at least she has mine!

3.Omoni Oboli

Two movies which featured Omoni Oboli were enough to convince me that Omoni deserves to be on this list. They are ‘Render to Ceaser’ and ‘Being Mrs Elliott’. Watching the two movies, I could appreciate various levels of Omoni’s acting abilities.

Artistically, she come across sometimes as being restrained in her delivery in some roles but she more than makes up for these pardonable inhibitions by her powerful ability to really, really act with her face. Her facial expressions reveal the right emotions which her lines try to convey. Few actors can achieve that in Nollywood as what we see mostly these days are bland expressions in the delivery of interpretative dialogue.

But it is in ‘Being Mrs Elliott’ that Omoni comes out smoking. Her character has various levels of emotional and perhaps repressed comical transitions and Omoni delivers when it matters most in aspects of such artistic requirement. A wardrobe malfunction at the Presidential Villa during a special premiere and the buzz it created made me curious to watch the movie and while aspects of its directorial ambitions were a bit arrested, one was not disappointed much by Omoni’s acting in the movie. Indeed, she gave her best in the movie.

And her best is good enough to be on this list.

4.Queen Nwokoye

More-often-than-not, many tend to dismiss the ‘Asabawood’ genre of movies as crass, without structure and lacking in linear progression of plots. While a lot of movies from that axis, juxtaposed with the so-called ‘New Nollywood’ movies, can be a critics nightmare to watch, there is no denying that a few actors and actresses in that genre of movies have given us some performances which deserve applause.

Queen Nwokoye is one of such worthy of mention for 2014. Whilst researching a bit more on her movies for 2014, I was authoritatively told that she is presently the most commercial actress in the Asaba movies, ever since Mercy Johnson went on maternity leave, with her movies selling in the millions. While such information does little to influence my artistic evaluation of her acting prowess, it was certainly important enough for me to file away in my memory bank that Queen must have something which appeals to the buying audience of such films.

After watching her in a spawn of top-selling Asaba movies in 2014, I understood why.

5.Kemi Lala Akinboju

A lot of readers might not have seen Tunde Kelani’s ‘Dazzling Mirage’, a film in which Lala Akindoju plays a young, frail sickle cell patient, Funmiwo. I watched the movie at a film festival in November and I was impressed with Lala’s portrayal of the lead character. A true-to-type physical casting by the Director first draws some empathy from the audience towards Lala and as she goes through the emotional and physical demands of the movie, the viewer is taken in by Lala’s internalization of the character as we begin to see and understand what it is to be a Sickle Cell victim.

Of course there were tentative moments when Lala seemed not to have fully measured up to the dictates of the role but one could also appreciate that those moments were few and far between. In ‘Dazzling Mirage’, the viewer laughs with her, cries with her, feels her pains and many could very well finish watching the movie believing that Lala is a Sickle Cell sufferer in real life. Such a performance should not go unnoticed.

Kemi Lala Akindoju, in her first major role in a feature length, is one to watch out for in the future.

First published on
First Photo - Nse Ikpe-Etim, Chioma Udeh, & Omoni Oboli at AFRIFF 2011

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