Screen favourites Desmond Elliot, Richard Mofe-Damijo, Patience Ozokwor, Omotola Jalade-Ekeinde alongside renowned movie director, Tunde Kelani have made a 32-man list of the most influential figures in the Nigerian movie industry released by top entertainment news website TheNETng ahead of the fourth edition of the Nigerian Entertainment Conference (NECLive) holding in April, 2016. SOLOMON NDA-ISAIAH and ANTHONY ADA ABRAHAM capture it.
These are some of those that made the list. The list below is based on factors such as longevity, media following, output, awards and popularity within the industry.
Cinematographer, CEO Mainframe Films Globally recognised as a leader of Nollywood, cinematographer Tunde Kelani has seen stars come and go. He’s also made many stars and big hits. But what ensures longevity for him and his Mainframe studios, is a rather rare connection with underdogs; a passion for inserting anonymous characters into leading roles and changing their careers forever. Plus, he brings fading cultural stories into the contemporary space, making films out of independence era literature, and preferring to trade in his native Yoruba. Kunle Afolayan, himself a bonafide leader of the new school will tell anyone who cares to listen, that Kelani is his mentor and master. He’s not alone.
Emem Isong: Producer, scriptwriter
This Akwa Ibom-born movie producer is one of the most respected people in Nollywood. Beginning her career in 1994, she has excelled in writing and producing. With provoking and well thought-out plots, she has earned her place in Nollywood as one of the best screen writers.Isong holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Theatre Arts from the University of Calabar and a diploma in computer science from the Computer Science Institute (NCR).She runs a film school, Royal Arts Academy, with which she has discovered young actors who are now giving the established ones a run for their money.
Richard Mofe Damijo
Actor Currently on vacation from politics, Richard Mofe-Damijo is working the phones, hoping to get busy with Nollywood again. But he hasn’t had to call much. His number has not stopped ringing since he announced his return. Since he discovered how to use Instagram. Since he decided to keep his beard. The grandfather has been a sex symbol for almost three decades; a charmer for even much longer. He’s the actor other actors want to be like; the brand corporate Nigeria want but can’t have.It’ll take a while for anyone to come close.
Kunle Afolayan: Filmmaker/actor
Now on his fourth film, Afolayan, the son of a film icon, is perhaps the most remarkable name in Nigeria’s contemporary film industry. While still struggling with funds, he’s succeeded where many have failed. And, as his local and international awards will show, he’s plotting a new path for an industry stuck in an era that has passed. Like Kelani, he’s choosy about his stories, finicky about his actors, and ambitious with his projects. If ‘New Nollywood’ was a thing, he’ll be the one running the show.
Genevieve Nnaji Actress
Genevieve does not do as much public charity work as Omotola, her long time archrival. She doesn’t do as many movies as Mercy Johnson, Stephanie Okereke or Funke Akindele. But she is regarded globally as Nollywood’s leading female super star, with a brand apparently bigger than most of her colleagues put together. Careful about her image, and almost snobbish about associations, she’s one of the few Nollywood actresses you may never encounter face-to-face. She spent 2015 repositioning as an executive, with the success of her debut film, Road to Yesterday. It remains whether she will cross into waiting markets in Europe and America. But it shouldn’t matter, if she continues to have nearly 20 million young Nigerians in her palms.
Patience Ozokwor Actress
Patience Ozokwor aka Mama G has perfected the art of playing the role of a villain especially the wicked mother-in-law, so much so that any film she is star in being gentle doesn’t really suit her role.
Ibinabo Fiberesima: Actress, AGN president
The Rivers State-born actress is the first female to lead the Actors’ Guild of Nigeria (AGN). Ibinabo wields uncommon influence and power among Nollywood practitioners. Having done very well being at the helm of Actors Guild of Nigeria for four years, Ibinabo was re-elected AGN president last year.
Omotola Jalade-Ekeinde: Actress
Talented, charming and graceful are perhaps the words that best describe Omotola Jalade-Ekeinde, popularly known as ‘Omo Sexy’. The Lagos-born star, who hails from Ondo State, made her debut in Nollywood in 1995. Since then, she has acted in about 200 movies and has endeared herself to producers and marketers. Her star power has seen her snag numerous endorsement deals and even a listing by Time Magazine as one of the 100 most influential people in the world, along with the likes of Michelle Obama, Beyonce and Kate Middleton
Toyin Aimakhu: Actress/Producer
Toyin is one of the highest paid Yoruba actresses on the continent. An interpreter of roles whose talent is never in doubt, Toyin has garnered many fans over the years with her acting skill and good look. She began acting in 2003, when Bukky Wright, a Nigerian film actress, visited Ibadan to shoot a movie. She’s known for blockbuster movies like Alakada, Eta Oko, Iku Doro among others. She’s now built a solid image and following that put her firmly in a position to lead the thousands of actors unsure of how to play in a terribly fragmented ssytem.
Desmond Elliott: Actor, producer, director, politician
Elliot, who is now a member of Lagos State House of Assembly, is one of the prominent actors in Nollywood. Also a producer and director, the Lagos state born actor has prduced several blockbusters under his production company Denziot Productions. He is involved in public relations projects for the Nigerian telecoms giant, Globacom, and is said to be one of Nigeria richest Nollywood actors, making his money from acting, directing, endorsements and advertising.
Charles Novia: Filmmaker, Actor, Writer
He has been a strong pillar in the Nollywood industry. Charles, who is popularly known as Mr. November, has been a major force in both the movie and music industry in Nigeria over the past 15 years, churning out lots of hit movies such as The Bridesmaid, Real Love, Missing Angel, More Than Sisters, You Broke My Heart, A Christmas Passion and recently Alan Poza.Besides making good movies, Charles Novia has also helped in discovering lots of A-list stars in the movie and music industry. They include Desmond Elliot, Grace Amah, Empress Njamah, Caroline Ekanem Danjuma, among others. He also helped in re-engineering the careers of many artistes like Stella Damasus, Kate Henshaw-Nuttal and a host of others, who he reintroduced to stardom through his movies and November Records music label, which was home to Majek Fashek, whose last album Little Patience, was executively produced by Charles Novia and sold over a million copies. He hasn’t done much work in recent times, but he continues to be a powerful voice, using his blog to shape thoughts and perspectives.
Razak Abdullahi: CEO Corporate Pictures
He’s one of the people who call the shots in the Yoruba movie industry. He owns a successful movie marketing outfit, Corporate Pictures and his company has backed several blockbusters. Nearly all films from his stable have won or been nominated for major film industry awards. A veteran by every definition, he’s not just a money man. Those who know him confirm he’s an ideas man, a deals broker, and passionate investor.