By Ibrahim Sheme
Watching ‘Lionheart’, directed by Genevieve Nnaji, has convinced me, once more, that the Nigerian film industry has come of age. I watched it on Netflix, which released it on January 4.
Nnaji starred in the lead role as Adaeze, a foreign educated only daughter of an Enugu-based bus passenger tycoon.
Adaeze’s father, played by Pete Edochie, is in the doldrums of a failing health and a company operating in a slippery business environment, threatened with bankruptcy as it clashes with an aggressive competitor. While her only brother has his sights on a career in music, it becomes Adaeze’s lot to do all she can to save the company. To succeed, she teams up with a mirthful uncle (Nkem Owoh) whose ideas she at first rejects but has to embrace when all her chosen options are locked up.
There is an interesting north-meets-east portion in the movie where Adaeze’s family teams up with the Alhaji Maikano family from Kano (played brilliantly by Sani Mu’azu and Yakubu Muhammad).
The film is superb. Tension, joy, family values, sensuality, humour, among other emotions, are well-conveyed. There is scarcely any misstep in the acting, setting and the cinematography generally. The mish-mash of English, Igbo and Hausa not only reflects our diversity but also projects a delicious art form. Kudos to Nnaji, the cast and crew, and The Entertainment Network (T.E.N.) which funded the 2018 production.
With ‘Lionheart’, the delectable Nnaji has re-established herself as an A-list African actress with the promise of a global prowess. And to think that this is her directorial debut! No wonder it is the first Nigerian movie to be obtained by and featured in Netflix and it has received favourable responses at the international film festivals held in Toronto and Marrakech. It has a rating of 5.5/10 on IMDb – a remarkable feat for a non-Hollywood production.
It is sad, however, that the cinema distribution cabal in Nigeria refused to show this film when it should because of some odious self-interest, hiding under the excuse of late booking. ‘Lionheart’ is the kind of movie that everyone should support. I’ll call it a “diplomatic product” because it represents Nigeria culturally in the global marketplace. It is not just another Nollywood movie, but a universal flick that reflects our individual and collective dreams. You should go and see it.
Ibrahim Sheme is a writer and blogger based in Abuja