“Netflix goes to Nollywood”- this phrase comes in courtesy of the streaming networks recent acquisition of “Lionheart”, a directorial debut by Genevieve Nnaji who has in the past cemented her place in the “Nollywood wall of fame” as an illustrious actress. With the acquisition of Lionheart by Netflix it gives further credence to the notion that streaming services afford wide audiences a chance to sample overlooked pockets of world cinema.
“Lionheart” comes to us at a time when the Nigerian movie industry; Nollywood, has quickly began to garner the world’s attention to its products, ranging from movies like Ayo Makuns (AY) ” 30 days in Atlanta” which as of 2017 made the Guinness World Records as one of the films with the highest domestic gross in the territories of Bollywood, Nollywood and Hollywood. Kemi Adetiba’s “King of boys” which is currently grossed at 200 million naira since its release in late 2018. “Lionheart” is reported to have been acquired by the streaming giants Netflix for about $3.8 million which hits 1.3 Billion Naira ( all credit to our messed up economy).
Just three years after her first award-winning feature film, ‘Road to Yesterday’, Nollywood screen goddess, Genevieve Nnaji has returned with her sophomore feature, Lionheart, starring a slew of Nollywood greats – Pete Edochie, Onyeka Onwenu, Nkem Owoh, Chika Okpala aka Zebrudaya, Kanayo O Kanayo as well as music star Phyno and award-winning young actress, Jemima Osunde. The movie “Lionheart” not only comes in as Genevieve Nnajis directorial debut but also a debut for Nollywood movies on the streaming giants platform; Netflix.
“Lionheart” made its worldwide debut on Netflix on Friday, January 4, 2019, it gave many Americans and subscribers around the world a taste of Nigerian cinema. As soon as the movie was released by Netflix i just had to see it and that i did, courtesy of my ever supportive friend Ese, who let me use her Netflix account to view it. ( I know guys, I’ll go subscribe for my own account)
The film is based in Enugu, Nigeria, and the dialogue often jumps between English and Igbo. In “Lionheart,” Nnaji plays Adaeze, the logistics director of a family transportation business that is working to win a critical state contract. Her father, Chief Ernest Obiagu (Pete Edochie), publicly praises Adaeze’s abilities at the pitch meeting — then suffers an apparent (but nonfatal) heart attack on the spot as a result she must work with her uncle Godswill (Nkem Owoh), to save the company from bankruptcy, Nkem owoh’s entrance scene is by far one of the funniest scenes in the entire movie, it also places weight on the theistic perceptions Africans have as a way of resolving lifes problems. His first appearance comes in as he leads morning praise and worship at the board room, to him it is perceived as a prerequisite to starting the days venture if true success is desired. But as a clock ticks down on settling the company’s debts with an unncrupulous competitor (Kanayo O. Kanayo) circling,Godswill’s brash, transactional style meshes well with Adaeze’s measured approach.
“Lionheart” is only partly a movie about how a woman takes charge of a company in a sexist society. Although the film’s description implied a focus on a feminist perspective on business, it lacked any real exploration of the subject. It also failed to have any feminist ideals. For example, a man still ended up solving the company’s bankruptcy problem and essentially saving the day. Along the way, “Lionheart” offers sidelong observations about the importance of preserving a family legacy; the need for comity among Nigeria’s classes and ethnic groups; and the wisdom of older generations, even when change is necessary. It is globally minded filmmaking that is also comfortingly familiar.
Aside from the storyline, the performances by the actors and actresses made the film more enjoyable. Nnaji is an experienced actress and does a wonderful job portraying a hard-working woman trying to keep her family business alive. Although there is no major character arc, Nnaji’s character does progress as she learns not to give up and to broaden her perspective. When all hope for Adaeze seems to be lost, she realizes how far she’s come and that it would be pointless to quit climbing.
Besides Nnaji’s performance, there were other features that kept me watching. The wide shots of Nigerian landscapes and cities were beautiful, displaying acres of bright green trees clustered together in one shot, then a long shot of the city bustling with businesses and people in the next. There was a constant move from long shots to close-ups, and the cinematographer used the camera to follow the characters’ actions. I can hardly recall a moment when there were any static shots. Another area where the film edged out were the tidbits of humor scattered throughout the dialogue. Although the humor is simple, it keeps the tone light. The humor seemed minimal, as it often consisted of jokes that made fun of other characters, but it kept the film from being a flop, because viewers could get a few good laughs out of it.
I would say the movie would have an average score on the global scale given that there are still lot to be explored by both the directors and the script writers. I’d easily give the movie a 5.7 rating. Trust me, That’s a good score for a movie which is the directors debut to the “big screens”. The advent of Lionheart to our screens definitely tells a lot about Nollywood as an emerging force in the global arena.