Old Nollywood makes a re-entrance in Lionheart, Genevieve Nnaji’s directorial debut

Nigeria’s Nollywood has come a long way from the low budget, poorly produced, and over-the-top acting and soundtracks which were the main features of what was popularly known as home videos. Started as an avenue for filmmakers to sell their movies after the crumble of Nigerian cinemas, it saw the rise of A-list actors including Pete Edochie, Genevieve Nnaji, Ramsey Nouah, and Omotola Jalade-Ekeinde.

Things began to changed in 2004 when this first era of Nollywood paved way for newer faces, due in part, to a ban by film marketers. Despite the cheesy special effects, weird camera angles and easy-to-see plot lines they were known for, however, there has been a growing appreciation for the aesthetics of the Nollywood of the 90s with accounts like Nolly Babes on Instagram sharing nostalgic memories of movies and more recently, Yung Nollywood on Twitter, an account with more than 12, 000 followers which shares memes and increases appreciation for what the industry was able to achieve in its early years.

Now, with the cinema culture improving and Nollywood productions taking on bigger budgets, Veteran actress Genevieve Nnaji is about to make her directorial debut with a veteran star-studded cast including the likes of Nkem Owoh, Pete Edochie, Kanayo O. Kanayo, and Onyeka Onwenu.

Lionheart, which is due to make it’s world premiere at the upcoming Toronto International Film Festival, takes the saying, “family and business don’t mix” to a test. “Running a company can be challenging,” the synopsis reads, “especially if you are a female in a male-dominated industry. Looking to prove her worth, Adaeze Obiagu (Genevieve Nnaji) steps up to the challenge when her father, Chief Ernest Obiagu (Pete Edochie), is forced to take a step back due to health issues. Ironically, he appoints his crude and eccentric brother, Godswill (Nkem Owoh), instead to run the company with his young daughter. Complications arise when they discover that the family business is in dire financial straits and both Adaeze and Godswill try to save the company in their own way to crazy and often hilarious results.”

The veteran comically tackles sexism that is all too familiar in the workplace in the film while highlighting the challenge of honouring one’s family while drumming up the courage to strike out on her own.

Nnaji, who is also the executive producer, explains that the film is an expression of her “creative interpretation of storytelling”: “Lionheart’ is the beginning of a journey to explore and express my creative interpretation of story-telling, particularly African stories. Africa is a possessor of the most compelling stories as yet untold, and we are determined to tell our stories, our way, through our voices, to the world”.