Following the commercial and critical success of Kemi Adetiba’s crime drama King of boys in 2018, Nollywood began to see the opportunities presented by crime films.
●15th March 2023
Some years ago, Nollywood was known to churn out dramas and epics, some of which recently got criticised for teaching youths negative things such as the practice of money ritual. With the success of The Wedding Party in 2016, there was a migration to romance films shortly after, and this has lasted till even the present day. However, more attention is recently being paid to crime dramas and thrillers in the industry.
Following the commercial and critical success of Kemi Adetiba’s crime drama King of boys in 2018, Nollywood began to see the opportunities presented by crime films. And they milked it: In 2022 alone, many mainstream Nollywood films and series were crime-based — Blood Sisters, Brotherhood, The Set Up 2, Crime And Justice Lagos, Diiche and Far From Home amongst others. This year, Shanty Town premiered in January and reminded the Nigerian audience that she loves crime more than she loves to admit; and perhaps this owes to the fact that crime is woven in every fibre of the Nigerian experience. While the perpetrators of the crime might be government officials (King of Boys) or underworld kingpins (Shanty Town), Nollywood also shines the torch on how normal people like a bride and her best friend (Blood sisters), a mother (Wura) and a desperate student (Far From Home) can also find themselves caught in the web of crime.
The severity of crime in Nigeria is such that it is no respecter of age, gender or social class. In King of Boys and its sequel limited-series King of Boys: The Return of The King, Eniola Salami (Sola Sobowale) is in her 50s or 60s, and would stop at nothing to be in the seat of power. In Showmax’s Wura, a middle-aged woman, Wura (Scarlet Gomez), kills and steals in order to build her diamond empire. Sarah (Ini Dima-Okojie) and Kemi (Nancy Isime) in Blood Sisters, we suspect to be in their late twenties or early thirties. Far From Home exposes us to teenagers like Ishaya (Mike Afolarin) who do not mind doing illegal activities in order to pursue their dreams.
The Nigerian audience is ready for any type of genre, as long as it is properly executed and entertaining enough. A problem some of our films have is the failure to tailor the stories to the reality of the average Nigerian. In trying to be entertaining, many of these crime films mostly imitate western films, without care for attention to details. For example, Shanty Town got criticism for having an action sequence that confused the audience, rather than contributing to the story. These films are quick to show us choreographed action sequences, even though they are not necessarily how Nigerians would react in these situations. This is one, out of many, that needs to be closely examined.
While it is not a bad thing for crime to be the common factor in these films, rigidity and stereotypes should be avoided in telling these stories. Film is an art, and art should not be put in a box. Crime cannot be avoided in our films, but that doesn’t mean Nollywood filmmakers should exhaust ways to get creative while milking the opportunities provided by the genre. The audience can only hope that these films don’t follow old tropes whilst looking for “the next big thing” to jump on.
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