WHILE many people have described 2011 as a year that gave us “new songs, new moments and sweet memories” that will see us through to 2012. For the Nigerian movie industry, the outgoing year remains a mixed bag of woes and laughter writes BENJAMIN NJOKU
The year started off on a good note, holding out promises for the practitioners but thereafter dashing them to ashes. In fact, the industry has not stopped weeping over the loss of some of its pioneer actors to the cold hands of death.
The likes of Ishola Durojaiye a.k.a Alasari, Ashley Nwosu, Donald Okoli, Yemisi Eleto, Geraldine Ekeocha, Christy Essien-Igbokwe and Sam Loco-Efe were amongst the thespians who bowed out of the stage in the most painful way.
A popular Yoruba producer and actor, Alasari gave up the ghost in March, after the injuries he sustained in an auto-crash on his way to Abeokuta. He was going there to promote his new movie “Omo night club” which he co produced with Gemini Films and Marketing.
But he never returned. His death shook the industry to its very foundation, just as the death of actor Ashley Nwosu, left an open- wound in the hearts of his admirers, family members and industry operators.
Nwosu died in July, after a brief illness. The respected actor who hailed from Abia State had earlier slipped into a coma, at the Military hospital in Yaba, Lagos, where he was receiving treatment for severe liver problems. He was buried on the 21st of September, in his home town in Umuahia, amid tears and grief.
And famous Sam Loco too. He lived all his life on screen and stage but died mysteriously on August 7, 2011, in his hotel room in Owerri, while shooting a new movie. His funeral rites, observed in Benin, were an elaborate three-day celebration of his life and times. The industry is still mourning his lose…
Then Donald Okoli, a popular film maker and script writer of great repute. He died on Friday, September 23, at the Yaba Military Hospital, Lagos, after a brief illness, at the age of 38.
One remembers that night of tributes orgainsed in his honour by his colleagues in the industry, at the popular celebrity hangout, O’jez, in Surulere, when the artistes who graced the sombre outing , especially the quartet of Stephanie Okereke, Oby Edozieh, Ngozi Ezeonu and Chioma Toplis, respectively broke down in tears while paying tributes to the deceased.
Also, still fresh in our memory today is the demise of actress Geraldine Ekeocha who died on Sunday, September 4, 2011, after a fibroid operation in a hospital in Enugu.
A talented Enugu-based actress who featured in over 80 movies and several soap operas with many of them still running on air, Ekeocha died at the age of 57, leaving her seven children and the industry operators in perpetual grief.
The most recent tragedy that struck the industry was that of the demise of Azubike Joseph Udensi, a marketer who died in an auto crash on the 24th of October, 2011. Udensi whose film marketing and distribution company, Consolidated Fortunes distributed most wave-making movies in the formative years of Nollywood including “Without Love”, “Onome”, “Tears for Love, met his untimely death while he was travelling to his village. The bus he was travelling in collded with a luxury bus killing 15 passengers on board.
Stars who escaped from death
There are a couple of Nollywood practitioners who are still battling to survive one form of sickness or the other. It would recalled that actress Temitayo Odueke almost lost her life to a strange illness, while Prince Ifeanyi Dike arrived Nigeria aboard Emirate Airline on 15th of September from New Delhi, India after a successful kidney transplant.
Actor Kayode Odumosu otherwise known as Pa Kasumu also battled a liver-related ailment just as veteran Enebeli Elebuwa is still recuperating from stroke at St. Luke’s hospital, Sabo, Yaba, Lagos. Actress Uche Jombo and Chika Ike alike survived auto crashes that would have resulted in another big blow to the indsutry.
Highlights on Nollywood
Meanwhile, despite all these aforementioned woes, the industry recorded a significant progress in the area of new innovation and movie productions. Funke Akindele returned to the reckoning with the premiere of her block-buster, “Return of Jenifa.”
Also, Lancelot Imasuen’s epic film, ‘Adesuwa’ which premiered last month in London, was adjudged a masterpiece, just as Niji Akanni’s ‘Aramotu” which won this year’s AMAA Best Nigerian Film and Best Costume Design, also recorded another victory at the just concluded African International Film Festival, held in Lagos.
The film won the Best Feature Film prize, considered to be the most coveted award of the whole lot. There are films like “Victims of the Society”, produced by Elvis Chucks and of course, Uche Jombo’s trilogy “Damage”, which hit the cinemas both in Nigeria and beyond few months ago.
The duo of Emem Isong and Ini Edo equally premiered their much talked ‘I’ll Take My Chances’ movie in Akwa-Ibom State, and are currently putting plans together to premiere the movie in Lagos.
Also two award-winning movies produced in Itsekiri language “Oma tsen-tsen and Suara La” by comrade Alex Eyengho premiered in Warri, Delta State. It was the first of its kind and had Governor Emmanuel Uduaghan of Delta State in attendance. The governor endorsed the rebirth of the Itsekiri industry.
Other movies that made waves during the outgoing year were “Two Brides and a Baby”produced by the model cum actress, Blessing Egbe, Öbi Emelonye’s “Mirror Boy”, Monalisa China’s “Kiss and Tell”amongst others.
Actress Mercy Johnson tied the nuptial knots with her spouse in what was considered the most controversial wedding of the year. Actress Monalisa Chinda’s ex-husband, Dejo Richard re-married after divorcing the actress.
While pint-sized actor, Chinedu ‘Aki’ Ikedieze got married to the love of his life, Nneoma, and their marriage was described as the “marriage of the year.”But when it was time for the couple to say “Ï do” they sneaked into one of the Redeemed churches, located somewhere in Ogba area of Ikeja, to perform the ritual.
However, one of the newest marriages in town at the moment is that of Oby Edozieh, who secretly married very popular 90’s singer Alex O at the Ikoyi Registry penultimate Friday.
Those whose marriages crashed in 2011
Actor Fred Aseroma divorced his wife, Chika Ike’s marriage also hit the rocks. More prominent and shocking among the marriage break-ups in 2011 is that of actress Kate Henshaw to her British hubby, Nuttal. The marriage lasted 12 years before hitting the rocks. Actress Moji Olaiya was also not lucky with her marriage.
Awards by Nollywood stars
This year saw Nollywood stars winning a couple of awards within and outside the shores of the country. Locally, such awards for 2011 included the African Movie Academy Awards(AMAA), Best of Nollywood Awards(BON), Future Awards, and the City People Arards.
Internationally, there was the NAFCA awards which saw Nollywood stars carting away a lot of prizes. Susan Peters won Best Supporting Actress as well as Nse Ikpe-Etim at the event, which held in North Carolina.
But the big prize was won by Mercy Johnson Okojie recently as she clinched the 2011 Most Outstanding Actress award at the third edition of prestigious Afro-Australian Music and Movies Awards, AAMMA, which held at the Enmore Theatre in Sydney, Australia.
Cocaine and other incidents
The dust raised by the arrest cum release of the comic-actor, Babatunde Omidina, popularly known as Baba Suwe, is still lingering. He was in NDLEA custody for allegedly swallowing substances suspected to be cocaine. He was later released after what was dubbed ‘drama of the year.’
Yoruba actor, Ayo Badmus was pummeled at a political rally in Oshodi, as well as Jim Iyke who was arrested and ordered out of his car, in Abuja, for driving an automobile with tinted glasses.