NET SPECIAL FEATURE: Ghanaian actresses take over Nollywood

Posted on September 23 2013 , at 05:33 pm
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By Victor Enengedi, Senior Correspondent

Jackie Appiah, Yvonne Nelson, Juliet Ibrahim and Nadia Buhari are top Ghanian actresses giving their Nigerian counterparts a run for their money.

Nollywood, the Nigerian movie industry is gradually being taken over by foreigners. And the infiltration is from one major source: Ghana.

NET investigations revealed that over the past seven months, Ghanaian actors, producers and directors have grabbed over 60 percent of the total market share. Although many are yet to comprehend the impact of this development, those who know, told Nigerian Entertainment Today over the weekend that it has very potent pros and cons.

A look at the movies featured on many Nollywood websites in the last six months, confirms that Ghanaian actresses, whether on Ghollywood or Nollywood productions, have dominated. Out of 184 movies featured on Nollytuned.com between April and August, 2013, Ghanaian actresses have led in at least 93 productions. Almost the same result is obtained if you check through iRokotv, ibakatv and Nollywood.com.

At retail stores, one will also find out that films with Ghanaian actresses are getting more patronage than the ones with Nigerian acts. Sarah Obiorah, a retail store owner at Olaniya Ademola street in Surulere, Lagos told NET that a lot of her customers have become quite taken to the Ghanaian acts. ‘Different customers have different preferences, but recently, a lot of them always ask if Yvonne Nelson or Jackie Appiah have new films out. Then some of the ladies always like to buy a John Dumelo or a Majid Michel movie’, Obiorah says.

Only a decade ago, Ghanaian movies hardly sold in Nigeria while Nigerian movies were blockbusters in Ghana. Today, the Ghanaian movie industry has come a long way parading some of the most beautiful actresses in Africa. At first-ever Africa Magic Viewers’ Choice Awards, AMVCA, Ghana’s Jackie Appiah took home the coveted award for the ‘Best Actress in a Lead Role’. Appiah again on September 14, was awarded ‘Best Actress’ at the Nollywood and African Film Critics Awards (NAFCA).

Ghana’s Jackie Appiah took home the coveted award for the ‘Best Actress in a Lead Role’ in the first ever Africa Magic Viewers’ Choice Awards.

Yvonne Nelson and Nadia Buari have become household names in the Nigerian movie industry and have also become very much sought after by top Nigerian producers and directors. Juliet Ibrahim another rising star, is now a popular face at most Nigerian events.

Sam Onanuga, a Nollywood script writer confirms this emerging trend as he blames in on the reluctance of the established acts to partake in more films.  ‘It is not surprising that some of the Ghanaian actresses are becoming more popular and are getting more roles than our own actresses. They are more serious about this job and are ready to do as many movies as they can but their Nigerian counterparts are busy walking red carpets at events based on past glory’.

In the last few years, it seems that the established Nigerian actresses are more interested in chasing Hollywood pipe dreams than feature in indigenous movies. How many movies have Genevieve, Omotola and Stephanie done lately? They are chasing after ‘waka-pass’ roles in Hollywood’, Onanuga told Nigerian Entertainment Today.

In the last one year, some of the established acts have reduced the number of films that they appear in to an average of three in a year, when on the other hand, their Ghanaian counterparts would have done an average of eight and sometimes produce too, like Yvonne Nelson has done with ‘Single and Married‘ and ‘House of Gold.

Yvonne Nelson, Majid Michel
Yvonne Nelson and Majid Michel – two Ghanaian sweethearts who have found favour with Nigerian fans.

‘The movie industry works with different modalities‘, says Nnamdi Nwokeji, a member of the Lagos State chapter of the Film and Video Producers and Marketers Association of Nigeria (FVPMAN) ‘The consumers look out for the faces that appear on the cover of the CD before they buy. When you are not seen for a long time, they slowly begin to lose interest in you’.

Actresses of Ghanaian origin have somehow capitalized on this gap to win the hearts of movie lovers. Their industry has already identified them for the appeal they have in Nigeria and have used that as leverage to push their movies into the homes of movie loving Nigerians.

When NET reached out to award winning Ghanaian film director, Frank Fiifi Gharbin, he no doubt expressed his satisfaction with the development. The 2010 Ghana Movie Awards Best Director said, ‘There shouldn’t be much fuss about Ghanaian actresses in Nollywood. For us it is a good development. It shows that our actors and our movies are beginning to gain prominence and are being accepted worldwide’.

In her opinion, award winning producer and CEO of Royal Arts Academy, Emem Isong thinks it does the industry more good than harm. ‘I totally disagree that Ghanaian actresses have taken over. Meanwhile, there’s nothing wrong with having a few actors from other African countries appearing in lead roles every now and then. It fosters unity and integration and that’s not a bad thing.’

CEO of Royal Arts Academy, Emem Isong thinks Ghana invasion does the industry more good than harm

Apparently, Nollywood is much renowned worldwide and so it is understandable for the average Ghanaian actress, after achieving much in her industry to aspire for recognition in Nollywood which is ranked as the second largest film industry in the world in terms of number of annual film productions.

NET investigations have shown that there is indeed a vacuum in the present Nollywood. Talented new actresses have been lacking in the last few years, many pundits say; with many opining the focus has been on building celebrity rather than capacity and skills.

If you ask an average Nigerian who his or her best actress is, they will still mention the likes of Omotola Jalade Ekeinde and Genevieve Nnaji, whereas these actresses hardly have new movies out.

More Nigerian actresses are looking beyond Nollywood to survive, as their take home pay is abysmal. So many are turning down roles and using their new found fame to focus on personal businesses. While many are surviving on brand endorsements, some now run fashion houses and a few unconventional businesses, not forgetting a few who have also tried to diversify into the music industry.

Whatever happened to the new comers you may ask? Is it that they lack the talent and the appeal?

Biola Adewale, a movie critic and consultant opines that Nollywood as an industry in recent years has failed to create an enabling environment for new talents to grow. ‘There’s so much nepotism in the industry. People don’t get role by credit anymore, how can real talents then be discovered? Now it seems like only those involved in scandals that seem to make the headlines. We know the likes of Nuella Njubuigbo, Anita Joseph and Susan Peters more for the scandals they have had than for movies they have acted’

Many at times, producers have been accused of having preference for pretty faces rather than talent in their choice of actresses. In most cases, these pretty faces are nothing but just pretty faces with little or no talent.

Reality shows like Amstel Malta Box Office (AMBO) and Next Movie Star were meant to discover the next Nollywood stars. So far, not many of the products of these competitions have made it to the mainstream..

Besides OC Ukeje who was named ‘Best Actor in a Lead Role’ at AMVCA 2013, other AMBO winners; Azizat Sadiq (2005) (who has now turned to music), Bhaira McWizu (2007), Wale Ojo (2008) and Ivie Okujaiye (2009) are still finding it hard to make a strong presence in the highly competitive industry.

Same can be said of the Next Movie Star winners and contestants who apart from enjoying the largesse that were doled out to them when they participated in the show and the attendant movie role, have not made any significant mark.

So what makes the Ghanaian actresses tick? Ghanaian producer, Paul Adjei tells us, ‘Ghanaian actresses are a lot sexier and talented as well. Apart from enjoying a good movie, the fans want to see their stars looking good and trendy. I guess that is some of the factors that are working for us Ghanaians.’

Are the Ghanaian over-celebrated more for their good looks than for their acting?

‘Ghanaian actresses seem to be over celebrated‘, says renowned movie producer, Zeb Ejiro. ‘Yes they have done a few movies, but that is not to say that they are more sought after than an Uche Jombo or Rita Dominic. Unfortunately, there is nowhere for one to actually get an accurate record for who has done the most film or whose film has sold the most, so let’s just leave it at that.’

Star actress, Nse Ikpe Etim however refuses to see a difference in nationalities of actors. She says, ‘As an actor, I try not try not to define people by where they are from. If an actor is good, then he is good. If he is bad, then he is bad. If some producer prefers to cast a particular actor in his movie, it may be based on the actors ability to interpret the role and not because of where he or she comes from.’

For some time now, the industry has been plagued with internal wrangling. Intra and inter association bickering and tribal sentiments which has left the industry divided into Nollywood, Kannywood and the Association of Nigerian Theatre Arts Practitioners (ANTP) led  Yoruba movie industry-all following tribal etymology.

These intrigues have denied Nollywood the capability to function as one strong united front.

Nollywood director, Moses Inwang says his focus is on creating a world class movie regardless of the cast. ‘I think that whoever is playing a lead role in a movie shouldn’t matter. We have seen tons of horrible movies with a star studded cast. So if a Ghanaian gets the role, so be it. All I’m interested in is creating a world class movie.’

In many cases, viewers look out for much more from a movie than a good actor and a good story. ‘When I watch a movie, I want my favourite actors to not only be able to act, but to also look great and that is why I would still love Genevieve, not because she’s the best actress in my book, but she certainly knows how to keep it trendy,’ says Temitayo  Oleh, an ardent movie lover.

Yvonne Nelson has transformed into a household name in Nollywood. When her movie ‘House of Gold’ premiered in Nigeria, it was definitely a huge success. The success was also replicated when fans troop to the cinemas in the following weeks to watch the movie.

Not only has Jackie Appiah been clinching many of the prestigious awards, she has starred in over 20 Nollywood productions in the last few years making her the most featured Ghanaian actress in Nolywood with movies like ‘Victim’ and ‘Passionate Liar‘.

Talented and sexy Nadia Buari has the highest fan base in Nigeria and that’s as much as what it takes to score a lead cast in much of Nollywood’s production. The 31year-old actress who is currently enjoying a controversial romance with Nigeria’s Jim Iyke, in the last few years has managed to maintain her place at the top.

Whether they be over-celebrated or not, one thing that cannot be in doubt is that these Ghanaian ladies have left a lasting impression in the hearts of Nigerians and for one reason or the other, movie lovers have come to love to see their faces on their TV screens.

‘Life is about competition and so are careers and other things. If you think you are the best in whatever you do, and then you sit back and relax without improving yourself, someday you will be surprised by how far ahead others may have overtaken  you, and then you will be the one playing catch up’, Adewale adds.

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