Genevieve Nnaji launched her first directed movie, Lionheart,which is currently streaming on Netflix. Let me tell you, it is EVERYTHING! Pleasantly surprised is a genuine understatement. SPOILER WARNING!!
For a few years, I’ve been avoiding avoiding both Nollywood & Ghallywood movies. Much like my fine BAE Genevieve said in the clip above, I felt stifled by the West African movie industry. The story lines were the same, characters were never challenged; the most important reason I swore off our films was because we weren’t authentic in every sense of the word, and I noticed the shift to imitating Western ideals that didn’t even make sense for our respective cultures.
With that being said, here are my thoughts concerning the movie.
Realistic Female Lead & Struggles
Adaeze, Genevieve’s character embodies grace and elegance throughout the movie. She realizes she’s a woman in a male dominated field, and has a lot to prove – to herself, her family, her coworkers, and her naysayers. Her character embraces grace in multiple circumstances, not as fragile or weak. Adaeze maintains posture in the face of adversity. She exercises grace where necessary. I think it is important that the movie’s storyline strategically highlights feminine strength.
Speaking of more realistic storylines, I think it was very important that Genevieve’s character faced some conflict with sexual harassment. Her character faces an internal and external struggle with something a lot of women face in the workplace: fighting with harassment or advancing her career. She chose the more difficult path and, as a result ended up prevailing in the the end. I think this is something that we need to see more of.
Listen. I LOVED the family dynamics between the characters. It was refreshing to see genuine love and support towards a common goal. Nkem Owoh(Godswill) and Genevieve’s character were serious goals.
We saw something we hardly see in the industry: genuine support. Although Godswill was the overseer of company affairs, we saw him take more of a back-seat and fully support Adaeze; a concept unheard of. Godwill cares for Adaeze and only hold her best interests at heart; even if that means stepping back so she may lead.
A father’s love. Mehn. I got teary eyed in this scene with Pete Edochie(Ernest) and Genevieve. He spoke life into Adaeze at a very pivotal point when hope was lost. This is another narrative that you don’t see often in the industry. It was refreshing to see a healthy exchange of love between a father and a daughter.
Ms. Nnaji held back no punches in showing this all star cast! She managed to draw in power houses that she starred with in her early acting days in the good ol’ 90s. I watched the movie with my mom and sister, we literally gasped and cheered anytime we saw a character that reminded us of great classics.
I saw Kanayo O. Kanayo and immediately thought “ahn ahn, I wonder who will be sacrificed for blood money today.” I was pleasantly disappointed to see that did NOT pack pieces of someone’s flesh into a red fabric. He still carried his patented shady and snakey ways though.
Oswofiaaa!! also known as her uncle,Nkem Owoh(Godswill) popped up in the scene in a way on he can. his comic timing and punches are still serving hearty laugher decades later. I liVE!!!
Lessons & Changing Narratives
I could go on and on about the lessons that were packed and the narratives that are beginning to change for the better, but I will share a few. Pete Edochie shocked everyone towards the end to help save his company. THAT fateful snack meeting with his future business partner is symbolic of unity transcending tribe and religious boundaries. The message there was unity.
I loved the authenticity in the story lines and scenes. Although the family was wealthy, they remained true to a realistic expectation of what could be expected of a family in that class. There was no fake and PAINFUL western accents; just beautifully cultural. Something even remains to be said about Adaeze’s brother, Phyno, who struggled to earn respect for his art; it was parallel to our culture.
The bothers’ unity and support is remarkable and groundbreaking. Per the usual Nollywood scripts, I expected Godswill to secretly be vying for an internal hostage takeover of his brother’s company. I expected Ernest to have a deep grudge with his brother; I definitely expected there to be some sort of ritual sacrifice in order for one to overthrow the other. That didn’t happen, as it shouldn’t. Good.
A very important part in the movie that I loved was Godswill stepping in to save a business man from being conned. This impactful act changes the narrative and expectation of Nigerians as con artist. It shows that there’s good in the world; it symbolized hope.
Comparing to the other movies in the African movie industry, Lionheart and Genevieve Nnaji definitely set the bar. Not to mention, this is the first African feature film to be acquired by Netflix; this is no small feat. You can read more about Genevieve’s journey with Lionheart, here. If more upcoming movies followed in similar footsteps to challenge the status quo, I think it’ll be revolutionary for the movie industry. The ending was a bit predictable, but that is is okay. A good ending is expected in a happy story. My family and I audibly signed in disappointment when the movie ended, we wanted to see more. Personally, that is very telling. I’m excited for the future of West African Cinema