A film director has a style, and after multiple projects, a pattern is detectable, even when working across different genres and eras. Their influence, depending on the kind of project, can be seen and felt across all departments. Thus, a film’s success or failure can duly be ascribed to their efforts.
Our 2021 list comprises new faces, an indie collective, a veteran, and one that is mostly known in the mainstream fold. Not going by the level of output (quantity), but by the cohesion and success of elements felt in their respective movies, here are our directors of the year:
5. Biodun Stephen (Breaded Life)
Ikeade: Unarguably the most popular amongst the bunch, she directed Breaded Life to critical success, commanding strong performances from her two leads, actors who find themselves on our performers of the year list, the evolving Timini Egbuson and the chameleon-like Bimbo Ademoye. Consequently, she became the first female director for an Anthill Studios production, helming Progressive Tailors Club, loved by audiences, regardless of its negative critical reception. Bidoun Stephen would crown off her year with the hotly anticipated Play Networks’ remake of a beloved classic, Aki and Pawpaw, set for cinemas in December.
4. Mildred Okwo (La Femme Anjola)
Olamide: Mildred Okwo is one of the few traditional and conservative directors we have in the industry. Constantly pairing up with Tunde Babalola, she points to an obvious but overlooked aspect of being Nigerian in The Meeting, and with 2021’s neo-noir La Femme Anjola, she questions a Lagosian’s reality at the hands of love.
3. Surreal16 Collective: Abba T. Makama, Michael Omonua, and C.J. ‘Fiery’ Obasi (Juju Stories)
Olamide: Unarguably the pick for the second-best Nollywood film of the year (oops, spoiler). But unlike the Esiri brothers, we have known these hardworking directors for years now. Juju Stories, a critically acclaimed anthology, is another testament to their ingenuity and recognition of the Nigerian cultural nuance.
2. Tunde Kelani (Ayinla)
Olamide: Kelani is undergoing a redefinition phase as a director. Known for his culturally meticulous works, with Ayinla, he has moved to a more playful note, albeit without losing sight of the tragedy of fate he has always held on to in his filmography.
- Esiri Brothers: Chuko and Arie Esiri (Eyimofe)
Olamide: Eyimofe took us all by surprise. Prior to the film, we had practically heard nothing of its directors, Arie and Chuko Esiri. But here we are, five categories in the bag at AMAA, numerous festivals around the world toured, and we just might have a pair of superstar directors on our hands.
Join the conversation: Share your personal ranking in the comments section or on social media and don’t forget to tag us or use the hashtag #BestOfNollywood2021.
Join our Instagram live discussion on Friday, 3rd of December 2021 by 7pm, as we break down our choices with some other Nollywood enthusiasts.