The Best Performances of 2022

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I’ve been encumbered with the brutal task of trying to summarize the year for Nollywood in a couple of words. I could simply call it good or bad, slap on a block of decent prose to back my stance, and just move on, but that wouldn’t be fair. 2022 has been quite the year. It’s been a fine buffet of the good, the bad, the shocking and the very interesting. The idea behind evaluating a year is to spotlight and document progress. The go-to outcome measures are usually the quality of the films released across the year, box office performances and, sometimes, critical attention. But I think the best way to monitor our progress is to step out of our bubble of self-congratulation or hypercriticism and mark where we stand in the broader context of global cinema and cultural impact.

Perhaps I’m getting ahead of myself, but I’d like to think the ultimate goal of filmmaking, like any storytelling endeavor, is to share a story with people with the hope of getting a response. In most cases, the sharing starts within your immediate setting, but there’s always that itch to see what people who think nothing about you feel about your story. That’s how I choose to evaluate Nollywood, and I’ll declare 2022 a success. Simply because there’s finally an acute awareness that we’re not in a bubble anymore, that there’s a broader scheme, and that there are people from all over the world watching with keen interest. This has led us to tinker with thematic preoccupations, structure, genre biases, language, originality and identity. It’s been refreshing watching us scramble for answers. This rat race has led to accidents but it’s also yielded a number of gems. A lot has been published about the films and directors of the year but we at the film rats club will be focusing on the performers. Some of our members fell in love with a number of artists over the year and they have written about them:

Echelon Mbadiwe/Kamso

Echelon Mbadiwe as Kamso in Yahoo+

“I saw Echelon Mbadiwe in two films this year: Yahoo+ directed by Ebuka Njoku and The Way Things Happen by Ugochukwu Onuoha & Dika Ofoma. In both films, Mbadiwe delivers stellar performances, taking already noteworthy material to new heights.

In The Way Things Happen, she plays the romantic partner whose boyfriend suddenly drops dead playing football one evening. Echelon is able to not only embody the grief that consequently shocks her character into a scary silence, her performance also grounds the film, offering the audience an opening of sorts into the film’s atmosphere and themes.

However, it is her turn as Kamso in Yahoo+, one of the year’s best thrillers, that is the standout performance. In an essay, I described Yahoo+ as a brilliant film anchored by “performances that crackle with energy.”

There’s a particular scene with Mbadiwe and Somadina Adinma where the latter, who plays her boyfriend, discovers that she is one of the ‘runs’ girls he and his friend have decided to use for rituals. This scene is one of my favorite scenes in Nollywood this year. The pair play off each other really well here, pulling the audience into their headspace which at that moment is filled with confusion, regret, love, anger and disappointment. As Kamso, Mbadiwe is able to switch easily from the studious and reserved aspect of the character to the feisty heroine of the love story to an independent and proactive woman navigating the complex world Ebuka Njoku creates in Yahoo+.” – Joseph Osamudiamen

Nengi Adoki as Joy in Juju Stories

Nengi Adoki/Joy

“In CJ Obasi’s romantic Suffer The Witch, the third film in the 2022 anthology Juju Stories by the Surreal 16 collective, Nengi Adoki plays Joy, a young lady obsessed with her classmate. Nengi’s performance as Joy puts her in a rare class of performers working in Nigeria today. She’s gentle, alluring, creepy and memorable. Her manic grin is bewitching and it creates a suffocating feeling of unease that undergirds the film.” – ‘Chukwu Martin

“Easily the most memorable performance of all the films in the anthology. Nengi was phenomenally creepy. I can’t see anyone else in that role.” – Korede Azeez

Sola Sobowale/Awarun

Sola Sobowale as Awarun in Anikulapo

“Awarun is a powerful woman. She’s slippery in her ways, a man eater, and seduces men with a promise of prosperity. In no time she spots Saro, a new prey, and is quick to pin him. Nobody is thanking Sola Sobowale for this, but she delivers soundly in a performance not many thought she was capable of. She made Awarun interesting and lit up the screen whenever the camera landed on the many interesting stories hidden by her facial expressions.” – Hafeez Oluwa

“It was nice to see Sola Sobowale in a role different from what she’d normally do and she delivered!” – Korede Azeez

Kelechi Udegbe/Officer Magnus

Kelechi Udegbe as Officer Magnus in Collision Course

“Kelechi is an eclectic performer. He’s spontaneous and is always attending to the disparate needs of the many characters he’s portrayed. In Collision Course, he plays a frustrated police officer who accidentally discharges his weapon on a civilian. Kelechi puts on a show. He juggles nuanced choices with relatable perks. With Magnus, Kelechi cements his place as one of the best in the game.” – ‘Chukwu Martin

“The film may have split the audience and critics but if there’s something we can and should agree on, it’s Kelechi’s stunning performance as Corporal. We have all seen this policeman on the street and he delivers him to us in the most authentic way possible. This is Kelechi’s finest work yet.” – Hafeez Oluwa

Genoveva Umeh/Timeyin

Genoveva Umeh as Timeyin Ademola in Blood Sisters

“Once again, Umeh reminds me of why I fell in love with her talent years ago during a performance of her play “Home” at Lagos Fringe. She works so nicely through multiple layers to portray a troubled young person who we offer our sympathy even before we realize it. Genoveva is a true performer at heart.” – Uche Chika Elumelu

Toyin Oshinaike/Omonigho

Tosin Oshinaike as Omonigho in Otiti

“Toyin Oshinaike plays Omonigho in Otiti, a film by Ema Edosio Deleen and this is not even his best work. We’ve seen him embody many characters, even ones similar to Omonigho. The film follows Otiti as she reunites with her sick father who had abandoned her and her mother when she was a child. Toyin Oshinaike plays her Uncle, the head of house taking care of his now ailing kinsman and Otiti’s father. Here, he is caring, strict, cultural and a typical patriarch. This is not the first time we’ve seen Toyin play a forceful character with mastery. But still, he gives so much truth to his performance here that we know that Toyin and whoever he may have played in the past is no more. Omonigho, here, is a completely independent entry into Toyin’s rich tapestry of portrayals on screen.” – ‘Chukwu Martin

Tobi Bakre/Akin

Tobi Bakre as Akin in Brotherhood

“People often forget that delivering a believable action film performance takes some hard work. Tobi as Akin is probably the most convincing anyone has been behind a gun in a Nollywood film. He owned the character, breathe life into it and lived it.” – Hafeez Oluwa

Temi Fosudo/Sanmi

Temiloluwa Fosudo as Sanmi in The Griot

“Known for his unique way of portraying characters that are “still waters that run deep”, Fosudo sizzles in this outing as the villain. His choices are as realistic as they are malicious and are at no point whatsoever boring. His storytelling skills portraying a “storyteller” shine through beautifully.” – Uche Chika Elumelu

Share your favourite performances of 2022 with us in the comments.


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