"Last flight to Abuja", an airplane disaster thriller based on true and tragic events, is one of the major successful Nollywood releases of the past five years. The suspense-filled film, directed by the talented award-winning Obi Emelonye, campaigns for safer skies / Photo: CNN

Masters of Nollywood

The Masters of Nollywood are those powerful creative hands behind the scene who make it possible for the stars to shine. They are top-rated producers and directors whose works are celebrated around the globe.



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Interview with Tunde Kelani / Courtesy of NdaniTV

The internationally acclaimed director Tunde Kelani is the standard setter in Nollywood. His production company Mainframe Film has a reputation for quality films that stand apart in the Nigerian movie industry. The highly successful Kelani, who holds a Diploma in the Art and Technique of Filmmaking from the London International Film School, is Nigeria’s foremost and finest cinematographer. He sees his mission as the promotion of “our rich cultural heritage and moral values both within the country and the outside world at large”. According to the American scholar Bic Leu, “Kelani belongs to a new set of Nigerian directors who combine well-trained professionals with the latest technology to produce high quality films that adhere to international standards.”


One of the new trends in Nollywood is the transformation of an increasing number of actors and actresses into producers and directors. Stephanie Okereke Linus is one of those who have successfully made this transition. She is said to have inspired a new way of doing Nigerian movies and taking them to the big screens in cinemas.



Zeb and his brothers Chico and Peter have individually contributed so much to the growth of the industry with quality films which they have produced/directed over the years.

Zeb’s major hits include Domitilla, Sakobi, Nneka and The Pretty Serpent, all produced in the early years of the industry. Zeb has also done many soap operas and is currently collaborating with some foreign movie producers. He is fondly referred to as the Sheikh of Nigeria’s movie industry.



Fred Amata (one of the Amatas) and his ex-wife Emem Isong were a winning team in Nollywood before their separation and divorce several years ago

Aside from the Ejiro family, the Amata family is obviously the most renowned Nollywood dynasty. There are four actors/producers/directors from the Amata Dynasty, namely, Zack, Fred, Ruke and Jetta. The family is already producing the next generation of movie masters, with Jetta, son of Zack Amata, having staked a claim as an ace producer and director. A star in his own right, Jetta has produced and directed several blockbusters, among them Amazing Grace and Black Gold.



Kunle Afolayan is one filmmaker who started out as an actor and featured in several Yoruba and English movies. But he has received more accolades for his role as a director and producer. His eye for detail and his exceptional ability to bring his subject to life on film has earned him much well-deserved respect.

His achievement comes as no surprise being the son of the late Adeyemi Afolayan (aka Ade Love), one of the early Yoruba filmmakers who translated travelling theatre to the screen. Kunle completed his studies in accounting and started out working in a bank while doing some casual acting, before deciding to move into full-time filmmaking and taking a course at the New York Film Academy. His younger brothers, Gabriel Afolayan and Aremu Afolayan, are also trailing a similar path. Gabriel is an actor and musician while Aremu is a movie director.

Kunle’s role as a co-director in Irapada and director in Figurine were stellar performances that further raised the bar in the Nigerian movie industry. But his movie, Phone Swap, which he both directed and produced, gave him good reviews and won an African Movie Academy Award in the Best Design category in April 2012.



Teco Benson is a prolific director who has maintained a track record of excellence in the industry since he started his career in 1994 as an actor/writer. Benson is the foremost maker of action films in Nollywood today; one of his most prominent works is Explosions (2005) and his most recent is Blood in the Lagoon (2011). The multitalented film-maker debuted as a director in 1997 with Waterloo.



Photo: TFF

Obi Emelonye is one of the rising stars of Nigeria’s booming movie-making industry. Passionate and self-taught, he left behind a career in law to follow his dream of becoming a filmmaker. He achieved critical and commercial acclaim in 2011 with “The Mirror Boy,” a fantasy/adventure film released all across the African continent and the UK. He achieved further success with “Last Flight to Abuja,” a big-budget production starring many of Nollywood’s biggest names. The 81-minute long campaign film, raising attention for safer flying in Nigeria and the rest of the continent, became a box office hit in Nigeria and was shown in screens across West Africa and in London. Emelonye says Nollywood films are growing in popularity because they offer audiences a narrative they can connect to.

“There’s something I call the quintessential African voice, which has kind of given Nollywood, in spite of its qualitative problems, international attention — it’s watched across Africa, it’s watched across the world, even though they’re shot on very low quality cameras, very simplistic stories, they have a common connection with people that is great.”



After traversing the length and breadth of the music industry, Kingsley Ogoro, an award-winning dance veteran, took the movie industry by storm when he produced and directed Osofia in London, believed to be one of the Nollywood films with the highest sales figure to date.



Antar (pictured here left) is an acclaimed director who has made a great mark especially in the Yoruba genre and TV series. He made waves in 2012 with Opa Kan, a Yoruba flick sub-titled in English.



Oga Bello, as he is popularly known, is an established actor, producer and director, all rolled into one. He has many works in the Yoruba genre to his credit.



Lancelot has produced and directed many box office hits, one of which is Adesuwa. The cultural/historical film received several awards at the 2012 African Movie Academy Awards.

Sunny Okim