Nollywood…chai! Growing up in Nigeria it was essential viewing. The quality wasn’t always great but the stories, all of them regardless of culture, had one thing in common, heart. The narrative carries the movie through, poor production quality notwithstanding. Over the years the quality has improved and stories elevated and have become even heartier. There is something refreshing about a relatively uncomplicated narrative that delves into the complexities of humanity, stories that intertwine us and affect the core of who we are as human being. Exploration of family dynamics, friendship and traits that can strain those connections; this is what Nollywood does exceptionally well. Even better than their western counterparts in Hollywood.
“the thing wey adult see pikin must jump up to see am”- old saying
Lionheart, is that movie, and so much more. It tells the story of family, love, obligation and heart. The narrative is simple: a family business is in trouble and it falls on to the first born daughter, Adaeze, to save it. From there on the story unravels to show the deep threads of the family unit, a generational lesson to be learnt by the younger generation. Observing closely, the family is at the core of this hearty story, although it would appear as if the father is the head but the mother is the heart therefore the one who rules the family. In that way only mothers can. A mother’s place is to make peace in the home but also make sure things run in a manner she and only she controls; as Africans this is a true representation of home. Then there is the young go- getter, Adaeze, who thinks she knows everything therefore ignores her uncle’s solution to a problem that threatens to destroy the family’s legacy. My aunt always says this proverb, “the thing wey adult see pikin must jump up to see am” I am not sure where she gets that from but it is a saying that runs so true here. The young think they have all the answers but the wisdom of the old often wins the day.
There are underlying tones of the dynamics of being a female and the powers at play but that takes secondary state to overarching theme of family and duty. It is true to the Nigerian culture, particulalrly the igbo culture. Another winning theme here is the richness of the land. Lionheart brings our landscape to life going from the east to the north, from slums to the cosmopolitan cities, the disparity between the rich and the poor and the misconceptions in between.
Language is a unifier here, and a key one at that, the minute Alhaji finds out that chief can speak Hausa, all matters become non-issues.
Gone are the old gimmicky old tropes that coloured a lot of the Nollywood movies: overly dramatic actors who always SHOUT out everything. EVERYTHING IS 100… oy vey! Yahoo boyz with their fake guns and rubbish acting, the overaching narrative that Nigerians are slaves to money therefore will sell their souls to the devil for money, sisters sleeping with other sisters husbands, friends poisoning friends, Pete Edochie is always suffering from heart attack and dying… LOL. Kanayo O Kanayo (he probably has my favourite name ever!) is still walking around with that horn though. FTW. But Lionheart dispels those tired narratives; this was simply good story telling, a different slant, a palate cleanser that showed the lengths we go in the name of familial duties, the pride in culture and the bonds of the relationships that have shaped us. And Nkem Owoh is an African Treasure! And Phyno!!
Lionheart is a hearty film, and I keep going back to that word heart because it tells our stories from the heart, we are not big on tech or hydraulics or fanciful Hollywood effects but we tell a damn good narrative with a lot of heart. A movie that shows a different side of Nigeria to the world, considering the world only relies on the prince email narratives. We are a country with issues no different to other countries but we are also about our people, our culture and our values; both moral and spiritual. The Nigeria the world should know.
Lionheart is now on Netflix so go watch it.