After a pretty dim 2020 caused by the arrival of a global panini and a general lockdown, Nollywood seems to be getting back on its feet.

This year marked the return of massive cinema blockbusters, interesting streaming options that stole our weekends and subtle indie underdogs that might have gone unnoticed by the public. Carrying these films are actors whose performances either moved us deeply or left us unconvinced by their character’s actions, motivations and sometimes, accent.

To wrap up the year, we spoke to five Nollywood critics and enthusiasts on the acting performances that defined Nollywood in 2021.

Daniel Okechukwu, Inside Nollywood  – Nonso Bassey in La Femme Anjola 

Nonso Bassey’s turn in La Femme Anjola is proof that singers can be excellent actors too — after all, singing is performing. As the antihero in this Nollywood Noir, he’s both tender and lethal. He gives a thorough leading performance, made more remarkable by the fact that he was going toe to toe with an icon like Rita Dominic.

Bassey’s performance doesn’t succumb to Dominic’s, it compliments it. His performance shows an actor who can do it all if he’s pushed — he can be charming, ferocious, naughty and intense. Give him more leading roles. 

Anita Eboigbe, NollywoodAnd – Ijeoma Grace Agu in Swallow

The one good thing that made Kunle Afolayan’s Swallow bearable enough to watch was Ifeoma Grace Agu’s obvious commitment to the role. Agu is not a flashy actress but she transforms into the characters she plays from Taxi Driver to Sylvia and now, Swallow

. Her performance helps you get over your disappointment in the way the film turns out. 

Dika Ofoma, Freelance Writer – Nengi Adoki in Juju Stories

As Joy, Nengi Adoki is as sultry as she is menacing (while looking like a deeper life babe). How did she achieve this? In the hands of a different actor, Joy could’ve been over the top, theatrical, but Adoki stays in control and keeps her restrained. Her performance helps with the mystery surrounding the character and there’s something about her eyes that just terrifies you.

Adoki’s turn as Joy is one of the best performances I’ve ever seen from Nollywood. 

Ikeade Oriade, What Kept Me Up – Adedimeji Lateef in Ayinla 

We can visit any Nollywood set tomorrow to hand this actor his award because I’m sure we’ll find him on every film set. Not a cloned actor, not a double, it’s just Adedimeji Lateef. He is probably the hardest working actor in Nollywood, appearing in at least five major releases of 2021.

His performance as the titular character in the critically and commercially successful Ayinla is worthy of being highlighted. 

Wilfred Okiche, Freelance Writer – Jude Akuwudike in Eyimofe 

It’s easy to be skeptical about Jude Akuwudike’s casting as an average low-income Nigerian in Eyimofe (This is My Desire), after all, this is an actor who has an English accent after living and working in the UK for years. However, when you meet his character, your doubts settle over time because he does a wonderful job in the role.

The way Akuwudike works with his face and body, you get to see and feel every emotion his character is navigating on-screen. The best part, his performance is very subtle and non-showy. It’s all very introspective. 


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