What if I said you didn’t have to go to the cinema or spend over an hour on a streaming service to get a good Nollywood experience? While most people have heard about short films, not many give this subsection of Nollywood the flowers it deserves for constantly raising the bar when it comes to storytelling.
From anniversaries gone wrong to stage plays masqueraded as church services, these are some of the Nollywood shorts I rate. And since I have taste, there’s a high chance you’d love them too.
A Japa Tale— Dika Ofoma
What would you do if you discovered your partner has plans to japa without you? This head-scratching question is the main driver of Dika Ofoma’s A Japa Tale. Drowning out the noise of the outside world, this beautifully paced film focuses on a simple love story between two characters, and the massive wrench that could either make or break their relationship.
In a time when Nigerians are either dealing with the hurdles of trying to japa or managing the feeling of being left behind by their loved ones, A Japa Tale feels incredibly poignant and grounded in reality.
Ijo — Fatimah Binta Gimsay
If you’re trying to get your partner to attend a dance class with you, then watching Ijo with them might do the trick. Led by Charles Etubiebi and Genoveva Umeh, Ijo delves into the complexities of marriage, compatibility and how love can slowly turn into resentment over time. The bulk of this film tracks a long back-and-forth between the two actors. But, still, Ijo nicely unwraps its characters and their motivations in 14 minutes.
I’ll suggest saving Ijo for Valentine’s Day, so you can test the strength of your relationship.
The Rehearsal — Michael Omonua
Christian or not, it’s hard to deny the theatrical nature of churches these days. This thin line between performance and religion is what Michael Omonua plays with in The Rehearsal. The film follows a priest leading a group of people to practise how to faint and convulse in the name of getting delivered at the upcoming Sunday service. In this film, the church is turned into a stage, with everyone putting on their best Stella Damasus fainting shoes to deceive an unassuming audience.
The Rehearsal will have you laughing and questioning everything you know about deliverances by the time you’re done.
Samaria — Chiemeka Osuagwu
In a little under 18 minutes, Chiemeka Osuagwu is able to weave a familiar yet shocking story with his debut short film, Samaria. The film explores the budding friendship between its lead character, Amarachi, and the good samaritan who motivates her to fight for her right to an education.
Just like in the relationship between these characters, Samaria slowly invites you to trust it, making you confident in the direction it’s taking before it takes an unexpected turn that’ll have you saying, “WTF?” repeatedly.
The Way Things Happen — Ugochukwu Onuoha and Dika Ofoma
If there’s one Nollywood film that hits the spot when conveying grief, without feeling over-the-top or too restrained, it’s The Way Things Happen by Ugochukwu Onuoha and Dika Ofoma.
The film opens with an introduction to Echelon Mbadiwe and Benjamin Maazi as a couple with such fantastic chemistry, you’ll be wishing you were a third. However, it isn’t long before the film snatches that “God, when?” feeling and replaces it with sadness following the death of Benjamin’s character. From then on, we’re made to observe, join in and work our way out of the grief, with Echelon Mbadiwe leading the way.
The Way Things Happen doesn’t try too hard to make you feel things. Instead, it tells a simple story with an intention and care that inadvertently tugs at your heartstrings.
The Verdict — Stanley Ohikhuare
The Verdict is a hard film to watch. Based on a true story, it reenacts the last moments of 19-year-old Laveena Johnson, who passed away in 2005 after joining the American military. While evidence shows she was attacked, raped and killed, the military ruled her death a suicide. With Zainab Balogun taking on the role of Laveena, Stanley Ohikuare argues her case by showing how impossible it is for someone to do the things Laveena allegedly did to herself.
Lizard — Akinola Davies Jr.
Set in the 1990s, Akinola Davies Jr’s Lizard peels back different layers of organised religion and some of the “non-religious” ways of the people who subscribe to it. Exploring different scenarios through the eyes of its young lead character, Juwon, we see pastors bumping genitals with church members, church staff stealing money from the congregation and a thief who prays before going on his robbery spree.
There’s a lot to unpack here, and just like Juwon, there’s a high chance your perception of sin and religion might change after watching Lizard.