How This Netflix Film Sparked A Fierce Conversation About Nollywood
On the first day of January, Netflix released Chief Daddy 2: Going for Broke, the sequel to the 2018 dramedy about the gilded household of Chief Beecroft (whose death leaves members of his family scrambling over his wealth.) Even with its many flaws, the original was a major hit, making N385.7 million at the Nigerian box office. So it wasn’t surprising Netflix acquired the second installment.
However, reviews have been overwhelmingly negative. The tone was even more unforgivingly scathing on social media, where criticism was rampant. On Twitter, fans savaged the editing, acting, and thin plot. One of the viewers who shared their disappointment with the film was Joyce Alao, who expressed her sentiments on Twitter from a burner account.
“It was a pointless film and I couldn’t believe what I was watching,” Alao told OkayAfrica. “ I was speechless from scene to scene, looking for something or anything redeemable but couldn’t find it. My main issue is why this film is on Netflix?”
Alao said the online outrage was nothing like she had seen before. Nigerians were uniting to not just criticize a film but to demand better from the Nollywood industry. And the pushback became so fierce it dominated coverage around the film. “It was an interesting moment and I hope this trend continues,” Alao said. “We can’t continue to accept everything from these filmmakers.”
The criticisms of Chief Daddy 2 was a Nollywood viral moment. Oba Kosi Nwoba, a producer-director known for projects like Umoja and Iko Ndu: The Palmwine Story, hosted a room on Twitter Spaces titled Nollywood: Enough is Enough! #WeWantNewNollywood.
“A lot of people on social media who I believe represent a significant percentage of Netflix users have come out to complain they didn’t like the story. That is something to take home,” Nwoba said. “People make films for different purposes, there’s always that arm aimed at commercial viability. Is it commercial success? We can’t tell yet. If it was released in the cinema, the numbers would say. I share a little sentiment with the audience with regards to the cohesiveness of the story. Let us call it a failed experiment.”
Nwoba has a vantage position as a filmmaker, but he holds himself to the unspoken cardinal rule of not critiquing another filmmaker’s work. At the same time, he feels these conversations are vital to have. The problems with Chief Daddy 2 aren’t new, even for a production from EbonyLife Films, a huge studio. The problems aren’t isolated, either. So why did it take this film to see that the industry was in crisis?
“First, I don’t think it took Chief Daddy for people to come to the realization,” Precious Nwogu, a film journalist for Pulse, said. “Its timing, however, played a crucial role in the collective backlash it received. Prior to the call out, there have been pockets of negative reviews of titles released on the streamer but this time, the holidays plus maybe high expectations from EbonyLife following the countless announcements of international deals fueled the collective criticism.”
One glaring issue with mainstream Nollywood movies is how they look the same, a formulaic recipe involving many popular actors, affluent suburbs, and drone footage of landmarks. It’s a production of empty calories. And since officially entering the Nigerian market, Netflix hasn’t left any tangible impact on filmmaking appetites. The desire to be “marketable” is strong as ever, and the streamer has only strengthened the impulse.
“Yes and no,” Nwogu said, on whether Netflix can be held accountable. “These guys are just business owners that ultimately seek to make profit. Their initial hosts sold them the narrative that box office figures reflected what the Nigerian audience wanted.”
“Where I can fault Netflix is not in licensing but in commissioning. It makes no sense recycling filmmakers and commissioning multi-year deals… Why not commission one or two, see how that goes then do the work of seeking out other talent heads in the industry?”
Mo Abudu response to criticism on Chief Daddy 2pic.twitter.com/RaSGevZUDW
— M uea00 (@M uea00)
In a video, Mo Abudu, the CEO of EbonyLife Group, publicly acknowledged the backlash the film received. Furthermore, she promised corrections will be made in the future. (The film’s director, Niyi Akinmolayan hasn’t made any public statement.) While there’s some sincerity in Abudu’s apology, she diplomatically positioned the idea that Chief Daddy 2 had mixed reviews. She didn’t state the actual flaws of the film, which honestly would have been a self-flagellating exercise on her part. But the implication of stating the flaws would have been profound, an indictment of how other Nollywood pictures have been made.
In addition, actionable steps weren’t indicated, which suggests things will be done on her studio’s terms and shouldn’t warrant public pressure or micromanagement. In this state of affairs, what’s stopping the next random Nollywood film on Netflix from being like Chief Daddy 2?
“Nollywood needs a lot of money,” Nwoba said. “I don’t mean the survival money — the type you don’t count, you only weigh. Nollywood, since inception, has been a self-sustaining industry. Between 2011-2017, the federal government brought a meager sum… to support the industry. We can tell that it barely did anything, if not we most likely won’t be talking about the industry being this poor.”
Nwoba sees the industry as moving parts that need to function properly, from production to distribution and management. All these require financial support. Film funding is intentional business. Funding through film journalism, film schools, festivals, community cinemas, actual brick and mortar structures, and strengthening guilds could have serious impact on Nollywood. This doesn’t mean bad movies would disappear.
“It simply means that we won’t keep making a specific genre of movie because of its commercial viability,” Nwoba said. “Filmmakers will be more willing to take risks and explore the taste of the audience.”