As far as Nigerian directors go, Akin Omotoso is in a league of his own.
After all, it’s not every day we see a Nigerian director take on a silent movie, as Akin did with A Hotel Called Memory. Described as Nigeria’s first silent movie, the movie won the audience award at the Blackstar Film Festival in Philadelphia.
His most recent movie, The Ghost and the House of Truth, is now showing on Showmax after being screened in several international film festivals and winning the Best Narrative Feature World Cinema award at the Urban Film Festival, New York.
Omotoso emigrated to South Africa with his family in 1992 after his father took an academic appointment with the University of the Western Cape, but he is in no way like the proverbial prophet who isn’t appreciated in his home. In 2016, he won the Africa Magic Viewers Choice Awards (AMVCA) for his romcom Tell Me Something Sweet, and the following year, he won the African Movie Academy Award (AMAA) Best Director award for his drama Vaya.
In addition to directing, Omotoso also occasionally acts, appearing in Hollywood movies like Blood Diamond and Queen of Katwe. In an exclusive interview, he revealed that he’s expected to make a cameo in a movie which he directed which is due out in 2021. “I do enjoy acting, but story-telling is where my heart is at,” he shared.
From a catalogue that gives new meaning to the phrase e sabi work, here are four movies and series currently streaming on Showmax that prove that Akin Omotoso is in a league of his own.
From the opening shots of The Ghost and the House of Truth, it’s clear to audiences that this is a different type of Nigerian movie. First off, it is a detective thriller, which we don’t see every day on our screens. Secondly, it introduces us to an upstanding Nigerian police officer, which Omotoso said was deliberate. “It was to paint the picture of someone who is fighting against the odds and the bigger image of the continual fight with the people who are supposed to protect us,” he shared.
Starring Nollywood sweetheart Kate Henshaw (Chief Daddy, 4th Republic) and Susan Wokoma (Enola Holmes), The Ghost and the House of Truth tells the story of a dedicated counselor who facilitates reconciliation sessions between convicts and the victims of their crimes. But when her own daughter goes missing, her belief in forgiveness is tested.
Speaking on the challenges that came with shooting in Makoko, Omotoso shared that himself and the cinematographer had gone there as far back as 2016 to seek the consent and assistance of the community ahead of shooting in 2018. He also said that he wanted to be as unobtrusive as possible with shooting in the community, opting to shoot with a small camera as against the large equipment typical of big movies, so that people could go about their day as they normally would, lending a natural feel to the movie.
The Ghost and the House of Truth closed The Africa International Film Festival (AFRIFF), where it won Best Director, Best Actress (Henshaw), and Best Nigerian Film.
2. Vaya (2016)
Vaya tells the story of four strangers who arrive in Johannesburg, hoping to improve their lives. But they may be forced to give up more than they ever thought as their stories converge in this powerful, visually stunning dramatic thriller.
Vaya won three Africa Movie Academy Awards: Best Director, Screenplay and Sound. The movie was also a New York Times’ critics’ pick, with the newspaper describing Omotoso’s direction as being done “with empathy and without sentimentality.”
Created from the stories of participants from a program called The Homeless Writers Project, Vaya premiered at the 2016 Toronto International Film Festival, where The Los Angeles Times hailed it as “an electric cautionary tale.”
In Tell Me Something Sweet, Omotoso departs from social crusading and tells a love story. In an interview with Pulse Nigeria, Omotoso shared, “I always wanted to do a love story. I love love songs and I was very inspired by Theodore Witcher’s Love Jones. I saw it as a university student and always wanted to make a film like that: a feel good, affirming love story.”
Tell Me Something Sweet tells the story of Moratiwa, who runs her bookstore with ambitions of being a writer. Then she meets Nat, a model who wants to be loved for his mind, not body.
Tell Me Something Sweet received nine nominations at the 12th Africa Movie Academy Awards and won two: Best Screenplay and Supporting Actress (Thishiwe Ziqubu).
Jacob’s Cross is a drama series about powerful oil magnates battling for Africa’s rich off-shore oil resources. The series focuses on businessman Jacob Makhubu Abayomi and his quest to build the next great African empire.
Asides directing the series, Omotoso also appears as an actor alongside his father, writer and professor Bankole Omotoso, who played the role of Chief Bankole Abayomi.
The show received several awards during its run, including the Creative Achievement Award at the 2011 Pan African Film Festival.