Old Nollywood versus New Nollywood: A Review of Genevieve Nnaji’s “Lionheart”

Written by UCHE AGBO

Last night after seeing the flick Lionheart on Netflix and I wanted to write this review, I was torn between titling it “Old Wine in New Bottle” and the current title it bears. While old wine in new bottle would have been better, I felt it would have been more of an academic work, which criticism truly is, but if one will be writing for a news site on the internet where the younger generation does more surfing, one wil have to use titles that resonate with them. The title does not however imply that I believe there is any disparity between the various generations in NOLLYWOOD. In fact, I don’t even believe in the generic classification of my title. Funny, right? Let’s get on with the business of the day.

The film Lionheart is loosely an eponymous title drama, in the sense that it deals with the quest of a daughter – Ada played by GENEVIEVE NNAJI who is desperately trying to save her father- Chief Ernest Obiagu’s company – played by PETE EDOCHIE. A highly successful family transportation company is at the verge of being lost to a ruthless competitor – Igwe Pascal – played by Kanayo O. Kanayo after Chief Ernest Obiagu fell sick. The twist of the story begins when it reveals that the company is in severe debt, and to compound the matter, Chief Ernest brings in his brother who is least likely at first to run the company as Acting Managing Director while he is in sick bed. The brother Godswill Obiagu, played by Nkem Owoh, brings in experience and together with Adaeze’s intelligence and prowess, as expected they saved the company and succeed in merging the the Lionheart Transport with Alhaji Danladi Maikano’s transportation company, the biggest in the North looking to enter South East and together they defeated Pascal Igwe’s intention to buy over the company.

One of the things I like about the film is the AUTHENTICITY of the story and its ability to subtly transport you to Enugu, Nigeria, using it as a bait to celebrate the Igbo culture at large. The movie indeed celebrated Igbo’s apprenticeship culture which has proven to have made more people millionaires in Nigeria than any University’s education. Despite telling us in the opening Scene that Adaeze (Genevive Nnaji) is a returnee from America, her father still subjects her into apprenticeship to learn the rudiments of the business for seven years. Even when she thought she was ready and should be the Acting Managing Director in the event of temporary absence of her father due to his illness, her father feels she still has more to learn and hence, brought in her uncle to help in tutoring her. It showed when her Uncle came up with the idea of the merger that eventually saved the company. She dismissed the idea at first but was forced to take it when the chips were down. Experience counted.

Beyond the story, Lionheart shows brilliance in the technical and acting prowess of the entire cast and crew. The cast majorly made up of those who are regarded as “Old Nollywood” didn’t just succeed in teaching the new generation the fundamentals of acting but also reminded us of the good old days, when actors really prepare before showing up on movie sets. The good old days that on movie locations there is no social media to distract and disconnect the actor from his character. The good old days when Nollywood had less Instagram Celebrities who could hardly interpret a role without being stereotyped. The acting for me in the movie is not just so beautiful but comes with lots of ease that you could mistake it to be their natural lives.

The Lighting and Sound are both impeccable and whoever said NOLLYWOOD can’t light appropriately made a huge mistake. I was particularly fascinated with the execution of the lighting. Such a rare show of excellence. I have not watched a Nigerian movie in recent time with appropriate sound mixture. Lionheart did great in sound mix. Every little detail in the film was taken care of. I mean not up to a hundred percent, but at least a step ahead of most of its contemporaries. Indeed I can now understand why Netflix acquired the movie.

The infusion of Igbo Music stars like Peter Okoye of Psquare crooner and Phyno in the cast also is a big plus for the movie. It simply added to the glamour of Igbo Cultural celebration that Genevive Nnaji as the director set out to do. The use of lgbo dialectics in the movie is also impressive. The director used the language intelligently and the subtitle is also well done. In fact if you ask me, my favourite scene in the movie, it will be the scene they ate at the dinning table. Many issues were raised from marriage to career choices, to show of family values, which Igbo people cherish as against the ever inimical projections which most of our films in Africa Magic represent. The film is a departure from the single story of bickery and quarrels among families that we have seen in many Nollywood films. The entire dinning scene is in Igbo language, and anyone from any African society could relate to the discussion. Such a beautiful thing.

On the pace of the movie, it is just like most of Nollywood movies- it lacked fast pace that drama requires. The movie is very slow and the drama didn’t really have the wow moment, that one could look up to. I also expected more in unveiling Enugu State, where the movie was shot as a tourist destination by exploring most of the tourist sites in Enugu, but the film did not capture that. There is also a technical question on the story as to why a company’s CEO/MD would take a loan of about Nine Hundred and Fifty Million Naira from different banks without informing the board. Is that possible? A few believability issues, here and there, purely in the area of story techniques. Aside these very few grey areas which could be forgiven I think the movie is a well crated one. Also the entire story and its authenticity and originality could cover for those lapses.

I want also to give a special mention to one of the subordinate characters in the movie, although her character isn’t central, but she delivered it so much that you can’t help but take note of her. She is Adaeze’s Personal Assistant – Onyinye – played by one Jemima Osunde. She is very articulate and quite intelligent in delivering her role. Did I also forget to mention that she is physically beautiful too.

All in all, Genevieve Nnaji’s directorial debut is a blast. Her eyes for perfection and her resolve to use those referred to as “Old Nollywood” to deliver such a good movie also proves that there is nothing really as Old or New Nollywood. There are just people who are good and those who are not so good in the industry. Period.

I will recommend you watch the movie if you have not. It is EPIC.


Adaeze – Genevive Nnaji

Godswill Obiagu – Nkem Owoh

Chief Ernest Obiagu – Pete Edochie

Abigail Obiagu – Onyeka Onwenu

Igwe Pascal – Kanayo O. Kanayo

Chioma Obiagu – Ngozi Ezeonu

Samuel Akah – Kalu Ikeagwu

Obiora – Chibuzo Azubuike “Phyno”

1 thought on “Old Nollywood versus New Nollywood: A Review of Genevieve Nnaji’s “Lionheart”

  1. Detailed write up and very educating. Indeed the movie highlighted what every good movie production should emulate.

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