Movie Title: Lionheart
Screen time: 94mins; 21secs
Director: Genevieve Nnaji
Producer: Chinny Onwugbenu
Year of Release: 2018
Language (s): English, Igbo, Hausa
Regardless of all the challenges we may be experiencing at the moment as a country, it is still a good time for us to feel proud that we are Nigerians; even more so if you are from the eastern region of Nigeria and we have Genevieve Nnaji’s film—Lionheart—to thank for that. Through Lionheart which is also her directorial debut, Genevieve Nnaji has successfully changed the face of Nollywood and has put the Nigerian movie industry out on a global pedestal for the world to appreciate and love.
It would delight you to know that Lionheart is the first Nigerian movie to be acquired as a Netflix original at the rate of $3.8million. This is not surprising at all considering the good thinking, planning and execution that obviously went into this film: the story, cast and attention to detail. The general idea of lionheart is used in little but notable details in a manner that brings the movie together as a cohesive single piece: Obiagu (meaning lion heart) is the name of the man who owns Lion Heart Transport, whose daughter exhibits the attributes of a person with a lionheart and whose son produces a song titled ‘Obiagu’.
Lionheart tells the story of Adaeze (Genevieve Nnaji) the daughter of Chief Obiagu (Pete Edochie), the Managing Director and CEO of Lion Heart Transport. After Chief Obiagu suffers a blow to his health, he takes some time away from business. Now, Adaeze must do all she can to save her father’s crippling business with the guidance and support of her rather awkwardly funny uncle, Godswill Obiagu (Nkem Owoh).
From the names mentioned above you can begin to imagine the calibre of actors this film is packed with. Genevieve Nnaji brought the biggest names in epic Nollywood on this project. Hearing names like Pete Edochie, Nkem Owoh, Kanoyo. O. Kanayo and Genevieve Nnaji herself, would have you think you’re in for the regular Nollywood (Igbo) show but it is exciting to know that Nnaji has taken Nollywood to Harvard because this is not your regular Nollywood movie. It is important to state that Nnaji’s choice of cast may have been to ride on the star power of these names but more than their star power the actors exhibited great talent and professionalism.
Lionheart is a true celebration of the Igbo culture, the Nigerian culture. The culture of the Igbo people is elaborately showcased in this movie: the characters were given native names that are significant and dense with meaning; Chief Obiagu offered Alhaji Maikano Kola; and the Igbo language is extensively used plus the creative use of Igbo proverbs. This is probably the greatest criticism the film but people who understand the social significance of language and how it is an integral aspect of a people’s identity definitely find this commendable.
As aforementioned, Lionheart showcases the Igbo culture but with a few twists, however. The most profound of these twists is, perhaps, the celebration of the girl-child and women in a manner that is alien to the Igbo culture. Adaeze is portrayed as a successful professional in the transport business; a business that is largely dominated by men. We even find scenes where Chief Obiagu and his daughter, Adaeze have private discussions about the family business and life in general, a situation where Obiora would ordinarily have been found instead of Adaeze. Chief Obiagu is always generous with compliments for his beautiful daughter and even described her as the legacy he would leave for posterity. Deep!
Lionheart is the kind of movie you can watch over and over again without getting bored. The storyline is very simple and fresh. The story is not strange but yet fresh. It is, in fact, the classical example of the saying ‘simplicity is the ultimate sophistication’ and it is laudable that the simplicity of the story and the entire film doesn’t in anyway deplete the values depicted in the film.
More than anything else is the value placed on family in this movie. Being the smallest unit of the society it is outstanding that Nnaji illustrates the importance of harmony and mutual support among family members as exemplified in the characters of Adaeze and Godswill; even within the entire Obiagu family.
Furthermore, any Nigerian who is well informed as to the history of this country is surely aware of the tension that exists between the easterners and northerners generally. The possible love affair between Hamza and Adaeze and the merger between Lion Heart Transport and Maikano Motors, I believe, are powerful and inventive ways of making the world see that unity is achievable regardless of how wide the gap is between two parties. It is a call from the entertainment industry for us to be united as a country. The motif of language is used even further when Chief Obiagu and Alhaji Maikano converse in Hausa. It is interesting to see how language can also be a weapon that can help us break through barriers.
One could go on and one reeling about the near perfection of this amazing movie: the cast and crew, set, location, music, costumier and makeup but it is important to address a few flaws that make this movie only near perfect and not perfect. First, the character of Adaeze should have used her native language more and maybe Obiora could have been given one or two more scenes, a chance for him to prove to us whether he is a good actor or not. Arinze was below average but not unpleasant to watch…thank God! And could someone tell Genevieve to not try to sing in another movie…lol! Asides these excusable shortcomings, the movie has a 5/5.
Lionheart is a simple but powerful movie that successfully incorporates multiple weighty issues and values without losing its simplicity. It is a difficult feat that Nnaji has achieved and she deserves some accolades. Lionheart is worth very single dollar that was paid to acquire it and it’s an honour for Nigeria’s creative industry to be celebrated in such a grand manner. And we need to send a delegation to Nnaji’s residence just to thank her for saving us from having to watch actors using spurious accents. Filmmakers can now see that being originally Nigerian in every sense of the word ‘Nigerian’ is marketable. In summary, we can safely say that Genevieve Nnaji has a bright future in the director’s chair and in international filmmaking.