Every year, we celebrate women – their achievements, gifts, and unique talents on International Women’s Day. Despite shifting cultures and more women taking on new roles, jobs, and challenges, it’s still essential to spotlight women making extraordinary strides.
In the global film industry, women are stepping up and taking on roles as directors, producers, writers, and actors. Interestingly, in some cases, some women have tried all of these roles in one project. This article spotlights five Nollywood women who have taken on the roles of directors, producers, writers, and actors, either on single projects or in different films.
Biodun Stephen always loved telling stories, first as a writer when she was younger and then as an actor in her early years, appearing in popular TV projects such as Emerald and Spider. She took a break from the industry and worked as a Radio Presenter at Star FM and a Copywriter for an advertising agency. In 2010, she left her posh job in advertising to become a Nollywood filmmaker and finally put out her first film – The Visit – in 2014. The film received two nominations at the 2016 Africa Magic Viewers Choice Awards.
It’s been 13 years since she made the bold move to return to the industry, and she’s still going strong. With several made-for-TV and cinema films like Picture Perfect, Ovy’s Voice, and Joba, she’s unarguably one of Nollywood’s most prominent female filmmakers. This year alone, she’s premiered one Africa Magic original, Smokescreen and has two more premiering this March. She’ll show her brilliance as an actor and filmmaker on The Last Days of Lola Sampson and A Night Alone on the 11th and 12th of March at 9 pm and 9:30 pm, respectively.
Diane Russet is a fascinating name to make this list as only a few year’s ago, she was coming into the spotlight on Big Brother Naija Pepper Dem. She has since gone from the quiet 24-year-old viewers saw in 2019 to a fiery producer. She dipped her toes into filmmaking with short films – Bayi, The Therapist, There Is Something Wrong With The Bamideles, Mo X Mel, and Storm. She then shot her first web series Ricordi, which has become a fully-expanded TV series on Africa Magic Showcase. She’s appeared in most of these projects as an actor, producer, and director. Her most recent project, Ricordi, airs a new episode every Monday at 9 pm on Africa Magic Showcase.
Funke Akindele is the quintessential woman meant for a list like this. She’s had decades of acting since her feature on I Need To Know and charted a path few could dream. She’s appeared in English-speaking movies and Yoruba films, refusing to be caged into any corner of the industry. She had her first lead role and producer experience in Ojo Ketala.
A few years later, she wrote Jenifa, her first screenplay and took on the role of ‘Jenifa’ in the 2008 movie that changed her life completely. Since Jenifa, Funke has acted in over 50 films like Dwindle, Isoken, Maami, Moms At War and more. She has produced films like Omo Ghetto, Double Trouble, and Battle on Buka Street. In 2015, she converted Jenifa into a series in which she scored producer credit. Twenty-three seasons later, the show is still airing on Africa Magic. She’s also created another series – My Siblings and I – for the channel. The comedic family drama series airs on weekdays at 8:30 PM on Africa Magic Urban (DStv ch. 153). She made her directorial debut in Your Excellency in 2019.
Linda Ejiofor-Suleiman is another unlikely name to appear on this list. To most people, she’s just an actress, who had her big break on Tinsel, and still faithfully appears on the show. However, she’s grown her portfolio and is now a filmmaker. After Linda’s breakout role as ‘Bimpe Adekoya’ in Tinsel, she featured in the highly acclaimed The Meeting, earning a ‘Best supporting actress’ nomination for her performance. She has appeared in films like Chief Daddy, Heaven’s Hell, and Flat 3B. She’s currently starring as ‘Millicent Erhu’ in Africa Magic’s Covenant. She also has producer credits on one of the Africa Magic original films featured in the channel’s ‘March Movie Madness’ campaign – Logline. The film will premiere on Africa Magic Showcase on Saturday, March 11, 2023, at 9 pm.
Lota Chukwu is one of the many young people Funke Akindele has helped to make famous. However, Lota has become a talented actress, brilliant writer, and dedicated filmmaker since she first broke out on Jenifa’s Diary. Since her days as ‘Kiki’ on Jenifa’s Diary, the former MBGN contestant has appeared in films like The Royal Hibiscus Hotel, The Arbitration, and The Perfect Plan. She has also appeared in the Africa Magic series – Enakhe and Ajoche.
She started her filmmaking career in 2020 with the short film Small Bant, which she wrote, directed, and acted in. In 2021, she got directorial credit for David. Then in 2022, she took things up a notch, writing, directing, producing, and acting in her short film, 37 To Go, alongside Daniel Etim-Effiong. The film won her ‘best actress’ and ‘best original music’ and received an honourable mention for her directing at the New York Movie Awards. Her 2022 documentary, I’m Not Fine, has also impacted many young Nigerians with mental health issues. Then earlier this year, she made her feature film writer, director and producer debut on the Africa Magic original film, Now That We Are Married. The film aired on AM Showcase on Sunday, March 5, 2023, at 9:30 pm.
These women, at different levels in their profession, have done and will continue to do excellent work. While Biodun Stephen and Funke Akindele have exceptional careers built on years of hard work, the other ladies have only just begun. They embody what it means to have a strong vision, be hardworking and chase dreams. They are inspirations to younger people and are worthy of celebration!