Film Business

Bias? Conflict of Interest? Should Charles Novia Have Written his “Review” Calling Omotola a Better Actress than Genevieve?

Omotola v Genevieve Charles NoviaCharles Novia is a respected critic and someone whose work I enjoy reading and of course disagreeing with where applicable, as in this instance.

Novia is also a filmmaker who has recently shared a “review” in which he claims Omotola Jalade-Ekeinde is a better actress than Genevieve Nnaji. I have a problem with this “review” and do not believe it is one Novia should have undertaken in the first place. I believe there is inherent bias in this so called review and a conflict of interest which should have made Novia avoid such comparisons.

First, as a disclaimer, I have had prior dealings with both Nnaji and Omotola. Specifically, I helped co-produce and moderated an event in which Nnaji was a panelist revolving around the role of women in Nollywood. This was almost ten years ago. Independent of that, I have interviewed Nnaji and Omotola on occasion(s) for my magazine Ladybrille/other US publications.

In my opinion, specific to their  personalities and in my dealings, I have found that Omotola takes complete control of her narrative and tells the media who she is, rather than have the media tell her who she is. When the media/bloggers have tried to make her sole job that of an actress, she has rejected it. Instead, she has successfully defined herself as an actress, an entrepreneur, an activist, a musician, and a media mogul given her reality TV series. She has also had no issues relishing in her role as a mother and wife.

Omotola’s ability to take control of her narrative, in my observations, has meant that she also shows a very flexible side to the public, fans and colleagues alike. She shows she is accessible, warm, very friendly, has no problems getting comfortable with the poor or average Nigerian, including  marching on the streets for social causes and change, hand in hand with them.

Nnaji, on the hand and in my view, has refused to take a hold of her personal narrative and has allowed the public and media to pigeon hole her into a stiff, very unfriendly, cold, inaccessible and unapproachable personality, off screen.  I am unsure if this is intentional. For her true die hard fans, she may be friendly. But to most, off screen, she is the same stereotyped one dimensional cold character, that has a point to prove, she has come to be known for on screen.

I think she should have a better control of her narrative and there should be a distinction with the role she plays on screen and her personality off screen.

Having said all of the above, I think it is, objectively, unfair and also a conflict of interest for Novia to render any opinion on who he deems to be the better actress between these two actresses.

Why?

First, it is no secret that there is a major problem in the Nollywood industry when it comes to the linear recurring roles that our actors are often forced to play. Film directors and producers, thinking about a return on investments and giving the audience what they want, forever cast our highly talented actresses and actors in the same darn role! This often leaves our talents with no option, except that of deciding whether they want to eat/pay rent or become homeless.

For example, Ramsey Nuoah is ALWAYS the lover boy, ALWAYS. Thank God for filmmaker Kunle Afolayan who has helped put him in a different role in recent times, the Figurine.

Patience Ozokwor is ALWAYS, ALWAYS  a wicked mother, bad woman or step mother. Jim Iyke is ALWAYS, ALWAYS the bad guy. Aki and Paw Paw, well they are always Aki and Paw Paw.The list goes on and on and on and on of the stale roles Nigerian actors are forced to take on, over and over and over and over and over again in order to sustain themselves and feed their families. I would argue that even the beloved Joke Silva also plays stereotyped roles; usually the eloquent and articulate mother or executive or elder woman with a hybrid British-Nigerian accent. We haven’t seen Silva stray from these three major stereotypical roles. The same goes for her spouse Olu Jacobs. Again, Nollywood has this formula that refuses to permit flexibility for our actors and actresses and one cannot truly compare one actor to another without addressing this epidemic in the industry.

Genevieve Nnaji is not an exception to this rule. Presumably, from the Alaba marketers and filmmakers et al. Nnaji is great for the “linear aloofness and veiled disdain,” she typically exhibits on screen. She makes them money and everyone is happy. The same goes for all other actresses and actors who live this reality daily.

How then do you, objectively, compare Nnaji’s acting to Omotola’s? Is it a fair assessment?  Indeed, unlike Nnaji, Omotola has managed to have diverse roles on screen but I believe there is a reason for that. Omotola is a woman married to a Pilot. With two incomes coming into the home, she can afford to reject roles that are not suitable for her. For the likes of Ramsey Nouah, presumably a bread winner for his house or Nnaji, a single mother presumably the bread winner of her home; and many others like them, it is not much of an option. You either take the role or you don’t, end of story.

Further, if this was a so called objective “review,” can Charles Novia, with the same straight face, say Patience Ozokwor is an actress with linear aloofness… ” etc. when compared to Omotola? I don’t think he would dare do that.

Surely he would have to reach the same conclusion, not so? Ozokwor plays the same roles over and over again and has perfected these characters. Nnaji does the same and it is now her signature style.

Conflict of Interest 

Assuming it could be argued that Nnaji is indeed the weaker of the two actresses as Charles Novia contends, is Charles Novia the right person to make such a call in a so called objective “review”?

Who is Charles Novia doing the review for in his role as critic? What is the occasion and who wants to know? Are there investors interested in some movie of which the ladies are auditioning for? Who asked for this information? What about the clear and inherent  bias?

Inherent Bias

When Obi Emelonye, lawyer turned filmmaker, wrote about these two ladies and their alleged inability to obtain employment many months ago, I had a problem with it. Here, I also have a problem with Charles Novia’s “review.” I believe filmmakers should focus on what they do best, i.e. be filmmakers. I also believe that in the event that filmmakers also have the power of the pen as critics, such as Charles Novia’s situation, they should be prudent and truly use the power of their pens objectively.

If Charles Novia never put these two ladies on his payroll/hired them/or worked with them in an intimate close director-actor role, then by all means he should state his opinion however he deems fit in his “review,”  based on his  observations. But, he has worked with these ladies, per his statements and in his writings, and there is no showing of what the exact nature of his encounter with Nnaji was, versus Omotola. Was it a positive encounter within the context of his role as director in working with Nnaji.

I believe the following line seems to show it wasn’t and shows bias, “there is an underlying stereotype in her interpretation of her roles in many of her movies; a linear aloofness and veiled disdain at the thought of being pushed further down the exploratory lane.”

The comment on going down the “exploratory lane” seems to suggest that as a director, you would have to have worked closely with the talent to see the talent respond in way that suggest that she does not want to be pushed down your “exploratory lane” that you wanted her to go. Otherwise, where else would you get this information? Your fellow director colleagues? This, to me, creates an inherent bias and  implies a negative experience with Nnaji which, to me, further illustrates why he should not have written this article. Also, how many movies has Nnaji worked with Novia on? As a director, how did he unify his productions with Nnaji and other actors in the movies she acted under his watch? What kinds of interpretations did he provide for the scripts he wanted her to act in?

Again, if any one wants to talk about personality differences between these two actresses and what makes Omotola seem to soar in terms of a more diverse brand portfolio, I’d be glad to indulge and whole heartedly support any premise that suggests or recommend Nnaji re-evaluate her brand identity, innovate and be more accessible to the public and media at large, otherwise suffer brand decline/ultimate dissipation. But, when it comes to assessing acting styles and naming one actress more superior than the other, common Charles Novia, let’s really be fair and objective.

My 50 kobo for all it’s worth. What’s yours?

-Uduak

The article/story shared on Novia’s Facebook page which has since gone viral.

“Congratulations to the Nollywood recipients of the Nigerian National Awards which took place today in Abuja. Kenneth Nnebue, Joke Silva and Omotola Jalade-Ekeinde were each given National Honours by President Jonathan today.

Kenneth Nnebue is generally acknowledged as the founder of the home video industry in Nigeria which later snowballed into Nollywood. His epoch – making movie ‘Living in Bondage’ which he Executive Produced in 1992 generated the unleashing of creative spirits in Nigeria who followed his footsteps and used the affordable home video technology to exhibit their gifts.

Perhaps without Nnebue’s foray into that sector, the likes of me and thousands of others would never have found the creative leeway we used to show our talents. His award is belated though. But better late than never.

Joke Silva is an actor’s actor. A formidable screen personality and one of the most articulate thespians Nigeria has produced. She is an inspiration to millions and her award is just about a crowning glory she could ever receive from her nation. A priceless gem.

Omotola Jalade-Ekeinde is known to many. Her acting prowess is arguably in a class by itself and her being nominated as one of the world’s 100 most influential persons by TIME magazine a couple of years back must have paved the way for her present national recognition by the Federal Government. Frankly speaking, I personally think she has more depth in acting than her ‘rival’ Genevieve Nnaji. I have worked with both of them in the past and also studied their acting styles. Omotola has the gift of role immersion. She gives everything into her characters. There is an organic style of interpretation she is gifted with. Very few actors have that. She Is not a Method Actor, mind you but she has delivered roles which many method actors would give her a standing ovation for.

Genevieve, on the other hand, is a fantastic actress and a trend – setting one too. But she lacks the intrinsic ability to evolve artistically beyond her present heights in her career. That is my opinion. There is an underlying stereotype in her interpretation of her roles in many of her movies; a linear aloofness and veiled disdain at the thought of being pushed further down the exploratory lane. Of course she has an uncanny screen presence which generally veils her artistic shortcomings when it comes to acting and between her and her rivals, she comes tops on the fan base list. However, with an attitude which seems to say she has nothing more to prove, even the fans would become restless if new artistic exploits are not offered from her to which they can beat their chests.

And for fans of both actresses, this is a professional review of their acting abilities and not an attempt to rekindle old rivalries. Somehow, this post on the National Honours dove tailed into their artistry. All well and good.

Congrats to the Recipients once again.

Subscribe to Our Newsletter

2019 Most Popular Podcast – Music Streaming in Africa

Subscribe to Our Podcast Show

Some of Our Achievements

Africa Music Law™

AFRICA MUSIC LAW™ (AML) is a pioneering music business and entertainment law blog and podcast show by Fashion and Entertainment Lawyer Ms. Uduak Oduok empowering the African artist and Africa's rapidly evolving entertainment industry through brilliant music business and entertainment law commentary and analysis, industry news, and exclusive interviews.

Credited for several firsts in the fashion and entertainment industry, Ms. Uduak is also a Partner and Co-Founder of Ebitu Law Group, P.C. where she handles her law firm’s intellectual property law, media, business, fashion, and entertainment law practice areas. She has litigated a wide variety of cases in California courts and handled a variety of entertainment deals for clients in the USA, Africa, and Asia.

Her work and contributions to the creative industry have been recognized by numerous organizations including the National Bar Association, The American University School of Law and featured in prestigious legal publications in the USA including ABA Journal and The California Lawyer Magazine. She is also an Adjunct Professor at the prestigious Academy of Arts University in San Francisco.
For legal representation inquiries, please email (uduak@ebitulawgrp.com). For blog related inquiries i.e. advertising, licensing, or guest interview requests, please email (africamusiclaw@gmail.com). Thank you for visiting Africa Music Law™.

You may also like...

Popular Articles...

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *