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Obi Emelonye’s Out of Breath: Resurgence of Igbo filmmaking?

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The filmmaking business in Nigeria, particularly among the Igbo community, traces back to the 90s when a surge of home videos emerged, showcasing a remarkable dedication to the craft.

Despite limited technological resources, filmmakers like Kenneth Nnebue produced iconic works such as “Living in Bondage” and “Nneka the Pretty Serpent,” setting a high standard for subsequent productions.

The release of Living in Bondage in 1991, made in Igbo with an English subtitle, marked the beginning of filmmaking in Nigeria. Kenneth Nnebue’s productions set the standard for commercialising movies in Nigeria. These works by Nnebue also provided insights into Igbo culture.

During the early 2000s, films like “Akidi,” “Okochi,” “Ukwa,” and “Onye Eze” featured prominent Igbo actors like Nkem Owoh, Victor Osuagwu, Hilda Domino, Rita Edochie, and Patience Ozokwor, released on DVD and VCD formats. They were made in the Igbo language but were not epic movies. Neither was “Living in Bondage”.

Between 2022 and now, Nigeria has seen the breakout of fantastic Yoruba epic movies like “Jagun Jagun,” “Anikulapo,” and “King of Thieves,” amongst others. These movies tugged at the core of the Yoruba culture, with language use, clothing, traditional system, environment, and more.

To crown it all, the movies have reached a global audience, some of which are Netflix original movies. This now begs the question, “Where are Igbo epic movies?” Once upon a time, the Igbos heralded the production of a masterpiece that spurred movie production in Nigeria. What are they doing now?

Obi Emelonye, in celebration of his 57th birthday, announced a groundbreaking project, “Out of Breath,” signalling a potential resurgence of Igbo filmmaking. With esteemed actors such as Kanayo O. Kanayo, Jidekene Achufusi, Chidi Mokeme, and Ebele Okaro, the film promises to reintroduce the Igbo language and culture to audiences in a comprehensive manner, offering a rare glimpse into the rich heritage of the Igbo ethnic group.

Emelonye’s initiative signifies a renewed interest in exploring and showcasing Igbo stories globally, providing a platform for authentic representation and cultural expression. This forthcoming masterpiece heralds a promising future for Igbo cinema and holds significance for the Igbo community and Nigeria.

 

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