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Why Nollywood Needs Films Like Afamefuna: An Nwa Boi Story

Afamefuna: An Nwa Boi Story is based on the Igbo apprenticeship trading system, which involves an older, established businessman (the master), training an apprentice (or nwa boi) for several years and, on completion, the apprentice is set up with a business of his own.
April 30, 2024
9:17 pm
Atlanta Bridget Johnson - Afamefuna
Atlanta Bridget Johnson - Afamefuna

Director: Kayode Kasum


Featuring: Kanayo O. Kanayo, Segun Arinze, Stan Nze, Alexx Ekubo, Atlanta Bridget Johnson, Paul Nnadiekwe


 The film Afamefuna An Nwa Boi Story first hit the cinemas in Nigeria late 2023 but was released on Netflix in March 2024. Its release on Netflix created what seemed like an even bigger buzz, especially online. This got more people talking about the film, the cast and story, all over again.


Even before finally seeing the film, I’d learnt enough and my interest was piqued just from following the online conversation. All of which is good for the film. And from the early days of the film, I have had one thought which is that Nollywood needs stories like the one about the Igbo apprenticeship system. Why?


First, let’s do a recap of the film, especially for anyone who hasn’t seen it or doesn’t understand the ‘nwa boi’ system or its benefits.


Afamefuna shot in Igbo and English is the story of Afamefuna or Afam (Stan Nze) and his friend Paul (Alexx Ekubo) whom he calls ‘brother.’ Both start out as apprentices under Chief Odogwu (Kanayo O. Kanayo), with Paul being older in the apprenticeship system.


Afamefuna is fresh from the village, but he insists he’s not a villager. Paul, acting like the cooler older brother, is the one who shows him the ropes. However, things fall apart when Afamefuna, the one Paul teased as being a JJC (Johnny Just Come) is “settled” by Chief Odogwu ahead of Paul. As mentioned earlier, an apprentice is settled after being trained for a number of years. The graduating apprentice would then be set up with a business (store) of his own along the lines of his boss’ business.


In the case of Afam, he is given a store in the Alaba International Market, plus millions of naira. How is all this connected to the death of Paul, which is how the film begins?



Right in the middle of giving his father a ‘befitting’ remembrance, Afam is arrested for the murder of Paul. CSP Gidado (Segun Arinze) is bent on convicting Afam. And from the look of things, the police have enough to suspect Afam, whom Paul blamed for taking the settlement he thought was rightfully his.


As if that wasn’t bad enough, Afam got married to Paul’s ex-girlfriend Amaka (Atlanta Bridget Johnson), Chief Odogwu’s daughter. Plus, there’s the whole issue of Paul blackmailing and extorting Afam so as not to release a humiliating secret. I believe I have given you enough to get the picture and understand why stories like these are important for Nollywood.


When Afamefuna An Nwa Boi Story was released, it was around the Oscars selections and potential nominations were in the news. That’s when it became clear to me that stories like the Nwa Boi might just be what Nollywood needs. Why? To use an overused cliché, stories like Nwa boi are authentic to Nigeria.


Not only are they original and authentic to us, but it’s also something that’s ‘exportable.’ We don’t have to ‘form’ or conform to any Hollywood or foreign ideas of storytelling and, with adequate research and creativity, there’s enough to write stories around trading, apprenticeship, romance, and business competition.


When we tell more stories that are indigenous to us¸ a lot of things will flow more naturally: from acting to scripting and more. Why do you think people are wowed by Alexx Ekubo as Paul? He is acting in his native language, and it actually doesn’t feel like he’s acting.


And the beauty of telling a story so well is that people everywhere are able to relate to it because, as much as many things may be different, human experiences are more similar. Nothing is more unfulfilling than stories that are not anchored on anything, they are neither here nor there. Stories told for stories sake.


I recall back when some people in the new Nollywood movement were doing everything to show or prove that they were more modern, better educated and just plain better than ‘old’ Nollywood. Some of those films were on cable and satellite TV channels like DStv. However, it was difficult to find many relatable elements.


The story and its plot would be hanging in the air and, when that happens, expect the dialogue to sound almost alien, and my brain would be screaming: ‘Who talks like this?’ Then it would be missing the ‘advice-rial’ or moral of the story which old Nollywood was famous for.


In the so-called old Nollywood, even when you didn’t agree with the advice or morals they were selling or presenting, you couldn’t say you didn’t know what it was. I remember an old film featuring Eucharia Anunobi, where she was an advertising executive.


She comes back home one day to find all her belongings outside. I’ve always wondered how it’s possible to get all of a woman’s stuff out that neatly in one fell swoop. Anyway, her husband (between Zack Orji or Kanayo O. Kanayo, I’m not sure) is sending her packing because she was focusing too much on her job to the detriment of her home.



I remember her profession because I used to be in advertising. I also couldn’t imagine forcing a woman to choose between her career or marriage. In fact, as I was searching for this movie whose title eludes me, I ran into another Eucharia movie: The Bank Manager, directed by Ugo Ugbor (2005). As in the advertising movie, her character Nneka’s husband (Clem Ohameze) wants her to quit her job at the bank to focus on the kids and him.


She, having just been promoted to bank manager, of course, refuses. Lots of things happen in-between but, in the end, the husband gives her the marching orders. This storyline is different shades of misogynistic. But to buttress the point I made earlier, even if one doesn’t agree with what sounds like a chauvinistic take on women’s right to a career, the moral of these stories are clear. Mothers have to be more available for their families. Fathers could pitch in, too, but that’s not the argument. Still, one doesn’t have to agree with their take to understand the message. But I digress. We must not lose focus of what started all this: The point of Nollywood having more home grown original stories.


To conclude, I’ll reiterate that stories like Nwa Boi are what we can sell to the rest of the world on our own terms. They aren’t just authentic; they help us sell the philosophy behind the idea. It’s safe to say that every part of Nigeria has an idea, a practice or something that can be showcased: first to Nigerians, then to the world. Especially, as Nigeria’s own history is not widely taught.


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