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Best female directors in the Nigerian movie industry

Find out who the leading women in the Nollywood movie business are and how they have redefined what it means to be a director.

Headshot images of three top Nollywood movie directors, including Funke Akindele and Kemi Adetiba

Despite the fact that there are still very few female directors in Nollywood, visionary women like the late Amaka Igwe have produced some of Nigeria's most memorable movies. 

Before now, women tended to be overlooked, but recently, the narrative surrounding women in the filming industry has always changed; some women influenced cinema, and others defined or redefined a genre. And irrespective of the large disparity in the percentage of female and male filmmakers today, this group of women have become more involved or are performing as well as their male counterparts in the recent evolution of the Nigerian film industry. 

Here are some of the best female directors in the Nigerian movie industry today.

1. Biodun Stephen

Unknown to a lot of people, Biodun Stephen was in front of the screen but never came to the limelight till she went behind the scenes. As a director, she created a niche for herself in Nollywood by producing and telling unique romantic and comic stories. Her debut movie “The Visit,” featuring Nse Ikpe Etim, Blossom Chukwujekwu, and Femi Jacobs, catapulted her instantly to the limelight. 

Aside from “The Visit”, she has directed other successful films, including “Tiwa’s Baggage, Breaded Life, Picture Perfect, Looking for Baami, and Momiwa. She has also written, produced, and starred in movies like Love Unusual and Miz Behaviour. 

She has received several awards for her work, including the 2017 Best of Nollywood Awards in the Best Actor and Best Use of Food categories. Biodun Stephen has moved from a once struggling actress to one of the foremost Nollywood filmmakers in Africa. We are grateful for the talent that she has.

2. Mildred Okwo

Mildred Okwo, a movie director who stormed the Nigerian movie industry in 2006 is among the leading women in the movie scene. She has gone on to make acclaimed projects such as the AMVCA-winning movie "The Meeting”, the romantic comedy "Suru Lere” and the crime thriller “La Femme Anjola”.

She is also popular for the 2006 movie "30 Days," starring Genevieve Nnaji, Joke Silva, and Segun Arinze, which received countless nominations at the 2008 Africa Movie Academy Awards, with Joke Silva winning Best Supporting Actress. 

Mildred Okwo was one of the Nollywood professionals who formed the Nigerian Oscars Selection Committee, which was approved by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. 

The director announced in May 2024 her excitement to be back on set and working on a new production titled “On Different Grounds,” featuring Uche Jombo, Bob Manuel, Uche Montana, and a host of others.

3. Kemi Adetiba

Celebrated movie director Kemi Adetiba, who is arguably the most popular amongst the bunch, is one director who knows how to shake up Nollywood whenever her projects drop. 

Best known for directing the 2018 political thriller “King of Boys,“ which Sola Sobowale starred in and the first part of the award-winning 2016 romantic comedy ‘Wedding Party 1’, Kemi Adetiba’s movies are listed as Nigeria’s highest-selling box office movie of the last decade. She made history as the first Nigerian director with an original series for Netflix “King of Boys: The Return of the King” which is the sequel to her famous 2018 movie “King of Boys”.

In October 2023, Kemi Adetiba wrapped up her movie project “To Kill A Monkey” and announced on January 16th, 2024, that the 3rd part of her popular movie “King of Boys” will soon begin production. We await more magic from Kemi Adetiba

4. Tope Oshin

Multi-award-winning director, Tope Oshin also started as an actress before moving behind the scenes as a director. She has directed many films, TV dramas, as well as soap operas. She is notable for movies such as “Journey to Self, Ever After, Up North, New Money”, several seasons of the popular “MTV Shuga” and was the only female director on M-Net’s hit soap opera "Tinsel" in its first five seasons. 

In 2016, Tope directed the documentary "Amaka's Kin: The Women of Nollywood", a memorial to influential filmmaker Amaka Igwe, who died in 2014, and had before her death, paved the way for most female filmmakers. She is among the movie directors reinventing Nollywood stories from stereotypically portraying women.

In recent years, Tope Oshin has gone on to direct the movie “Here Love Lies,” which was number 2 on Netflix in 2023, and became the creative director of the short film “In Bloom,” which is an MTV Staying Alive Foundation, Paramount Global, and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation movie production. She is indeed one of the best female directors in Nollywood.

5. Jade Osiberu

Since popping up on the movie scene, Jade has served as the brains behind some of Nollywood’s biggest movies and TV series, including Brotherhood, Gidi Up, Isoken, and Gangs of Lagos, which is the first Nigerian original film to stream exclusively on Amazon Prime Video in April 2023. 

For her directorial role, Jade Osiberu won best director at the 2018 Africa Magic Viewer’s Choice Awards, got a nomination at the 2018 Africa Movie Academy Award for Best Director and 11 nominations at the 9th edition of the AMVCA and also clinched the Award for Best Movie West Africa at the event for her movie” Brotherhood”. 

Jade Osiberu has, however, become a force to be reckoned with in the film industry, and we sure can’t wait to see more of her in the future.

6. Bolanle Austen Peters

The managing director and founder of renowned arts and cultural organization, Terra Culture, Bolanle Austen-Peters, who dabbles in the arts, is well-known for her live theatre and film productions. 

Bolanle has directed several musicals, and short and feature films, such as “93 Days, SARO the Musical, Bling Lagosians, Man of God, Fela and the Kalakuta Queens.” Her film “93 Days” was featured in many international film festivals and received 13 nominations at the 2017 Africa Magic Viewers’ Choice Awards, winning the award for Best Lighting Designer. The film was also nominated for seven African Movie Academy Awards in 2017. 

Her recent movie “Funmilayo Ransome Kuti” is a biopic of the life of popular afrobeats pioneer Fela Kuti’s mother and the role she played in advocating for women’s rights in Nigeria. It was released in cinemas nationwide on May 17, 2024.

7. Omoni Oboli

A phenomenal actress, Omoni Oboli made her directorial debut in 2014 with "Being Mrs Elliott", and has since produced and directed Okafor's Law, Wives on Strike, as well as its sequel, Wives on Strike: The Revolution. 

Wives on Strike was a hit at the box office, completing its cinema run with 71 million naira, which earned it a spot as the 8th highest-grossing Nollywood movie ever at the time of its release. Also, her 2016 movie Okafor's Law premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival and eventually grossed 90 million naira in Nigeria.

Though her movies do not appear in cinemas as they used to, Omoni Oboli has not stopped churning out great movies for our enjoyment. Just recently, the director who also doubles as an actress, released movie projects like “The Third Party, May the Best Man Win, Lekki or Nothing, 5 Days in November,” and so much more on her YouTube channel, Omoni Oboli TV.

8. Funke Akindele

One of the best female directors in the movie business today in Nigeria is Funke Akindele, who made her acting debut in the 90s in the popular TV series “I Need to Know”. She has over the years evolved into a force on the small and big screen, creating the most successful media franchise with her comedy movie, Jenifa in 2008. 

Funke followed through on the commercial and critical success of the movie with a sequel titled "The Return of Jenifa” and in 2015 produced a spin-off television series titled "Jenifa's Diary" which has gone on to create household stars and win several awards, including the AMVCAS. 

Other notable movies from the actress include “Your Excellency, Omo Ghetto, Battle on Buka Street, A Tribe Called Judah" and her forthcoming movie titled “Finding Me”.

Conclusion

Through perseverance and hard work, these female directors have created a safe space for Nollywood women and are helping to break the bias as they have demonstrated to the people that if given the attention and opportunity, women can excel in film and television production.