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SheHUB Nigeria: Funke Akindele, from Sitcom Actress to Record-Breaking Film-maker

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Funke Akindele: Photo source: MyJoyOnline

Funke Akindele loves to show people how it is done! With ‘A Tribe Called Judah,” a blockbuster that shattered Nigeria’s box office to become the highest-grossing Nollywood movie, Ms Akindele demonstrates that anyone, irrespective of industry challenges, can keep breaking records.

The delight of Ms Akindele’s success is not just that she dares to achieve what no Nigerian filmmaker has done in history; it’s the fact that she did it right before everyone’s eyes. The world is privileged to Ms Akindele’s growth as an actress right from when she starred in the Sitcom I Need to Know in 1998.

Funke Akindele in I Need To Know. Photo Source: Pulse Nigeria

With the beauty of her face maturing gradually and her determination to nail every role shining through the screen, Ms Akindele wears a secondary school uniform and speaks gallantly in the film I Need to Know. Typically, many child stars soon become history, fading from the limelight and choosing another career path, but not Funke Akindele. She keeps being innovative and starring in movies.

Soon, she would release an ongoing TV series Jenifa’s Diary, in April 2015, and it would become a fan’s favourite. When Ms Akindele makes movies, she is not just particular about entertaining; she is also determined to educate, and this is a legacy that has sprung through her films.

As she steps into the Jenifa character in Jenifa’s Diary and speaks the unrefined English that Nigerians have come to know and love, she enters into different gimmicks but draws lessons from them. In one of her series episodes, she talked about a customer eating shabbily, only for the customer to hear her. She apologised while teaching the audience not to look down on anyone.

Funke Akindele playing a double. Photo source: The Whistler Newspaper

As Nollywood progresses in its production, the growth is evident in Funke’s acting and the movies she produces. In Omo Ghetto: The Saga, produced in 2020, she appeared as a twin, at a time when double gangers were becoming mainstream in Hollywood. She also expertly infuses action in her movies while keeping cinematography top-notch.

Ms Akindele is laser-focused, which shows in how she handles controversies surrounding her. The extraordinary filmmaker has been married twice. She married Adeola Kehinde Oloyede on May 26, 2012, and later to Abdul Rasheed Bello, known as JJC Skillz, in May 2016. Both marriages ended in divorce, but it didn’t break her spirit.

Commenting on her divorce recently, she said: “I do not see it (my marriage) as a failure. I take it as it comes. My mental health is very important. My career is very important. I have to make an impact and inspire a lot of people. Yes, I break down sometimes, but I keep moving.”

Indeed, Ms Akindele’s dedication to her career and the need to make an impact is evident in her latest movie, A Tribe Called Judah. The film is a tribute to single mothers who struggle to train their children with multiple personalities, but regardless, love binds them all.

Funke Akindele’s A Tribe Called Judah accomplishments. Photo source: Punch

The star-studded film, filled with suspense and comedy, also exposes money laundering. Ms Akindele’s film is perhaps the simplest way to understand money laundering in an African setting. She did great work, and she knows it.

When the movie shattered the domestic cinema, hitting the N1 billion mark within three weeks, Ms Akindele said“Thank you, Nigeria; thank you, Ghana, for helping us make history! The comments I have read here on social media and the love I have witnessed are ones that I cannot express, but from the bottom of my heart, I am grateful. To my amazing fans (my TRIBE!), cast and crew of #atribecalledjudah, industry elders, colleagues, friends, influencers, comedians, musicians and celebrities who have taken turns to support this project in various forms, you made N1billion a reality, and I couldn’t have done this without you. A massive thank you to @filmoneng for the seamless distribution; you guys rock!”

Fan reviews of the movie also keep pouring in, with Deborah Danbaba Debbydee saying:

“A Tribe Called Judah says a lot. Yes, I’ve watched it and cried, laughed and learnt some lessons. Being a single mother with five children from different fathers (Wazobia) is not easy at all. I felt the pain, disgrace, agony and depression, but in the end, there’s this joy of motherhood that dried off my tears.”

Here’s a brief for many who do not know about Ms Akindele’s early life!

Funke Akindele was born on August 24, 1977 in Ikorodu, Lagos State. For her primary education, she attended Grace Children Schools, Gbagada, while she attended Lagos State Model College, Igbo-kuta, for her secondary education. She also has an OND in Mass Communication from Moshood Abiola Polytechnic, Ogun State and a Law degree from the University of Lagos.

Currently, she is the Chief Executive Officer of Scene One Production and the founder of The Funke Akindele Network (FAAN), a 360-degree filmmaking and production. Aside from currently holding the title of the Nigerian filmmaker with the highest-grossing movie in domestic cinema, she has several accolades, including Africa Magic Viewers’ Choice Awards (2022) and Best Actress in a Movie Role for Africa Movie Academy Awards (2020).

 

Simbiat Bakare is a freelance journalist from Lagos, Nigeria. You can reach her via livelyhoodwithsimbiat@gmail.com