A Naija Christmas is a Nollywood Christmas film released on Netflix on 16th December. It is a feel-good romantic comedy starring Rachel Oniga, Kunle Remi, Segilola Ogidan and more in various roles. It is a Netflix original film directed by Kunle Afolayan. Although it is a Nigerian film, the audio of A Naija Christmas is in English with English subtitles. The synopsis of A Naija Christmas on Netflix reads, “A mother’s Christmas wish – and the grand prize that comes with it – sets off a fierce competition between her sons.” The film has a running time of 2 hours and 30 minutes.
The word ‘Naija’ has two implications in the context of A Naija Christmas. It is used as a colloquial slang for ‘Nigerian’, but it also informally signifies family. The title of the film is in keeping with the theme of celebratory merry family comedy, as the plot follows a Nigerian mother and her three sons make Christmas memorable for one another.
The film opens with a dedication to, Mrs. Oniga, one of the leads of the film who passed away before the film could release. She has been working in the Nigerian film industry since 1993, which might lead us to think that she would have been elated at the significance of the film’s release on an international streaming platform. For Nigeria, the film is of historico-cultural importance; it is the country’s first film to be released as a Netflix original. In a country where 45% of the population is Christian, the film is also notable as their first Christmas-themed film.
-A Naija Christmas review does not contain any spoilers-
Her role is that of Madam Agatha, the mother of three male children, who become frantic and anxious at the prospect of her children remaining unmarried and childless; she hilariously declares that the son who will inherit her large house and piece of land will be the one who can secure a bride for himself by Christmas. A comedy of errors ensues, where the three brothers desperately compete with each other in a search for a bride.
The family comedy-drama is also bitten by the bug of romance, as the three brothers engage in amusing attempts to woo potential partners, with frequently charming outcomes. The sibling rivalry is never allowed by the makers to turn bitter, with the tone of the film consistently serving a larger humorous undercurrent that is pervasive throughout every element of the film’s construction.
The film clearly prides itself on its commitment to upholding the most visible features of the “holiday spirit”. To a certain extent, it succeeds. The parties, the messaging highlighting the idea of the family unit as a blessing, the playful squabbles, the light-heartedness, they are all there. However, the film’s will to remain the quintessential superficial “fun Christmas film” becomes its undoing at times, when one is sure to be reminded of the hollowness under the surface.
It becomes obvious at times; whenever a moment is about to slide into being “too real” for the makes, the moment is tempered by a sudden shift into comedy. Till that is detected, the film can be a breezy one-time watch, provided that international members of the audience can cooperate with some of the unique socio-cultural relations of the film’s setting.
Summing up: A Naija Christmas
The film is warm, funny and wants to tug at all the right cords as its heart is in the right place, but sometimes falters on its way to get there. If you have watched, similarly themed films, this will be too predictable a ride for you.
A Naija Christmas is now streaming on Netflix.Instagram & Facebook to keep yourself updated with the latest news and reviews.