In the 90s, Mount Zion films were vehicles for messages on heaven and hell, but they also scared “the hell” out of many Nigerians.
In the 90s, there were more Christian-driven movies than at any other time in the Nigerian entertainment history, all thanks to Mount Zion films.
Call them what you want, but these “faith-based,” “spiritual,” or “Christian” movies were one of the household necessities in those days. It’s rare to find a 90s baby who hasn’t seen any.
The influx of these films started with Mike Bamiloye’s Mount Zion Drama Ministry, which started making and distributing Nigerian films with spiritual messages in 1990.
Mike and Gloria Bamiloye founded the Mount Zion Ministry, which was popular for most faith-based films we saw in the 90s.
These films were aimed at both the Christian and non-Christian audience.
The journey started in 1985, and was inspired by an Indian film which Bamiloye saw, titled “Sholay.”
“I was completely captivated by the story and the acting so much that at the end of the story, I was overwhelmed. I burst into tears and began to cry,” he said during an interview.
“It was not a message of salvation neither was it of revival, but I was so much touched and challenged and I began to pray in tears that the Lord would use me too to make a movie as powerful as that for Him.”
His answer came in 1990 when he produced “Unprofitable Servant,” which was later followed by “The Beginning of the End.”
Afterwards came the pop culture phenomenon “Agbara Nla” (Ultimate Power) which was released in 1992. The movie made the phrase “Ayamatanga,” popular, which by the way, we recently learned is actually “I am at Anger.”
It’s pronounced the same so don’t let this revelation destroy your childhood memories.
Mount Zion films became popular and were often screened to congregations during events such as crusades. These movies were aimed at evangelism than entertainment.
They always used frightful images to depict the biblical account of end times or post-tribulation rapture – viewers were always left sober.
For some, these movies which were influential in churches and homes, fostered spirituality, while for most, they intensified the fear of hell and the idea of eternity.
Some of their movies focused on the consequences of sin – in “Just A Little Sin,” Sade, a sister in the church fornicated, got pregnant and had an abortion. The consequences of her sin were the death of her ministry and physical death.
Mount Zion films, despite their popularity in the 90s, never featured any mainstream Nollywood actress. The cast comprised mostly of Mike Bamiloye, his wife Gloria Bamiloye, Yemi Adepoju and Toyin Oke.
In 2014, the ministry produced her 100th film, some of which are subtitled in French, Nupe, Hausa, Portuguese Creole, Ewe, Lingala and Hindi.
These movies are no longer as popular as they used to be. This could be attributed to the increase in Nollywood movies, which preached the same message, starred mainstream actors and were laced with humour.
“It was just their era. We didn’t have a lot of options back then, unlike now when you can decide to watch a Mount Zion Film or several other faith-based films,” a hardcore follower said to Pulse Nigeria.
But they opened doors for several other faith-based movies such as Helen Ukpabio’s “Highway to the Grave,” “Grace to Grass,” and “End of the Wicked,” which featured mainstream actors like Regina Askia, Charles Okafor, Solu Fosudo, Hilda Dokubo among others.
The industry has since seen an influx of mainstream movies on animism and witchcraft, which unlike Mount Zion films, can be scary but also funny – sometimes, ridiculously funny.
Nigeria is a religious country that seems quite obsessed with conversations on eternity. So it’s no wonder these movies were as successful and popular as they were in the 90s.
In some cases, parents made their children watch them. If you’re a 90s baby and you never saw one, we are sorry to say that you actually missed out on an unforgettable era.
Decades later, it’s impossible to forget these Mount Zion Films, which preached God and rapture and scared “the hell” out of us.
Some cases, parents made their children watch them. If you’re a 90s baby and you never saw one, we are sorry to say that you actually missed out on an unforgettable era.