Reviews

Nollywood Ti Take Over: Just Not Married, 8 Bars & A Clef Keep the Flame Afire…

‘Nollywood’, as Nigeria’s film industry is popularly known is just one of the numerous business endeavours that carries the stigma of being, ‘Made in Nigeria’. Yes, I said it. Somehow, almost like an unconscious reaction, Nigerian consumers still seem to frown upon made in Nigeria products in the form of goods, services and various content just because, ‘it’s made in Nigeria’.

Well, maybe not just cos it’s made in Nigeria…. I admit, we Nigerians have truly made it hard for us to trust us. #Simple!

But this is not a post to tell you of the woes of Nigerian products, or the success stories of the Music, Comedy and Fashion Industries when it comes to winning the trust of the Nigerian consumer. This is a story to tell you that Nollywood has definitely arrived!

If you remember, in my excitement a few months back, I declared 2015 to be, ‘The year of Nollywood’. For one who had kept a close eye on the industry over the last few years, I was intrigued by the developments that I observed during the course of the year 2015 and had rushed to shout on the mountains. But in a twist of fate, and as though there was a God out there trying to shame me for being too forward, the first quarter of 2016 has almost put the entire 2015 to shame.

The various sparks of awesomeness from various movies here and there seem to be providing enough momentum to stir up a forest fire. Hollup, Hollup! Don’t think the industry is now shooting and delivering Hollywood style productions o. We never reach that one, as we never get that kind money.

However, over the past couple of months, Nigerian content has shown up and showed off; see Couple of Days, Surulere, Wives on Strike, Fifty (this one is 2015/2016 sha), Skiny Girl in Transit, Jenifa’s Diaries amongst others. The industry ain’t playing my friend. I can almost declare for a fact that Nigerian Film/TV content makers heard the cry of the people and started demanding more from themselves and their fellow industry practitioners, and me I’m just here, enjoying the sweet stuff prepared for my pleasure.

Before I talk too much sha as I’m told I do sometimes, let me get into the gist of the matter. I recently watched two Nigerian feature films I am proud are gracing the big screen. One has been screening for a few weeks and will probably be out of cinemas soon, while the other will be hitting the big screen on June 3, 2016.

First up, Just Not Married. I’ve called this film ‘Not Just Married’ so many times I feel it should have been titled that to save me the hassles of correcting myself.

Anyways, Not Just Ma, Just Not Married is the tale of two brothers on two different paths, coupled with life’s inherent unfairness and the misconception of outward appearances.

For me, two things stood out in this film, the characters and the plot. Judith Audu-Foght almost pulled an Omoni by producing and starring in the film, all that was left was directing. Nevertheless, she carried both crowns well and did a great job of putting together a cast and crew that worked.

JNM is a tale with very remarkable characters in a cohesive and fascinating plot. The ensemble cast also flexes some good acting muscles, proving that Nollywood can get more than comedies right. It’s quite a shame to observe that JNM is out of most cinemas, though not surprising since it’s not primarily a comedy, still, I recommend the movie to everyone who can make it to a screen where it’s still showing, it’s an interesting watch.

Moving forward….. we all know Nigerians love comedy; they are easy on the brain, fun to watch and a great stress reliever (much needed in this stress-fulllllll economy). Hence, Mr. Non-conformer that I am, I like to look out for the non-comic Nollywood films just to form serious critic sometimes.

Along strolls Raconteur Productions 8 Bars and A Clef, the story of Victor E, a dyslexic young man with a highly dysfunctional past, who uses music as a learning aid and ends up pursuing a singing career in a somewhat cut throat music industry. You can see the story in your mind’s eye abi? Yep, Victory Dance!

8 Bars is a series of firsts; Director Chioma Onyenwe’s first feature film, lead actor IBK SpaceshipBoi and supporting actor Ade Bantu’s debut in Nollywood and most likely, the first Nigerian film where the lead actor is involved in making original music on the soundtrack for the movie. But those are not the most impressive things about this film, 8 Bars tackles an intricate albeit unfamiliar subject in dyslexia, a term many Nigerians may be unaware of; though I would have loved the delivery of the subject matter to tug on deeper emotional strings.

Maybe I’m not the biggest fan of IBK’s genre of music, (I know for a fact that the dude has bucket loads of talent musically – he used to be my music director when I still dabbled in music), but when I initially heard the original soundtrack, ‘8 Bars & a Cleft’, I felt it could have been a catchier, sing-along, feel good type of song that one would bob his head to as he left the cinema hall…. Listening again now on YouTube, I think I’m starting to fall in love with the song some more. It actually fits the movie.

Going back to my review of the movie itself, what Mr. SpaceshipBoi lacks in acting chops, he makes up for with the cuteness of his character (I’m stealing that sentiment from a fellow audience member), meanwhile, Bimbo Akintola does amazing as the mother with proper grade A low self-esteem in an abusive relationship (she ends up bringing the rawest emotions amongst the entire cast) and Kehinde Bankole shines as Gabby, the doting big sister who is Victor E’s biggest hero. Other memorable cast members are Linda Ejiofor as Vanessa the fine girl A&R exec who did a great job of ‘developing’ some steamy talent out of Victor E, Wale Ojo as the fixer/shrink, promising young actor Samuel Olumide Robinson as young Victor E, low-life stepfather Ade Bantu who spent most of the film struggling to find a shirt, Jude Idada as Oga record label boss/average villain, Nelson ‘Blink’ Agose as Odili, Kunle Bello and Olumide Owuru as Crash-Kid a popular ‘pangolo’ type singer and arch nemesis to Victor E (remind you of anyone?).

On a technical note, Director Chioma’s attempt to tell the story in reverse chronology almost became confusing at a point but the movie was able to catch itself before falling into a hole. The soundtrack/score was on point, big-ups to Ava Momoh / Nico Casal, though sound could have been a tad better for the big screen. I definitely would have loved some more character development and continuity, however, overall, 8 Bars is a good watch. Congrats to the cast and crew, especially to Chioma who is currently nominated for the 2016 AMAA Award for Best First Feature Film by a Director.

Check out Behind the Scenes Footage of the Production Below:

Remember, 8 Bars premieres in Nigerian Cinemas this Friday, June 3 2016, so make it a date and spread the word. #WatchNigerianFilmsInTheCinema

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