BY IFE OLUJUYIGBE
I pay attention to that very first feeling I get about a movie as soon as I am done watching, or almost done; say, after the main conflict of the movie is resolved. For 2016 film 93 Days, the feeling was dissatisfaction. Yes, I couldn’t shake off the emotion and the pride in our victory as a nation reflected in the movie, but there was an element of dissatisfaction in there somewhere; a dissatisfaction borne out of wanting more.
Perhaps this is a good thing. Perhaps feeling satisfied after a movie isn’t always such a grand thing; we probably should want more, we should long to sit in the cinema the rest of our lives watching a movie go on and on because we love it so. Or not; who is sure about anything?
A duration of 93 days –from the moment the first case of the deadly Ebola disease set foot in our nation, to the day it completely ceased – was merged into two hours, and brilliantly so. Steve Gukas gives us with this film, something to hold on to for years and years to come; like a trophy, to look back on when despair attempts to hit us and make us doubt who we are. There are no surprises; it is a story we all are aware of, and in spite of that, it manages to keep us glued, keep us quietly immersed, following and completely shutting the world out. And yes, while many may have anticipated a few tweaks here and there, this is not what the director wanted to achieve. No. The director was looking to tell a truth, showing us that these were regular people who walked unknowing into a battlefield they thought was home, and while diligently dispensing their duties, got shot in the back by a deadly virus.
The analogy Dr. David Brett Majors (Alastair Mackenzie) uses, citing Ebola as a bully, is perhaps the most intriguing line of the movie. The battle for their lives was real, and it was a delight to know that some succeeded, even though, sadly, some did not. The admission of fear was carefully emphasized in the screenplay. And it was beyond honest: everyone was afraid, every single one of us. You can hear the fear in Banky’s voice when he tells his mother ‘Mumsy, everyone online is saying it is Ebola,’ knowing full well that she is right in the middle of it. You can see the fear in Patrick Sawyer’s eyes when the diagnosis is confirmed. You can see the resignation in Dr. Ada’s sagging shoulders, as she picks her phone to make that call that would separate her from her family. You can hear it in the wails of a taxi driver, wondering if he has contracted the disease by carrying a bleeding woman in his back seat. The movie needed to show that the fear was huge, and it did, but it also showed that the bravery was huger, and it was.
Bimbo Akintola is cast as Dr. Stella Ameyo Adadevoh, and she completely blows you away. She does not overdo anything. She is perfect, in the way she cares intently for everyone, in the way she carries out research and refuses to eat, in the way she insists that the whining ambassador be denied discharge just in case, in the way she reminds her son of her eternal love. When she is on the phone with her son, Banky (Charles Etubiebi Oke), who is only a few metres away and can see her but cannot be closer, you abandon all of your sophistication on a seat beside you, and begin to cry. It is too real to hold back. You feel the pain of family and friends as they watch their loved ones suffer. You appreciate the sacrifice that didn’t put you in their place, crying over people you love or watching your life slowly seep out of you.
Gideon Okeke, for example, who plays the role of Dr. Morris Ibeawuchi, pokes your tear glands when he tells his nephew in his thick accent to get away because he has a cold and doesn’t want him to contract it. You feel the hurt in the little boy’s eyes, who doesn’t understand the love behind the rejection. You understand the love too, a love that says ‘I can afford to be harmed, but not you.’
And then there is Somkele Idhalama as Dr. Ada Igonoh, who cares in spite of herself. She is equally as sick, but no, she attends to her colleagues in quarantine, encouraging Nurse Evelyn (Rita Edward) and pregnant Nurse Justina (Zara Udofia Ejoh) to not give up hope. She battles, watching the two people beside her die in succession, and then finally makes it out a conqueror, celebrated by loved ones and an entire nation. Somkele once again proves that she is an actor to watch out for, a force. She makes a statement with her portrayal in this film that she isn’t here to play, and we cannot but agree.
These are soldiers. But for them, for their sacrifices and discretion and hard work, who knows what the Ebola virus could have done to this nation? And 93 Days is the representation of our collective struggle and triumph as a people, a very properly done representation. Bimbo Manuel, Keppy Ekpeyong Bassey, Danny Glover, Tina Mba, Seun Ajayi, Kayode Aderupoko, Franca Brown, Charles Okafor… this movie features some of Nollywood’s finest who deliver right on the mark.
93 Days may have its faults as a movie, but we do not see them. What we see is a movie we would never forget, a movie we would never tire of seeing, and a movie that, in a way, immortalizes the dearly departed who sacrificed to save our lives from the deadly disease that could have destroyed us. So forgive me if I didn’t want it to end, or if you caught me with a red eye, walking out of the cinema, lost in thought. Not many movies do this to me.
90%. (basically, because no movie is ever 100%)