BY ‘SEGUN ODEJIMI
Filmmaking is not a matter of life and death. Some people need this drilled into them. If you don’t make films, nobody will die; it’s that simple!
North East is a 2016(!!!) film made by Muyiwa Aluko. According to his IMDb page, this is his second film as a director after Love Regardless which he helmed in 2015. I have not seen Love Regardless so I will limit my artistic impression of Aluko to North East. OC Ukeje plays the male lead (Emeka Okafor), a physiotherapist who ignites a romantic fire with his patient (Hadiza Ahmed), played by Ini Dima-Okojie – a product of the New York Film Academy. Emeka and Hadiza’s love story is almost immediately punctuated by the lady’s father, Alhaji Musa Ahmed a character superbly interpreted by Gbenga Titiloye. Alhaji is already in love with Emeka’s mother, Ijeoma Okafor (Caroline King) so he kicks against the younger ones’ union.
The film starts with the filmmaker showing the audience how much of a perfect father Alhaji is to Hadiza. We immediately get drawn into the strength of their relationship, one we were made to believe was even made stronger by the sudden death of Hadiza’s mother who neither the audience nor Hadiza gets to meet. When Hadiza breaks her neck and a few other bones and ends up in the hospital Emeka works in, Alhaji hardly leaves his daughter’s side. He puts everything on hold just to be there for her. So, the near-instantaneous dislike that Alhaji develops for Hadiza when he finds out that she is seeing his lover’s son will shock you to the marrow. And not in a defendable way. When you find out that Alhaji’s reasons for opposing the youngsters’ union quickly shifts to Emeka’s tribe and religion, you begin to wonder if he didn’t know that Emeka’s mother was Igbo and Christian when he asked her to marry him. In the director’s bid to make a film with interesting twists and turns, he succeeds in putting a bullet through his own leg with the introduction of soggy and entirely pointless additions while overlooking several other details. What physiotherapist spends more time in a dance class than at work or with patients? Who was the last choreography plus F.E.M.I‘s performance for? What does it add to the already wobbly story? And the last scene? Tsk-tsk! Father of all anti-climaxes.
Funky Mallam played a part in this film but he would actually have done better lying on his sofa at home as the character he was made to play ranks up there as one of the most unnecesarry of all-time. There was the nurse who attempted to seduce Emeka early on in the film and went on vacation away from the story until when the director asks her to mutter “Nobody likes me” into the camera towards the end when I was already screaming “End this fucking film and save yourself further embarrassment” at the director, in my head. No need to go into the “how comes” of it taking that long for Emeka and Alhaji to meet.
The production quality of North East is as far from good as the distance between North and East. The sound is unbelievably horrible, even attempting to stand out in its failure in an industry that hasn’t quite got sound production in movies right. Cinematography is more distracting than anything else while the director of photography, the editor and of course, the director should collectively hang their heads in shame for missing (or was it ignoring?) the flashes from the still photographer’s camera which made its way into through post-production and onto the cinema screen. Naija sha, we can like to standout in our rubbishness.
What the story attempts to do – father and son falling in love with mother and daughter respectively – is something I had longed to see for quite a while. However, the arrangement, construction and eventual execution of it is what makes everything unforgiveable.
If there is anything to point at in a desperate bid to find something good in this film, it is how, as mentioned earlier, Gbenga Titiloye manages to stay in character for most parts of his appearances in the film. OC Ukeje and Ini Dima-Okojie also do well, not exceptionally though, with their acting. Caroline King is her usual calm, motherly self we became used to on television. Outside this, the film is annoying. Why waste money and people’s time for this? And there was a premiere! Thank goodness it wasn’t a grand one.
Done is better than nothing, yes. But Muyiwa Aluko needs to ask himself if this is the type of done he wants to be known for in his pretty young career.
Let me tell you a secret. Nobody will die if a film is not made.