BY IFE OLUJUYIGBE
Oloibiri opens to the ancient Niger-Deltan town in 1956, where men and women mourn and shed tears like heavy clouds over their loved ones as they drag their feet to bury them. Among them is Timipre, a young man who has just lost his wife. He is bitter, and stares into nothingness like one lost in the dark. Beside him is his son, equally lost. There is a quest for revenge in their eyes, a promise to make some people pay for their loss.
It returns to present day Oloibiri, and we are introduced to Boma, aka Gunpowder, a militant lord who is revealed to have studied as a geologist but resorted to a skewed kind of activism, one that involves planting bullets in heads and slashing bodies with cutlasses, in order to fight for the rights of his people. Timipre, who is now an old man with a grown grandson and a doctor who comes from time to time to help him heal from his psychological issues, continues to get flashes of what could have been avoided but for oil mining activities that raped his land in his day. His pain is still fresh, he still wants some people to pay, but he is an old man now, armed with a worn bible in a shabby house with a door tattooed by ‘Restoration 2010’ church stickers. In truth, there seems to be no revenge in sight for Timipre.
We are taken to the United States, where the headquarters of Forshore is based. The CEO, Mike Powell decides to come to Nigeria when he gets an anonymous mail of pictures of suffering children in the land his oil wells are situated. He reaches Nigeria and is waylaid by Gunpowder and his men who are determined to draw blood. Back home, his family is held hostage by two Nigerian spies who work for him. They demand that they revoke their oil mining license, but Gunpowder only wants blood, and he is willing to kill anyone for it, including Timipre, his grandson and his doctor.
Oloibiri has a rich storyline, one that is based on true events, twined with the imaginations of a brilliant person. It addresses the plight of the communities who have been affected by indiscriminate oil exploration activities in the Niger-Delta, the aftermath, and the question of responsibility. The connection between its characters works well as accidental, and the main characters seem real and true to life. The only connection that isn’t made clear is how Boma’s mother (Taiwo Ajai-Lycett) and Timipre are related. First you think Timipre is an uncle to Boma, especially after his line “Our nephews now carry guns” or something like that, but it turns out they aren’t even related.
The makeup would have been impressive, but the gunshot wounds look like potholes turned inside out. Their representation of the past is properly done with props and all, but one would never understand why its pictures are blurry for the most part. The pacing of the action keeps you at the edge of your seat, but some scenes seem too unrealistic, like how Wale Adebayo’s character and his fake soldiers keep making noise after they get Mr. Powell. It is too loud it alerts their enemies, and they knew it would, yet remained unguarded. In one quick sweep, they all are killed, and it makes one wonder how a group of militants can be so weak and clueless.
Olu Jacobs keeps calling Oloibiri like a Yoruba man. Other than this, he shows us why he’s boss. He takes on his Timipre character and breathes life into it. Richard Mofe-Damijo as Gunpowder, is brilliant; very brilliant. He lost a noticeable amount of weight to portray this role, and his sacrifice doesn’t go to waste. Taiwo Ajai-Lycett does an amazing job interpreting her role as Gunpowder’s worried mother. Ivie Okujaye, particularly, shines with her portrayal of Doctor Chisom. You feel goosebumps on her behalf, as events in her life change with the fluttering of an eyelid. Ifeanyi Williams does good too as Timipre’s grandson with a crush.
The screenplay by Samantha Iwowo was carefully written, packed with profound lines that go with the feeling the movie tries to create. This, together with Curtis Graham’s directing, makes the emotion in the movie utterly believable. A Rogers Ofime production, I like how Oloibiri passes its message, how it does a lot of showing rather than telling, and how it shines a torch on a matter that needs looking at. Oloibiri may have its faults here and there, but its story is solid and the acting couldn’t be better, making it nothing short of a delight to watch.