BY IFE OLUJUYIGBE
I had a huge grin on my face seeing this movie again. The last time I saw it, I was way younger and more gullible. I would have an impression of Patience Ozokwor as a witch from then on, even after many good roles I saw her play afterwards.
Submission is a 2002 movie produced by Valentine Nwabulu and directed by Christian Onu, set in Lagos and an undefined locality tagged ‘Village’. It tells the story of a family with a mother, Lebechi, who is generally up to no good as she makes it her life’s mission to manipulate her children and destroy their matrimonial homes. Against her husband’s incessant warnings and naggings, she does as she pleases and succeeds with her last child, Azuka, who obeys her every word at the expense of her marriage. Things work out pretty badly for Azuka, until she switches on the light bulb and realizes her folly, and subsequently makes peace with her husband as karma catches up with Lebechi.
This movie is balanced with just the right amount of emotion. There’s the hilarity that leaves you in stiches, and there’s the part that makes you teary. There’s mostly parts that get you angry, however, as Lebechi excellently sports her horns and does her evil. There isn’t much originality to this story, but it is easy to relate to. Every (Nigerian) woman prays for the right in-laws, some even going to extremes of wishing their mothers-in-law dead just so they can live in peace with their husbands. It applies to men, too. Submission tells this story, and does it well.
Star-studded, Submission’s acting is fine and fluid. Stella Damasus, who plays the role of Azuka, does it with grace. Patience Ozokwor is a natural; she is arguably one of the most believable older actresses Nollywood has got, even though her roles are mostly stereotypical. Zack Orji is Patrick, Azuka’s husband; calm, forgiving and a little impatient. Jennifer Eliogwu is one of Lebechi’s children, and so is Clem Ohameze. Fabian Adibe is her husband, another very calm actor known for equally calm roles. Because most of these stars are in their comfort zones, playing roles they’re typically wont to, their acting is generally good, making Submission a beauty. On the flip side, it makes the movie safe –too safe– and largely predictable.
The movie begins with an introduction to the village scene, setting the mood. It shows random men on their farms, young boys fighting, women chit-chatting on their way to the stream and so on. The director did well in taking time out to set the scene rather than rushing it, thereby rushing us. More importantly, he did not bore us in the process.
One thing that is hard to understand is how easily people travel from ‘Village’ to Lagos as though they were taking a stroll to the next compound. From all indications, Village is somewhere in eastern Nigeria which is never a stone-throw from Lagos. The ease with which the characters make the transition is worrisome. In one scene, Azuka’s father says he wants to go ask his son-in-law if what his daughter told him is true, and then poof! He’s off to Lagos. I mean, who likes that kind of stress?
Again, it’s hard to buy the story of Azuka leaving a five-month-old baby and running to the village for almost a year. It’s interesting that, even after her hiatus, she returns to a baby just as tiny as he was when she left. They could at least have explained that the child had a stunted growth, and we wouldn’t have asked too many questions. Or is it that the timing in baby world is not the same with ours? How did we not get the memo?
It’s a little strange that Azuka is painted in a light of an ‘ajebo’ when she helps her mother with farm and home chores. Hello, this babe was living in the village before her husband came to whisk her off to the city. She has barely stayed a year in Lagos, and she no longer is accustomed to farm work? Strange. This explains why anyone would travel to the US for summer and return with a different accent.
The way the men order their wives around and ask them if they’re stupid is a little unsettling, but this is probably the feminist in me speaking. Besides, it was shot in 2002, you can’t blame them much. There are also errors with spellings of names of casts, omission of letters and whatnots, and at the end of the movie, the one I saw, there’s even a wrong date of release. Okay, who does futuristic dating on their movies?
A different title may have done more justice, but again, ‘Submission’ isn’t so bad, especially since it was done during the era of one-word titles. Splitting the movie into two parts was pointless. The combination of both parts wasn’t even two hours long.
Submission is ultimately a very entertaining flick. It has loads of lessons too; the kind everyone can learn from. It is very impressive for a 2002 movie with its plot and delivery, and just with a little more attention to detail, it could have been a masterpiece fit for the ‘old but gold’ category. Right now, it just stands as good, not great.