BY IFE OLUJUYIGBE
When you have two of Africa’s bests in the same movie, you have your expectations up to your hairline, threatening to drown you in its depth. I remember Ije as that 2010 movie everyone couldn’t wait to see. Coupled with the quality of its stars was the fact that it was shot both in Nigeria and in the USA with just as many American actors as there was Nigerian. It’s not every day you see a mixed-nationality flick whose foreign characters aren’t phoney white regular people who can’t act to save their lives who are cast in a movie solely based on the colours of their skin.
Ije tells the story of Anya and Chioma, two sisters who find themselves in Los Angeles at different times and for different reasons. Anya, a musician married to her producer, Michael Michino, is being accused of his murder as well as that of two other men in her house. Chioma, a banker in Nigeria, flies all the way to LA upon receiving the news in a letter from her sister, with the ultimate mission of saving her from going to prison for a crime she is certain she didn’t commit.
Chioma discovers her sister’s lawyer’s incompetence and finds another lawyer, Jalen, to help represent her sister, in spite of his very recent loss of a high-profile case and dismissal from the law firm. She soon becomes friendly with him.
In the process of the investigation, secrets about the real events following the murders are revealed, and though Anya is found to have lied, it is justified by the intermittent trips down memory lane to ten years ago in their village in Oku when she was only a girl with dreams, a father who censored them and a sister who was afraid of them.
The movie ends with the verdict of the trial.
Ije has an excellent storyline and a script that makes you want to jot in your notepad. I’m probably the biggest fan of those lines; of scenes such as where Chioma responds to the little girl who enquires about her big hat with a smile: ‘It is where I store all my ideas’. She later tells the girl when she doesn’t have it on anymore: ‘I guess I am running out of ideas’. Apt, considering that she was indeed running out of them at the time.
Ije is an onion, with layers upon layers shedding themselves as the movie progresses. It is a hot plate of rice that must not be rushed but savoured with every grain. The title, Ije, which is interpreted to mean ‘The Journey’ is appropriate because the movie takes you on a journey from start to finish. The attractions on the side are equally laden with meaning, so much so that when you’re done, you realize you didn’t just see a movie about abuse, but one also about racism, exploitation, love, terrorism and justice. It is all encompassing, and the messages are very subtly passed, not thrown in your face.
Genevieve Nnaji plays Chioma, sister to Anya who is portrayed by Omotola Jakande Ekeinde. It goes without saying that the duo didn’t disappoint. Diana Yekini appears in three scenes as Libby, an American with a Nigerian mother who befriends both sisters within their time in prison, and she manages to make a lasting impression in those three appearances, one that can’t be left out when the story of the movie is told. Clem Ohameze plays the role of their father, acting in Ibo all through, and the two girls who play younger versions of Chioma and Anya are absolutely fantastic in their acting. Ulrich Que is Jalen, the new lawyer who helps the sisters, falls for Chioma and plans to take her to see his mother at the end of the movie. Odalys Garcia acts as the illegal immigrant maid, who helps the case by her testimony.
The casting, directing and scripting of Ije is very professionally done. Co-written, co-produced and directed by Chineze Anyaene, Ije is well thought-out and refreshing. The low points are almost non-existent. I’ll readily give it a 90%.