BY IFE OLUJUYIGBE
Written and directed by Dare Olaitan, Ojukokoro is a 2017 feature-length film centred around a manager of a Lubcon Petrol Station, Andrew, who has lung cancer and plans to steal from his workplace to save his life. What he doesn’t realise is that he isn’t the only one with an agenda; everyone around him is devising a plan to take money that isn’t theirs. These men would go to any length to satisfy their greed, and this would ultimately be their downfall.
The Ojukokoro story is imaginative and different. It shows, as the story is split into chapters, and each major character’s story is fully explored. As you progress, the bits and pieces fit together and by the end, they all converge to make for an outstanding film. The actors are fully in character, and while the film is clearly low-budget, the resources are well maximised.
Ojukokoro is not without its shortcomings. The screenwriters would write scenes that go on for minutes with dialogue that doesn’t exactly have to be. Some scenes would make you tire out from too much aimless chitchat; you’d be teetering at the brink of boredom. The film begins slowly, perhaps a little too slowly. We watch as Andrew gets out of bed lazily, brushes his teeth lazily, gets dressed, gets in the car and goes all the way to Jubril’s. We watch him park and get out and call out and meet silence. There is purpose to it, but it’s hard to see it when that’s how we begin a film we are hoping to enjoy. Twenty minutes in, we almost want to conclude that this is a waste of time, and it takes the next twenty minutes to convince us that it is not. Perhaps the filmmaker should have understood that minutes are precious, and in this clime, time is money.
The subtitling is jumbled up in many places. The names are confused too, even by the characters that bear the names. Monday calls Sunday Monday at one point. Some attention to detail would have gone a long way. Of course, there is also the issue of how a filling station with so many audible gunshots still had people walking around it like nothing was going on. In fact, as soon as the two robbers came with big guns and masks, passers-by were expected to have fled for it or called the police.
Sunday hid his phone in his socks and that was supposed to mean something, but it didn’t, and it makes one wonder why. He could still have kept the phone and the robbers would not have seen it. There’s also the part of the two security men defecating in a bush with their pants on. Holes!
Still, Ojukokoro stands out on the strength of its brilliant cast and its complicated intelligent story. In an industry that has its roots deep in cliché, Ojukokoro is a breath of fresh air. Everything has a cause, everything has an effect. And that hilarious masquerade that kept showing up at intervals to the stupefied accountant is something we’re bound to always giggle at every time we remember.
Tope Tedela seems to have come into his own; the diversity of his roles in films clearly doing him a lot of good. As Sunday, he is serious and unserious at the same time. We don’t understand how he saw poison in the middle of an injected cake, but we’ll let it slide. Seun Ajayi is great as Monday. His interpretation of his role is one that gives the movie life. Shawn Faqua is fantastic as Rambo, and makes a statement with his acting that shows he should be taken seriously. Charles Etubiebi sells Andrew/Manager well. Emmanuel Ikubese wears his silly without shame as the accountant. We laugh at every scene he appears in. Wale Ojo does what he does best as Mad Dog Max. Ali Nuhu could be better as Jubril. He doesn’t convince us enough that his wife Sade (Somkhele Idhalama) is missing. Kayode Olaiya (Aderupoko), Hafiz Oyetoro and Gbolahan Olatunde are extras that drive the humour home. Zainab Balogun, Linda Ejiofor and Kunle Remi have one-scene roles they do satisfactorily, even though we can’t but roll our eyes at the extra caution a wife takes when her husband wants to go ask for directions in a mere filling station. It is excused as a woman’s intuition, but even that is hard to buy.
The Hausa and Yoruba speaking mixed with English stands this flick out. It sells the Nigerian brand well. Worthy of note too is the delicious grossness splattered all over: the insides of a messy toilet, a dead lizard ridden over by car tyres, bloody puke. Such comical intentional gut-churning grossness.
All round, Ojukokoro shows off unconventional thinking and we’re particularly impressed with the creator(s)/writers. Nollywood is growing in leaps and bounds, and Ojukokoro is proof of this.