BY IFE OLUJUYIGBE
The advent of many remarkable box office debut films this year is proof that you don’t need to be old and grey for your dreams to be valid. To say I am proud of the emerging voices and young filmmakers doesn’t even scratch the surface of what I really mean.
Take Isoken or Ojukokoro for example. See ingenuity at play. And even if we haven’t seen the highly anticipated My Wife and I movie yet, just the idea of it is getting our chairs sweaty already. So you can imagine how impressive it was to finally see BB Sasore‘s Banana Island Ghost, aka BIG and leave the cinema with a spring in my step and a smile on my face. Look out, people, Nollywood is not playing with you.
Banana Island Ghost is the story of two people: a woman who must save her late father’s house in Banana Island if that’s the last thing she does alive, and a man who thinks he must have a soul mate to go to heaven. When this man, Patrick, dies in an accident, he begs God for another chance to hurriedly find a soul mate. God gives him three days, tells him his potential soulmate is the one who can see his ghost, talk to his ghost and basically interact with it. He is feeling lucky, so he makes specifications: big girl living in Banana Island. He is granted and shows up in the bed of the same plus-sized woman whose house debt is due in three days. It is the most unlikely combination, and they would have to quarrel their way through to both getting what they want.
This story, silly as it sounds, is one of the most imaginative I have seen on our home screens in a long while. Who would even think of something like this? The interesting part of it is, it works; silliness and all. It works so gracefully in spite of its overstretched trailer and gives you a good time. Sasore casts two not-so-popular actors as its lead. We know Chigul is well-known as a comedian, but I can count on my fingers the number of movies she has acted in. Playing the lead in a film that stretches for almost two hours, appearing in almost every scene, and not as a mere comic relief, is a big deal, and Chigul does it with all the naturalness it requires as Ijeoma. But the one who really steals the show, the one who comes in, surprises us all and storms out like a boss, is Partick Diabuah, who also plays Patrick in the film. He rises to the occasion of this film and gives us memories to hold on to long afterwards.
The sunset and drone shots are magic. The music is a mood-suiting mix of fasts and slows. The special effects are very well done, and the combats are as real as they come. Sasore puts in so much hard work in making this fantastical story so seamless that we are left with no doubt whatsoever. It is a showcase of intelligent choices in cinematography, casting, and writing, you know this fellow is here for all the awards.
Banana Island Ghost also stars veterans such as Bimbo Manuel who plays God and absolutely kills it and Tina Mba as Ijeoma’s mother. Saidi Balogun plays the DPO, Akan Nnani is crazy hilarious as the sergeant, Ali Nuhu isn’t bad as Bad Man King, Damilola Adegbite is herself, Kemi Lala Akindoju is the principal, Bimbo Ademoye is the coworker, Dorcas Shola Fapson plays a fine girl and Tomiwa Edun plays Ijeoma’s boyfriend. And then there’s Ninja, a veiled lady who is skilled in martial arts, played by Makida Moka.
Some scenes seem irrelevant, however. One is where Ijeoma is hit by a car driven by her taunting co-workers. The accident seems serious, but in the next scene, we find her walking as if nothing happened. Another is her expulsion from different schools and her altercation with her principal. Does it move the story forward? I don’t see how.
One wonders how Ijeoma carries wads of cash worth two hundred thousand Naira around. For a person who steals phones and wallets to gather money for the house, I doubt she’d be willing to throw away nearly two months of hard work to a disappearing boyfriend just because he asks. The love-profession scenes are a little stiff. Or maybe the sudden love just doesn’t settle well in the stomach; a sudden BFF-ness does though, and it is easier to adopt Ijeoma and Patrick as ‘friendship goals’ rather than lovers, especially after watching them bamboozle attendants of the fundraiser with the Google-controlled car bit, which is all kinds of genius.
Banana Island Ghost definitely lives up to its hype. It is smooth and sweet and funny and fluid. Lines like: “Patrick!” “Paleh!”, or “An from Awka (in the heights of Igbo accents)” are the kind of lines you don’t see coming, but totally fall for. I salute this film and would want to see it again. Produced by Biola Alabi, it gets a BIG ‘A’ for effort.