B IFE OLUJUYIGBE
Tatuma is born to be an Uzaburu, sacrificed to god Buru when she is twenty-one as atonement for sin. Narimana the priest will make sure of it, if that’s the last thing he does, which is why he recruits Kamani as a little boy, to be the eyes and ears of his god, guarding Tatuma till she is old and ripe to be killed. But Tatuma’s mother, Larayi, has other plans, and when Tatuma is five, she sends her daughter off in the middle of the night with the Reverend Father Hano, damning the consequences. Hano puts Tatuma in a convent in Lagos, and like a flower, she blooms.
But Tatuma is something of a rebel, and between sneaking out to a club at night and flirting with Wali, a music producer, she is every bit irreverent to the faith. This incurs the wrath of the Mother Superior who gives her an ultimatum to either align with the rules or leave. She chooses the latter, confident that there’s more to her story than the convent, and curious to find the mystery behind her tattoo, dreams and ancestry. It is at this point Narimana’s ploy begins to work through Kamani, to bring her home to her death.
The Tatu story is fresh. However, it is packed with elements that seem to force its mysticism till it nearly becomes tiring. It opens to Kamani running alone in the bush, and then several other ultimately unnecessary elements that make one wonder when we would ever get to the meat of the story. It brews its humor with Wali in unlikely places, but the chemistry they try to create between Wali and Tatuma does not fly.
Tatu features Segun Arinze, Sambasa Nzeribe, Toyin Abraham, Rahama Sadau, Gabriel Afolayan, Desmond Elliot and Funlola Aofiyebi. Each one of these actors brings their A-game in the interpretation of the script, and this works in the film’s favor. The cinematography is beautiful, and with fitting costumes, locations and makeup that reflect the context of the story brilliantly. The lighting also helps the mood, and the general production design is commendable.
However, the film doesn’t evoke any real connection towards the characters. We definitely do not connect to Kamani who broods with a locked hair and hardly says a word. We do not connect with Wali who is quite mouthy, perhaps a little too mouthy for emotion. We do not connect to the titular Tatuma whose only real indication of fear is revealed in her screams. And it is surprising that we do not connect to Larayi too, despite being a sacrificial mother, willing herself to be killed in her daughter’s stead. Perhaps it is something about how artificial her lines sound, or how she may have overdone the emotion till we no longer feel it.
Tatu resolves too quickly. Tatuma’s pregnancy is tossed at us suddenly and Kamani’s sudden switch throws us off. In the end, it neither excites nor annoys; it just leaves you without feeling.
The 2017 film is produced and directed by Don Omope and written by Jude Idada as an adaptation of a 2004 book by Dr. Abraham Nwankwo.