BY IFE OLUJUYIGBE
One key characteristic of the short film is its conciseness, how it doesn’t waste time to beat about the bush, but is able to establish its purpose in the few minutes it has. One thing I have learnt about Udoka Oyeka‘s short films – if No Good Turn is anything to go by – is how he blends this characteristic with the extra feather of open-ended finishes. Oyeka does not care for closure; he is all about the ghenghen effect, the art of it all.
And this is what he does in Down and Out, a 2012 short film that weaves the lives of two complete strangers in two separate incidences. In just about six scenes, he tells the whole story of a middle-aged man who is sacked from his job simply because the boss, popularly called Chief, doesn’t like his face. It also tells of a banker who was raped and given a pocket knife by her older brother to protect herself in case of a future occurrence. She doesn’t get to use it though because the middle-aged man who lost his job uses his gun in its stead.
It is an intelligent piece of writing, especially where he uses the banter of two idle men to explain a bulk of what was unclear and move the story forward. There isn’t a lot of talking, but their silences are loud. With only just a few lines, the lady, also known as Baby, shows her grief, her regret and her determination. In the final scene where she struggles with Chief, the will to overcome is potent, and when she throws things, she throws them to kill.
Kemi Lala Akindoju is remarkable as Baby. The man, Kenneth Uphopho, is however not a great actor on this one. You can already tell with his soliloquy about his loss that if the words at that point were taken out, the audience would be left lost. Kelechi Udegbe and Brutus Richard are the two idle men. They infuse humour into Down and Out while also still being integral to the plot. Without them, there would have been no knots to connect.
The abrupt ending leaves a feeling of dissatisfaction, however. We are left staring, not guessing what would happen next because we do not know. And we can reconcile Baby’s shock, but we cannot get the man’s nonchalant apology and his sitting at a crime scene waiting. What is he waiting for? The police, his death, or for his guilt to pass?
As the scenes blend into one another, they show you that we are all connected in some way. It passes a message on the individual struggles of man, and how, despite the facades we were on our faces, we all wake up and carry our demons within. It shows what the ultimate need of man is- to survive.
Written, produced and directed by Udoka Onyeka, Down and Out is a well-shot film with a simple intelligent story that touches you. With lovely mood songs that carry it on its wings, Down and Out doesn’t try too hard; it just tells its story and tells it well.