BY IFE OLUJUYIGBE
Growing up, an era of films arose that told the ‘touching’ story of an orphan, how, perhaps, they lost their parents to an accident or never even knew them, had to suffer in the hands of evil men disguised in cloaks of family, had to find a way out and fend for themselves, and how they came upon eventual success by doing good. These were the films, films like A Cry for Help that got us crying for help along with Nkiru Sylvanus.
2018 film, The Conductor gets us reminiscent of that era, of those films, and takes us on a journey to classic Nollywood. And it is not that we do not know that the hero would eventually win like they always do, but while we watch, we are still scared for the little one who is faced with such a bleak fate. This is what gives it a win.
Sebastian has to leave the orphanage. He is old enough to, but rather than send him into the streets, the Ekiti-situated orphanage sends him to live with a family in Lagos. He reaches his destination and finds his host family dead by gas poisoning. With nothing left to survive on, he begins the struggle to fend for himself, being stolen from and lied on, cheated and abandoned in the process. As expected in a place like Lagos, Sebastian toughens up, becomes a characteristic ‘child of the world’, changes his name to Akpan, and survives, while still retaining his principles of diligence, hard work and optimism.
While following a blatantly preachy path, The Conductor holds our hands and walks us with Sebastian, causing us to cringe in places, smile in places and cheer in places. Every step of the way, he is forced to make a moral call based on his reality, and he does, making his mistakes, bagging his victories and making it to happiness. What The Conductor does is also fall into the clichéd notion that the underdog always wins, and tries to rope in a religious angle to it that it is unable to see through.
The Conductor suffers from a mishmash of acting talents, from the good to the bad to the horrible. The protagonist, Osita Oluchukwu, hits and misses, gets unnecessarily theatrical to elicit emotions, and when he isn’t trying too hard, actually does. A performance that truly stands out is Blessing Onwukwe as Eka Edidiong. Rotimi Salami as Balogun and Jide Kosoko as Baba Kola are also noteworthy.
The film also suffers technical issues with editing, sound, subtitling, a theme music which sounds like something cut with a blunt pair of scissors from an original piece of music, and scenes that go on for forever. For a child that lived most of his life in a south-western town of Nigeria and is believed to have no tribe, Sebastian sounds too Ibo with his intonations and inability to say anything that remotely sounds Yoruba successfully.
The Conductor is moving but predictable and repetitive. It spots elements of a good story, but its telling suffers one too many errors that water it down. It also features Lilian Esoro and Emem Ufot, and is produced and directed by Eneaji Chris EnenG.