BY IFE OLUJUYIGBE
Here is what I think the film-watching Nigerian populace wants from Nollywood: a story we haven’t seen a thousand times before, lines that make us think, acting that makes us feel and satisfaction that makes us squeal. This really isn’t too much to ask at this time, considering that we have been getting this from other places decades before now. To be watched is a privilege, and it is time the filmmaker began to realise this, to consider it a responsibility to make a viewer who, among all the great content in the world, has chosen to watch your film, worth his time and money.
With 2017 film Lotanna, Ifeanyin Ifan Okechukwu and Toka McBabor give us something we do not see often, a story set in four decades ago in a setting from four decades ago. It is careful about this bit of detail, and this is the first thing you see when you encounter it, right down to its music.
Lotanna follows the story of a young boy, Lotanna, who watches his musician father die after being threatened by a man he owes money. He grows up with his grief-stricken mother and inherits his father’s debt and talent, and must do something about both or his life, and those of the people he loves, may be in danger.
The movie welcomes you, beaming with a lot of promise. When Lotanna breaks into the home of a stoned music producer, Mr. Benson, in the middle of the night all for the purpose of playing his music and being heard, you find this angle unique, especially because the music, originally performed by Praiz and Naeto C, is beautiful and full of soul. Tee-Y mix is also featured as music producer.
The story, however, goes down a slope till it falls on its head deep into ridiculousness. It appears that along the line, the writer or story-creator lost the direction for the story and decided on some extraordinary plot twist that doesn’t work.
Lotanna has a lot going for it besides its story. The props, set design and costuming are reflective of the times the story is set in, and nicely put together. As far as the technical aspects of this film are concerned, the crew definitely kills it. The photography, manned by Nigeria’s finests, Kelechi Amadi-Obi and Yetunde Babaeko weighs in heavily on this film’s quality and feel. The characters are unique, and the cast is star-studded, giving mostly excellent performances in the not many places they appear in. The lead character, however, is stiff and gives too little for someone who appears in virtually every scene. He has a single expression all through and converts the slow pacing of the film into a bore too quickly. The creditor, Don Cleff, who is also a key player in this film, is inconsistent in his stammering, either overdoing or underdoing it in places, and making us wonder what the point of it is at all.
It is too convenient that everyone in the town owes a single man money. It makes us wonder what he does for money, and why the entirety of the community is so poor as to borrow so much. A lot of other occurrences aren’t explained, and we cannot tell the role of some of the characters as they only seem to be introduced and then discarded like used toilet paper.
Lotanna, perhaps in a bid to show off all its brilliant elements, includes scenes that do not add up to the telling of this story in anyway. Many of these also last longer than necessary, and cause the viewer’s attention to move quickly away.
The titular role is played by Chris Okagbue. The film also features Bimbo Manuel, Liz Benson Ameye, Jide Kosoko, Victor Olaotan, Chris Attoh, Ama K Abebrese, Meg Otanwa, and Victor Decker as Don Cleff.
One would expect that the multiple rewrites, years of research and re-production, and an almost total overhaul of cast and crew would yield the most remarkable output, but it appears all of the attention was paid on the aesthetics and not the content itself. The film is written by Kemi Adesoye, produced by Ifeanyin Ifan Okechukwu and directed by Toka McBabor.