Monday, November 30, 2009

Movie Review: Lost Maiden 1, 2 &3

Title: Lost Maiden

Starring: Omotola Jolade Ekeinde, Bimbo Akintola, Kalu Ikeagwu, Chisom Oz-Lee, Halima Abubaker, Ngozi Ezeonu

Screenplay: Chisom Oz-Lee, Abigail Anaba, Emem Isong

Director: Moses Inwang

Producer: Chisom Oz-Lee

Year: 2009

Country: Nigeria

Genre: Drama

Language: English

Synopsis: After an opening scene of a little girl wandering around in what appears to be some kind of dreamland (no worries, all is explained by the end of the movie), the movie moves on to a scene with a panel of experts arguing over the merits or demerits of female circumcision. This movie tells two stories – one is kind of a short film detailing the experience of two sisters in a village – Maria (acted by Blessing Kalu ) and her sister Eno (Halimat Abubaker) being forced to undergo female circumcision as part of the coming of age and preparation for marriage rites. This story is narrated by one of the experts on the panel. The larger story of the movie involves the return of Dr. April Jodi (Chisom Oz-Lee) to Nigeria. Dr. Jodi graduated from a medical school in America and has decided to do her residency in Nigeria. Initially planning to work in a more elitist hospital, she happens to catch the panel on female circumcision on TV and decides to work in Calsy hospital in Umari village. There she meets Dr. Phil (Kalu Ik) and his girlfriend (Omotola). In addition, she makes friends with a reporter (Bimbo Akintola) assigned to investigate the story of an anti-circumcision priest who suddenly met with some adverse circumstances. When Dr. Jodi decides to join in the fight against “tradition”, things get really interesting.


Positives: It took me a while to dig out the movie and watch it after buying it. I expected it to be preachy, boring, linear, predictable. How wrong I was. I loooved it. LOOOOVED IT. Outstanding effort to deal with a pertinent social issue without being overly preachy.

What did I like?

First of all the village scenes, especially at the beginning - excellent. I don't think even oyinbos could have done it any better. Very realistic, very welldone.

The dialogue: Was logical, flowing, actually intelligent in places! Very nicely done. Somebody gave the screenplay some thought, instead of just throwing crap together on screen.

The casting: Mostly spot on. Kalu and Omot? So cute together. Kalu is just so suave. That is the word – suave. Played the doctor role beautifully. And the scenes with Omot – I liked their chemistry.. Omot, girlfriend delivered as always. The delectable Bimbo A. played a reporter in this movie. She played it with panache. In fact, somebody really worked hard to fill in al the roles here – round peg in round holes -from king to mother to uncle to chiefs to everybody. Excellent casting!

The acting: Mostly top notch. Kalu, Omot, Madam Hannah (Cassandra Odita), Chief Amadi (Ken Odurukwe), Halima Abubakar – fabulous acting. Completely real.

Even the hospital scenes! I hate hospital scenes in Naija movies. HATE THEM. But in this one, the hospital scenes were sooooo good. Believable. The terminology was mostly spot on. The setting was realistic. I was like woohooooo! Das warram talking about. Okay, fine: actual doctors may complain about some of the hospital scenes, but compared to what we usually see in Naija movies, this is on another level completely. What!! They actually tried to get the terminology right? Round of applause!

And the ending - predictable until the end. Then wosai!!! I did not see that coming at all At first, I was like, this ending sef, how could they make the ending of such a good film so boring? Boy, did they surprise me! I actually applauded at the end. That is how impressed I was.

And technically, a very high quality production. Sound was very good, picture quality, camera work, Nice!

The weak link was Dr April (Ms. Chisom herself). Here is the thing - She was the producer for this movie, and it felt like a vanity project to me. She cast herself in the lead, and was front and center in the movie. And she wasn't horrible. There were times when she was actually watchable, particularly when she had to give medical related lectures. She is a medical person (a nurse in real life), and it was clear that she know her stuff in that regard. Problem was, everybody else was sooo much better than her. Everybody! And she had this big hair that I found it very, very distracting. The other weak link, though he was not there for too long, was the museum curator. Daang! The dude was baaddd (and not in a good way, LOL)!!
I also wish they could have done without some of the falling in love. There was no chemistry for one particular couple (one half of that couple being Dr. April). That was not necessary. At all. It ended up trivializing some of the story to me.

And yes the three part thing, that was annoying too, considering that each part was just about an hour each. I think they do that primarily for the Nigerian market, where they sell each vcd disk separately. For me though, it did not make much difference. All three parts are on one dvd.

Underlying theme/lessons/worldview/philosophy: While our history and culture are very important aspects of our lives, some practices have outlived their usefulness and need to be changed. However, getting people who are committed to a certain way of life to change is a difficult and complicated process. And as we see from this movie, some people will never change their minds, no matter how much evidence they are presented with. I believe this movie did an excellent job of presenting both the opportunities and difficulties associated with this process of change.

The story was actually quite creative - educational and entertaining, which is quite a feat because in many Naija films, those concepts tend to be mutually exclusive.I really enjoyed it. It was able to catch and keep my attention from start to finish. I found it well thought out, well planned, well casted, well acted (in general). Highly recommended! Just for that ending alone - For surprising me!

Rating: 8.5/10

More reviews here and here.

Availability: Bought my copy here, but check all three.

ps: If you are curious about the producer Chisom Oz-Lee and her other projects, you can check her website and this interview for more information about her. I do hope that she listens to the voice of the people and stays behind the camera though. She has good film instincts, she is just not a good actress.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

The Hype: Mind Game

Edit: This movie has now been reviewed here

So, although Van Vicker from Ghana is the hottest thing in Nollywood at the moment, no movie of his has ever made it to this blog, mostly because I am not enamored of his acting, producing or directing (yes, he does the last two!!) And I doubt that any movie of his that I have ever seen will - well there is one exception (Reloaded) but that contained a stellar cast. However, I have chosen to "tentatively" plug this movie, mostly because I am totally in love with the leading lady - the queen herself Omotola! In addition, I am curious as to what a Ghanaian, Nigerian, Haitian combo will look like.

The movie is Mind Game, directed by Nigerian director, John Uche.

In this heart racing, conflict stricken, suspense cut drama, Betty (Omotola Jalade Ekeinde) gets entangled in her worst nightmare and all hell breaks loose one holy afternoon when she returns home from work unexpectedly to find her husband Richard (Van Vicker) in a compromising position with a friend of his in their study only four months after their wedding, during which he deliberately avoids consummating their marriage...
Shocked beyond comprehension, she is torn between divorcing him, and staying in the marriage...


The movie stars Nigeria's sweetheart Omotola Jalade Ekeinde, Ghanaian heartthrob VanVicker, and Haitian movie stars Reginald Lubin and Carlin Kenol.

Fun trivia: The Haitian movie industry is called Bellywood!

Hope its as good as it looks.

Will review it once it comes out.


Sunday, November 22, 2009

Movie Review: White Waters

Title: White Waters
Starring: Joke Silva, Rita Dominic, O.C. Ukeje
Producer(s): Ify Dozie, Ngozi Nkwoli, Tokunbo Adodo
Screenplay: Felix Odion
Director: Izu Ojukwu
Year of production: 2007
Country: Nigeria.
Genre: Sports drama/Romance
Language: English

Preamble: This was the second Amstel Malta Box Office (AMBO) movies. The first AMBO movie, Sitanda, starred Azizat Sadiq, the first winner of the show. O.C Ukeje, the star of White Waters won the second edition. Looks like Izu Ojukwu had learned a lot from the first edition by then. This movie is MUCH, MUCH better than Sitanda by a mile! Izu has matured into one of the foremost directors in Nigeria. In my opinion, White Waters is a breakout movie that has most definitely raised the standard of Nigerian movies. It was not perfect by any means, but in the comity of Nigerian movies, it is exceptional. Oh yes! Very exceptional - A feast for the eyes, a work of art.


Summary: This movie reminds me very much of the movie Forrest Gump. O.C. Ukeje is Melvin, a mentally retarded, socially inept, though athletically gifted boy. He was abandoned by his parents at age eleven in the village with his grandmother (Joke Silva). Melvin often whizzes past the athletic training ground of the local government while he runs errands for his grandmother. Eventually everybody notices how fast he is, and he gets invited to run for the team by the head coach (Kaptin Tony Ofili Akpon) He invites the wrath of Banji (played by Hooomsuk?) the fastest guy on the team who feels threatened by him. In addition, he is also very attracted to the beautiful Nolah (Rita D), whose parents have just retired to the village and is also using the local government’s athletic facilities. Banji is also Melvin's rival for Nolah’s affections. How does it work out for Melvin on the team and with Nolah?

Nigeria’s first athletic movie and a very credible attempt too. Not shabby at all. It is very formulaic – the underdog, the cocky antagonist, the predictable ending. If you have ever watched a sports movie, or an underdog movie like pride, or remember the titans, – it is obvious where this movie will end – it’s the same formula, but I mostly enjoyed the ride to the very obvious conclusion. Yes, the ending was apparent, but the journey was traveled through rough terrain. The writer did not make the trip easy for Melvin, and I really liked the emphasis on the difficulties associated with making a champion out of a struggler. It was also mostly very logical. Most of the dots were appropriately connected by the end of the movie.

In fact, let me stop fronting. I totally loved it. Loved the music , loved the look, loved the sound, loved the visuals on the movie sooo much. Izu Ojukwu is one of Nigeria’s best cinematographers for sure. Very nice. Very colorful movie. I loved the cast too. The coach was soooo coachy dang – perfect. Rita D played her non-athletic roles to perfection. Banji was so full of swagger, so cocky; you could just see him as a showoff athlete, and he was so annoying! I totally believed him. As Banji would say “Maaaasive!”. He did his job so well. In fact ehn, in general, the casting was spot on. Even the local govt chairman played the part to a tee. I loved Joke Silva as grandma, although she seemed overeducated for the role. A little back story to tell us why grandma was speaking so much grammar in the village would have been nice. I still loved her in the role though. Her asthma attacks were, as I was told by someone who has asthma, completely realistic.

O.C. Ukeje, in his first starring role, was in my opinion, outstanding. I loved him. LOOOVED HIM. The blank stare, the quick flashes of temper, the inability to learn quickly, loved him! If you have ever been around anyone who has a learning disability, is borderline retarded, or just generally slow, you will be impressed with Ukeje’s interpretation of his role.

And while the waterfall may not have had much to do with the story, it was completely stunning. Dang, we have beautiful scenery in Nigeria! If only our stupid govt would….! Ah, I refuse to get sidetracked. I hear the movie was shot in the mountains surrounding the waterfall Farin Ruwa, in Nassarawa State of Nigeria. Boy, it was lovely!
The stadium scenes, looked good too. Oga Izu worked hard on this one abeg!

Musical Score: Very very beautiful. Dang the soundtrack was good. Bravo.

A completely different story from the normal naija “I will marry or not marry” story. A different feel, a different ambiance. Far as I am concerned, an outstanding attempt. And its only in one part. Bravo! Excellent job to the cast and crew.

There were some issues of course - like how you can all of a sudden add someone to a team 2 weeks to a major event, and how Melvin was even eligible to compete (moving from state to state just days to competition time), and even some of the timelines which did not seem to jive too well together. It just was sometimes plain unrealistic and made Nigerian sports authorities look irresponsible if some of the things done in the movie are actually reality. I think they trivialized some of the important lessons of the movie (like perseverance) by using such implausible timelines. And as for the running in the rain scene, while it made for beautiful filmmaking, it was not responsible athletism.

Loved the attention to detail with the atheletes, although it was a major sore spot for most people that Rita D. did not look like an athelete. Her jumping looked fake.

In addition, I was very disappointed in the woman who played Melvin’s mother. The scene in which she was confronted by Ms. Silva’s character had the potential to be outstanding, but it was like watching a cat standing beside a magnificent lion. I felt let down by that scene. Ms Silva was killing it, overflowing with passion, rage, while the woman who played the mother was struggling to remember her lines (at least that was the way it seemed to me). It was a mismatched scene, as they placed an amateur beside a master!! In short ehn, that scene was a total mismatch. Even if her scene was short, it was central to the plot. They should have cast a more competent actress. Thankfully, the woman did not appear for very long, so she did not have the opportunity to detract too long from the movie.

Time: At least 10 years had passed since Melvin was a dropped off and Nolah showed up at the village. How come things did not look different? Those details are important too.

Emotional connection: This is where it started to get dicey for me. Nigerian movies, despite their bad quality are loved because of their realness, their relateability, their rawness. As movie makers start to improve the quality of their movies, they have to be careful not to lose the formula that lead to success in the first place. I may be crucified for this, but for most of this movie, I did not feel an emotional connection. It felt very artsy, very aloof. That is the word – aloof. I feel the same way when I watch European movies – they are nice to look at, but there is no real emotional connection for me. I think this happened because in a bid to avoid all the shouting and overacting that are associated with Nigerian movies, the director sanitized out all the emotion. It felt too western, not authentic. There has to be a balance I think. This was not true through out of course. There were moments when I felt a lot – Melvin looking at Rita D’s character with unspoken longing – outstanding. The pain of disappointment, the joys of winning – there were moments. But for me they were inconsistent moments.

Dvd Jacket: I have to complain about this one: The picture was great, but the synopsis written on the jacket was baaaad! Wrong tenses, bad sentence construction. C’mon people. You win or lose on the details meen! I would expect that for a movie of this magnitude, attention will be paid to these kinds of things!

Names: Melvin? Noona (abi wetin be Rita D’s character’s name?). Why now? Ehn? What is wrong with Naija names? Abeg moviemakers, use our names!!

Final note: One major critique of the movie that I saw all over the place was that Melvin did not look consistently retarded. That one minute he looked withdrawn, and the next, he looked normal. Hmmm, from my personal experience with someone who is borderline retarded, I say the characterization is completely accurate. Totally. The flashes of anger, the moodiness, the need for structure and guidance, the inconsistency in ability levels, the inability to focus on and cope with school work, and the slow learning - all par for the course. And there was no need to name what was wrong with him – he was slow- which could have been due to any number of factors. It was exactly like I was watching my friend on TV. Excellent characterization in my opinion.

Themes and worldviews: This is a story about the inherent value of human beings – about how everybody is worthy of love and respect, even if their talents and abilities are not immediately apparent. This is important in our Naija society where we don’t have much love or respect for damaged people. Where we hide them instead of celebrating them and helping them achieve their full potential, limited though it may be.
This is also a story about believing the best of people, about not jumping to conclusions, about keeping the ego in check, because no matter how good you think you are, there is always somebody better than you.

Rating: 11/15 (because its in a different league to the rest of all those cheap “I love you” movies).

More reviews here and here.

Availability : Availability: Check the big three.

Happy viewing!

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Movie Review: Sitanda

Title: Sitanda.

Starring: Bimbo Manuel, Azizat Sadiq, Stephanie Okereke, Justus Esiri, Ali Nuhu, Ireti Doyle

Story: Emma Ayaluogu, Richard Mofe Damijo, Fidelis Akpan

Producer: AMBO

Director: Izu Ojukwu.

Year: 2006

Country: Nigeria

Genre: Epic drama

Language: English

Preamble: This is the first of the Amstel Malta Box Office (AMBO) movies. The AMBO competition, as I understand it, is like the American idol of movies in Nigeria. The winner, in addition to winning some cash and other prizes, also wins a starring role in a movie directed by Izu Ojukwu and funded by the makers of Amstel Malta. I love this AMBO/Izu collaboration and I hope it continues for many years. Izu’s movies always deal with a pertinent social issue, but in a very entertaining manner, and this one is no exception. Sitanda deals with the OSU/caste system in Igboland, providing some kind of explanation for how people began to be tagged with that appellation. The movie won a whole bunch of awards at the 2007 African movie awards (AMAA), including best director, best screenplay, and best picture.


The movie begins in modern times with Amanzee (Bimbo Manuel) leaving his wife Ann (Stephanie O.) in the car on a rainy day, utilizing the only umbrella and leaving her to get soaked. It is clear that all is not well with the marriage . We then discover that Amanzee blames Ann for all the misfortunes that have befallen him since they got married, because she is an outcast and her family is cursed. Finding it hard to deal with her abusive husband, she runs home to her father with whom she also has deep issues. After a rocky start, she and her father make up, and he tells her a little bit of her history and how the whole outcast thing came about – enter the story of Sitanda, one of her ancestors. Kidnapped as a child and made a slave, Sitanda (Ali Nuhu)’s story is a tale of love, fear, betrayal, lust, desire, abuse of power, etc. As the movie unfolds, we see both stories – the evolution of Amanzee and Ann’s marriage, and Sitanda’s story unfolding side by side. At the end, you have to put the entire jigsaw puzzle together.

The puzzle comes together eventually - kinda.
First the actors: Stephanie , Justus and Bimbo and Ireti Doyle were just spectacular in their roles. Ireti looked so commanding, so very royal as the princess with her beautiful shaved head.

The scenery was just beautiful. Izu’s movies always show the very best of the Nigerian landscape.

I loved the cultural elements as displayed in the movie – the dance sequences were pretty creative. Very nicely done. While someone complained that the costuming was not exactly reminiscent of the period (the fabrics were not authentic) it still looked pretty good to me. And the soundtrack , there was a scene where it built up slowly and reached this beautiful crescendo. Ahhh! Lovely!!And technically the movie was wow!! Very nice, in picture quality, costuming and music.

Some particulars that I loved: That shot of Azizat (who played Sermu, Sitanda’s love interest) walking towards Ali towards the end - gorgeous shot. Beautiful!!
And the ending. What a beautiful scene. Another director would have made Bimbo Manuel talk plenty, but instead, we had just one beautiful, symbolic scene that ties it all back to the very first scene. Just lovely!!

The two stars of the epic part of the movie were not as strong as those for the modern half, I am afraid. Ali Nuhu and Azizat Sadiq showed their inexperience. Much as he did his best, I was not convinced that Ali Nuhu was the best actor to play Sitanda. Especially since the princess (the magnificent Ireti Doyle) was supposed to be all over him. It was like a lioness chasing after a mouse – no contest at all. Sitanda needed to be strong, tall, imposing, hawt, sexy, and all round manly to evoke such passion from the princess. As it was, I was just like “ I don’t get it at all! What does she see in him?” Also, while the movie was supposed to be a showcase for Azizat, (As AMBO winner), she did not really feature that much.
Many of the supporting acts in the historical parts of the movie were really bad too. The Queen mother was very unconvincing, as were the servant girls that had speaking parts.And while there were very many beautiful scenes in this movie, there was one really bad scene : the fighting with horses’ scene. It was pretty ambitious, and pretty unconvincing!
It is so unfortunate that the acting, particularly from the two main characters did not match up to the amazing packaging on this movie. So sad.

In addition to all that, the major problem for me was the disconnect between the modern half of the story and the epic part. Why did the story have that effect on Ann? It just seemed that in trying to cram both parts of the story into the movie, the filmmakers ended up not really fully developing either part. I think both could have been fleshed out a little more. Amanzee’s metamorphosis seemed kind of miraculous. It was nice, but there was no convincing reason for it.

I still recommend this movie. It is great to watch Izu’s development as a filmmaker. This is not my favorite movie by Izu, but its still better than the average “don’t marry that boy story”. In addition, the scenery is breathtaking, the costuming is on point, not a bad shot in the whole movie. Musical score is great too. And despite all the flaws, by the end, you are very emotionally invested in it. I know I was. I just grabs you by the heart. Nice job!

Themes and worldviews: I am not sure what the lesson is here: You have to understand your past to properly chart your future? And while it did not fully deal with the Osu issue as it promised at the beginning, it does provide some insight into the ridiculousness of labeling without context.. It also shows the importance of communication – between husband and wife, between parent and child.

Rating: 7/10

Availability: Unfortunately, I get the impression that AMBO does not really care about making money from their movies, because they don’t seem to do any hard work with marketing and distribution. They seem to use the movies just for brand recognition, which is pretty sad because they make great movies. I have no idea where to find this one o. Sorry.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

The Hype: I sing of a well

African film is undergoing a renaissance indeed. Really good things are happening. Last time we were talking about a new South African movie. This time, we are travelling to Ghana.

New director Leila Djansi is creating an ambitious trilogy named Legion of Slaves. The first part of the series, titled I sing of a well was premiered in Ghana late in October. Hopefully, we will see a dvd soon.

the story is set in the ancient Ghana empire in the days of Mansa Musa, it tells of Soraya and Dume, two young lovers threatened by the arrogant Prince Wenambe who is basking in his new found throne and alliance with Mansa Musa, but is Mansa Musa really his friend or a slave raider himself in disguise and what happened to Dume? and why did Soraya marry Prince Wenambe?


Even more exciting? Jimmy Jean Louis of "Heroes" fame is going to narrate the first installment of the movie.

More info on the website and facebook page.

Early reviews are pretty encouraging.

It looks really good. I hope it delivers.

Will happily review it when I get my hands on it.


Monday, November 16, 2009

Movie Review: Tsotsi

Title: Tsotsi

Starring: Presley Chweneyagae, Terry Pheto, 'Zola' Bonginkosi Dlamini

Director: Gavin Hood

Producer: Peter Fudakowski

Year: 2005

Genre: Crime drama

Language: Tsotsitaal, or a "thug lingo," is a patois language common to certain South African provinces. It is also the language predominately spoken in this film, although English subtitles are available

Country: South Africa



Preamble: South African Academy award winning movie 2005.

Story: Tsotsi (played by Presley) is a thug . He and his band of merry men go around wreaking havoc and fear. He lives in one of SA’s townships, a life , that is in the words of Hobbs “short, nasty and brutish”. After killing a man and getting into a fight with one of his henchman, he steals a car from a woman and shoots her when she tries to stop him. He is long gone before he realizes that her baby is in the car. How does this hardened criminal respond to a baby? Does he give him back, feed him or kill him?

Positives: Of course it won an academy award. What a beautiful movie – picture quality, acting, story, everything. Dang!! It tells a difficult story of the path to degeneracy – explores his past and his present in gritty detail. It’s a powerful story of crime and humanity all rolled up in one package. I could talk about the acting, the attention to detail the beautiful music, the fantastic picture quality! I could talk a lot, but I won’t. It’s a beautiful movie. It’s a thought provoking movie. Highly recommended.

Negatives: Unlike many of the movies I review here, I don’t have that much to complain about. In terms of taking care of business, the filmmakers did an exceptional job. However, the story – particularly the ending, was a little too cute for me. Once Tsotsi became involved with the baby, the story appeared to lose its authenticity for me. The story is based on the book with the same name by Athol Fugard. It was published in 1980. So perhaps Tsotsi’s journey made more sense in the book. In the film, it just seemed a little too fantastic, too hopeful so to speak, considering his antecedents. My other complaint was the police pair. They just appeared to be very mismatched, and what police officer raids a shanty house and asks an informant barkeeper to watch his car? That just seemed weird to me.
And of course, there is the stereotypical idea of the black criminal.

Aside from that though, spectacular production. Brought the grittiness of the shanties to life. So beautifully done. Makes you think, as the director said in the “Making part of the dvd” , there but for the grace of GOD goes I.

Clearly of international standard.

Worldview: Nobody is beyond redemption. Everyone has a story and somewhere deep down, a heart. It just takes the right circumstances to bring it out.

Other Reviews: The movie was widely reviewed. Just google it and knock yourself out. Here are a few here and here.

Availability: I borrowed mine from my public library. It was released in the US, so I bet you can find it anywhere you find American movies.


Movie Review : Yesterday.

Title: Yesterday

Starring: Leleti Khumalo, Lihle Mvelase, Kenneth Kambule, Harriet Lehabe, Camilla Walker, Nandi Nyembe

Producer(s): Anant Singh, Helena Spring

Director/Writer: Darrell James Roodt

Year of production: 2004

Country: South Africa

Genre: Drama

Language: isiZulu


I could review this powerful movie the way I do all the others, but it has been thoroughly reviewed by professionals, so I am just going to borrow my favorite:

Yesterday is a film of perseverance and constant struggle. Set in a remote village in South Africa’s Zululand, the film’s title and main character is a heroine in every sense of the word. The cinematography is apparent upon the film’s first scene, set against a shot of scorched grass, billowing in the wind, with some faintly distant, shadowy mountains lurking on the horizon. This sight, in conglomeration with the idiosyncratic hum of Madala Kunane’s music, proves that Darrel Roodt has keen sense of photography and how to entrap his viewers at first sight, and hold them ransom for his film’s duration; Furthermore showing his aesthetic eye for film-making.
The film’s first scene is of Yesterday, the film’s protagonist, and her daughter aimlessly walking down a beaten path, cast against the shadowy mountains in the distance. The destination of said walk is unknown upon first sight but becomes lucid upon dialogue between Yesterday and Beauty, her young daughter. It is on this walk that we are given beautiful, endearingly innocent poetry from Yesterday’s daughter in the form of her simple question; “why am I not a bird? Then I could fly where we’re going.” It is from this point that the film’s subtle tone is set. Yesterday deals with one of the most pressing and vitally important issues in Africa today; the issue of AIDS and the lack of knowledge therein amongst African peoples. This walk is the beginning of a terrible descent into one’s personal hell; Yesterday’s diagnosis with AIDS. As the film carries on, numerous accounts of her dealing with this illness are shown and we witness how she copes with her condition of physical and health damnation. The society in which Yesterday and her daughter Beauty reside in are largely ignorant of the AIDS epidemic and its causes, thus making it nearly impossible to treat given their country’s lack of moral and material help for this disease.
Yesterday is predominantly an introspective portrayal of life under the tyrannical damnation of the incurable. However, the film surprisingly gives no allegiance to any political side or stance, though the viewer is left to draw their own conclusions upon the movie’s end. Nevertheless, the film portrays one woman’s struggle against the invincible ailment of AIDS. Given Yesterday’s lack of knowledge, she knows nothing of the horror of her diagnosed condition. This does not distract her from seeking to provide her daughter with the things she never had, primarily, an education. However, her natural perspicacity affords her the opportunity to see things in a lucid manner. Regardless of her poverty and lack of all commodities in life, this allows her clear sight into the “life” of things even though death is imminent, given her diagnosis. She finds inner strength in the midst of this terrible disease and this keeps her fighting for her daughter – her reason to live. As the film moves forward, events conspire against her, yet she remains stagnant in her position to give her daughter the life she never had and protect Beauty from the epidemic that will soon end her life. Ironically, as these conspiring events build against Yesterday, they also embolden her for the future at the same time. For example, she is aggressively confronted by her husband, the man who gave her AIDS; then soon thereafter, they are reconciled. She is ostracized by the villagers she lives near by virtue of their belief that her disease is the direct result of a moral shortcoming – thus rendering her alone to fight AIDS. Yet this abandonment from her fellow villagers leads her to the local schoolteacher whom is heartfelt for her condition. This encounter ignites a friendship that sustains Yesterday throughout the rest of the film’s duration. These events of despair and hope allow her to remain strong for her daughter and live to help her and see that she is educated.
An interesting dichotomy surfaces as her death sentence inspires her to live. For a moment it seems that every time something bad or derogatory occurs, it engenders something positive. Throughout the film’s duration we see the effects AIDS has on our protagonist and these effects are vividly clear physically and in terms of her personality. She is physically sick yet remains strong in heart. We see the awful toll the AIDS virus takes on a person by witness of the frighteningly explicit portrayal of her husband’s condition. Yet through it all, we can see the “nadir and zenith” of the human spirit and condition in Yesterday. Her courage in the face of irreversible adversity is heart-wrenching and moving. Given a death sentence with AIDS, she is not repressed in spirit and her actions epitomize heroine, time and time again. Characters such as Yesterday evoke a certain emotion out of an audience. One that can render strength from illness, courage from fear, love from death, and hope from despair, is the ultimate protagonist and true victor in heart over any antagonist. When the darkest of times come, Yesterday’s spirit rises and soars. This is particularly interesting because Roodt allows his film to center around Yesterday and her condition yet the film never descends into self-loathing territory. On the contrary, it clearly shows that AIDS is a part of life in Africa. Like cancer in the United States, if one lives long enough, they will have to deal with it on one level or another.
The most interesting relationship and arguably the most important facet of the film is the friendship Yesterday has with the schoolteacher. This is due to her knowledge of Yesterday’s condition and the seriousness of what AIDS is, thus allowing her to evince a kindred spirit of compassion. Most importantly, it is here that the film’s philosophical crux is manifested: A subtle plea/hint at the revelation of education to the masses in Africa in regards to the AIDS virus. This is so important because it is only through this education that understanding can engender humanity and reasonably preventative action for the AIDS epidemic. This is a point that Roodt clearly does not want to push or throw into the viewer’s face. He has no need to do this as his message speaks so humbly and eloquently itself. The descent of Yesterday’s health becomes the ascent of her mental and spiritual being. She garners strength from illness and gives credence to the thought that humans can rise above a physical condition in times of dire need. Though this film was shot on a budget, Roodt makes up for it with his picturesque cinematography and photography. He has an unerring aesthetic eye for detail and this is procured throughout the film’s duration.


Ebert's review

What can I add? Simple, almost slow, but powerful movie. Very, very moving.

Please watch it if you can. I got mine from the public library, so I know it is widely available in the US.

Highly recommended, very touching!!


The Hype: White Wedding

So I just came across this new South African movie, which has also been submitted for oscar consideration. There is no guarantee that it will be one of the top five movies considered for the foreign language Oscar. However, if it makes it, there may be hope for an American release, like there were for Tsotsi and Yesterday. After having searched high and low for for South African movies in the US, I think somebody has to create an outlet to start selling those films outside of SA. There is a burgeoning market for African film, and it they don't meet it, they may start to get the Nigerian treatment. Anyways, on to the hype before I get sidetracked:

White wedding is a dramatic comedy that explores South Africa's favorite issue - racial relations, while also dealing with love, infidelity, romance among other themes.

Here's a trailer for your viewing pleasure:

The blurb on the website reads:

The loyal, committed and very decent Elvis (Kenneth Nkosi) leaves Johannesburg on Tuesday en route to pick up his best friend and best man Tumi (Rapulana Seiphemo) in Durban. The two will then journey on to Cape Town to begin rehearsals for Elvis’s wedding to the beautiful Ayanda (Zandile Msutwana) at an upmarket hotel in glamorous palm-fringed Camps Bay under the cloak of Table Mountain.

But things don’t go according to plan. Tumi, a serial flirt, has a spat with his girlfriend that leads to his car being rendered unusable; eventually the duo get on their way but Tumi’s short-cuts don’t end up making up for lost time.

As Tumi and Elvis struggle to find their way through the Eastern Cape they are picked up by Rose (Jodie Whittaker), a young English doctor who fled the altar after discovering her fiancée was serially unfaithful to her. Now there’s an unlikely trio on the road, with romantic sparks igniting between the flirtatious Tumi and their spirited British companion. Who knows if they’ll make it on time, whether the wedding will be delayed or cancelled or come perilously close to not even happening if Ayanda ditches dependable Elvis for dashing Tony, the township boy turned flashy entrepreneur.

“White Wedding” is an appealing, feel-good movie about love, commitment, intimacy and friendship and the host of maddening obstacles that can get in the way of a happy ending. Uplifting and at times uproarious this is a movie that affirms the dream that romance can overcome any obstacle.

If you have watched Tsotsi, you will notice that the two male lead actors also played high profile roles in Tsotsi - and did it pretty well I think. So I am looking forward to this one, even if race is a subtext here.

You can see just a little bit of the race issue in this video:

For those who don't understand the issue with the song De La Ray, here is the song and the controversy is explained here. You can read all about the original De La Ray dude as well.

This movie has already been released in SA: in theaters and on dvd, so I guess I have to get someone to get it for me from there. On the other hand, if anyone knows where to get SA movies in the Western hemisphere, please let me know.

I will also be cheering for them as the Oscar nominations come in. If Nollywood is not ready, we might as well show some love to an industry that is doing well.

Enjoy, and let me know if you find a copy anywhere.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Movie Review: Letters to a stranger

Title: Letters to a Stranger (LTAS)

Starring: Genevieve Nnaji, Fred Amata, Yemi Blaq, Elvina Ibru, Ibinabo Fiberesima, Joke Silva, Eucharia Anunobi

Producer: Fred Amata

Director: Fred Amata

Year: 2007

Country: Nigeria

Genre: Romance

Language: English

Availability: Check the big three. That is where I got mine. You may want to call them first. It’s an older movie so they may not keep it in stock. If you find it, it’s most definitely a keeper

Preamble: Nollywood could conveniently be called lovewood, because most of the movies produced therein are sappy, cheesy, drippy love stories - which is why guys hate the movies, and women love them (in general). However, there are love stories, and there are LOVE stories and this one can actually be categorized as a LOVE story. It’s that good.


Summary: Ms Nnaji is Jemima, a management consultant. She lives in Abuja, and she is having relationship problems. You see, Jemima is kind of engaged to be married to Frederick (Fred Amata), who is a workaholic and a momma’s boy. His momma is played by the elegant Joke Silva. After Frederick (Never Fred!!) bungles the wedding proposal, and she misses a work deadline, she is forced by her boss (Eucharia Anunobi) to take her annual leave to go sort herself and her feelings out. She heads to Lagos with her insanely lively friend Tare (Elvina Ibru) who hates Frederick and thinks she should dump him. In Lagos, where her newly wed sister Kemi (played by Ibinabo Fiberesima) also lives, the plan is for her to get some rest and sort out whether or not she can live with Frederick’s work and Momma absorption. But when she tries to call her sister and instead dials a wrong number, the plans for a peaceful leave are turned upside down. The number she called by mistake turns out to belong to the unbelievably charming Sadiq (played by Yemi Blaq). He calls her back on a whim (I believe it was writer’s block), and a love triangle promptly ensues. Who does Jemima choose: Frederick or Sadiq?

Positives: One of my favorite love stories out of Nollywood ever. It’s charming, it’s romantic, and even very funny in places. I had seen Yemi Blaq in several movies before this, and I was never really impressed. He was outstanding in this one. Definitely a breakout movie for him. After LTAS, his place as a leading man in Nollywood was definitely sealed. The chemistry between him and Genevieve was absolutely off the charts. And while most of the “toasting” lines in naija movies are very corny, cheap, poorly thought out and just flat out puke inducing, Yemi Blaq got every woman to fall in love with him along with Genevieve with some very, very, veeeeery smooth lines. Oooooooh baby!! There was a particular scene where he was unloading his feelings, where Genevieve just looked overwhelmed. Quite honestly, I don’t know if she was acting or just responding. The guy was WORKING IT!! Genny has had a lot of practice playing the love interest, and she does a great job in this one as always. Elvina Ibru’s debut as the crazy friend was interesting – you either love her or find her infinitely annoying. I loved her. I thought the crazy worked well, though others might think that she was a little over the top. I loved the background music – perfect fit, created the right mood, most delightful! And the picture quality was fabulous – I loved the colors, particularly in Tare’s house. The colors were just so vibrant and rich and warm and delightful. And the outfits – the ladies were rocking some very chic outfits – a feast for the eyes most definitely. Some of the colors and styles that Ibinabo was wearing were totally fabulous. I was most pleased!

Negatives: Fred Amata and Ibinabo. They were not bad, they were competent, they just were just relatively weak links in an outstanding cast. To keep up with Yemi and Genevieve, they had to bring their A game, and they kinda brought their B+ game. They were not as vibrant as the rest of the cast. It is time for Mr Amata, who directed a most delightful movie to get behind the camera and stay there. The days of “Mortal Inheritance” are long over. Time to move on to more promising activities. He is obviously a great director and we hope for many more delightful pieces from his stable.
There were other issues – the number of days of her leave did not seem to add up to 31, and then there is the little issue of Jemima getting gifts when Fred did not know where she lived (unless of course we assume that the office sent them, which could have been made a little more explicit). Also the underlying assumption is that Fred did not know Tare (her friend) was a little odd. And when the family emergency occurred, all he had to do was call her sister to pass the news on to Jemima since he was obviously talking to the sister. So there were a few logical inconsistencies in there. In addition, who invites a man you have never met to your house in LAGOS? U craze? There are aspects of this movie you have to suspend unbelief to be able to accept. The good news is that its so well made, you find yourself so wrapped up in the characters that you are willing to suspend reason – until the movie is over then you start asking questions.

Underlying theme/lessons/worldview/philosophy: This movie one most single girls can connect with. There comes a time in your life when you wonder – is a bird in hand really worth two in the bush? I can do better than my present life can’t I? You know, get a better man, a more interesting life. Like Jemima said, “I want romance, I want love, I want affection, I want MORE!!” This is a movie about wanting more out of life and love, when the grass on the other side looks greener, when you long with Dorothy for that magical land somewhere over the rainbow. When you are so tempted to abandon the boring but familiar, for the intriguing unknown. That is why I love this movie so much – it connected with me on a gut level. And of course, Yemi Blaq’s little love speech did not hurt either. I have watched the movie several times with several young ladies, and the response to that scene is always “Awwwwwwww!” Just warms your heart!

Most definitely recommended. Did I say it was one of my favorite romantic Nigerian movies?

p.s Note to Yemi Blaq : I dunno if you will ever read this, but if you do, I beg of you, stop accepting all these hamburger roles, ehn? Abeg, biko? After LTAS, I started to buy everything with you in it, and let’s just say that I WILL NOT be reviewing any of them on this site. LTAS was a gourmet meal in a five star restaurant, while almost everything I have seen you in after that has been a cold, unevenly cooked, tasteless hamburger. “My Idol” left a particularly bitter taste in my mouth!

I will admit though that you started to climb back into my good graces with "Distance Between". Please do more of that and less of that other stuff.
Thanks boo. Still love you though.

Rating: 8.5/10

More reviews here.


Tuesday, November 3, 2009

A piece of flesh (1 and 2)

Title: A piece of flesh (1 and 2)

Producer(s): Emem Isong/ Rob Emeka Eze

Director: Lancelot Oduwa Imasuen

Starring: Desmond Elliot, Genevieve Nnaji, Dakore Egbuson,

Year of production: 2007

Country: Nigeria

Genre: Christian, Drama/Romance

Language: English

Trailer: Sorry, could not find one.

Summary: Genevieve is Ifeoma, a very staunch Christian. Her brother Kelechi (Osakwe Chidi) has kidney issues, and they are finally told by the doctor that they need a very large sum of money to take care of him. Prayer does not seem to be working, so Ifeoma and her parents (played by Fibian Adibe and Chinyere Wilfred) must find the money somehow. Ifeoma works as a househelp for the very rich Stanley (Desmond Elliot) and his very bitchy sister Cindy (Dakore). Stanley has been hitting on Ifeoma for a while, but she is having none of it because of her faith. She also cannot quit because she needs the money. When Kelechi’s condition worsens drastically and his life depends on it, they need to raise 300,000 for the bill. Ifeoma goes to her boss Stanley and he promises her the money for a price. What is the price, and is Ifeoma willing to pay it?

Positives: The story was mostly pretty cute and entertaining particularly in part 1, though its not new at all. And it’s ultimately a love story, so I don’t think the guys will be so enthused with it. This movie was made at a time when the prevailing romantic pairing in Nollywood was Desmond and Genevieve. It was a good pairing, because their chemistry was really off the charts. Casting for this movie was very good, particularly for the lead parts. Genevieve, Dakore, Desmond, the parents, almost everyone – superb! There is a reason Genny is regarded as Nollywood’s number one actress. She killed the role. You felt her grief when she cried, you felt her discomfort. Totally! And Dakore was excellent as Ms snotty high class. Even brother Segun, Ifeoma’s Christian brother suitor (played by Ralph Ogbaje) was totally right for the role. I have very few complaints about the casting and acting in part 1.There were scenes that were overdrawn of course, but it was mostly well made.

Negatives: The story began to fall apart in part2. After a very intriguing part 1, the writers could not really keep the quality of the writing up. The plot thingy with Cindy and Stanley’s friend Bassey (Ikem Chude) was veeery silly. And the movie gets really preachy. Not that I have anything against Christian themed movies, but the storyline was too clichéd, generic, and eventually predictable.
Specific complaints:
Some supporting actors were pretty bad
– Nkechi the fiancé fighting for her man (she had pronunciation problems-a maid it’s a maid it’s a maid!!) and the confrontation between Nkechi and Ifeoma was pretty wimpy. It could have been really good, but Nkechi kept mispronouncing words and barely remembering her lines. Blah!
-Stanley’s best friend (Bassey) was pretty bad too. Putting him beside Dakore was a mismatch.
-And the chief who miraculously met Ifeoma (cheap plot move) and offered her a job, was not too exciting as well.

Some looooong and useless scenes – eating , lovey dovy and church scenes. For those, you will need to use the fastforward button. That is how to watch naija movies o.
And why do Nollywood movies have to have someone say the title of the movie in a sentence? It’s so lacking in creativity honestly!

Cindy and her drug dealers? LOL.

Hospital scenes – teheheheh! One drip solves every problem in Nollywood hospitals.

And all the slapping going on in this movie – was not kosher at all. We need to start sending a message that its not okay to hit a woman, even if she deserves it.

The soundtrack: was not bad, but it told the whole story.
Tears won’t help me now
I must do something right now
I just won’t sit and cry
And keep on asking why
Because tears won’t help me now


And the ending – Cliched, unimaginative, annoying, overly dramatic, blah!! Wrapped up in shiny paper with a big bow around it. Was very annoying to say the least.

And it’s a long movie. Over 3 hours long.

Themes and worldviews: Seems to be based on Romans 8:28 – GOD works all things together for the good of those who love HIM and are called according to HIS purpose. The whole idea is that even really bad things can lead to good things if you maintain character, and trust GOD. There is also the “don’t look down on anyone because you don’t know when you will need them” aka “every dog has its day” lesson ”. And then there is the “follow your heart “ lesson, as the theme song so eloquently tells us.
This one is full of morality all over the place.

Bottomline: Okay, it was not perfect by any means, seemed to lose the plot in the second part, had a lot of flaws, some of the overly dramatic acting may get on your nerves particularly from Nkechi. But please look at the big picture. Overall, Genevieve and Desmond made this movie a watchable and entertaining one. For every “rolleye” scene, there is a scene with either Genny, or Desmond or Dakore wowing me. I enjoyed it generally. So I recommend it, as long as your expectations are properly managed.

Rating: 6.5/10

You can find more reviews here:

Availability: I bought my copy here
You may want to call them and find a copy. But check all possible sources.

About Me

This website is devoted to fans of African movies who want to know which ones are worth watching. We only review above average movies on this site. The purpose is to give props to the actors, producers and directors who have squeezed water out of rocks and created decent entertainment against all odds. If you want to review a movie for us, please email We would be happy to feature all good african film, regardless of age, or origin. Thanks for stopping by