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.


Trailer:

Summary:
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.


REVIEW:
Positives:
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!!

Negatives:
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.

Bottomline:
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.

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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 moviemadam@gmail.com. We would be happy to feature all good african film, regardless of age, or origin. Thanks for stopping by

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