I am watching this movie titled (wait for it) END OF WAGES OF LUST.
After I saw the title, only the masochist in me made me sit down to watch the movie. Met it halfway, but gathered that the character of Tonto Dikeh was a born again, tongue-speaking , bible-totting scripture union corper. Kinda like watching your class teacher teach but as her lips move, all you can think about is how they were sucking dick in that porn video you stumbled on… but it’s okay.
Tonto’s character lives in a lodge with two guys. She suggests they stop eating out and cook at home, buttressing it with the emphatic statement, ‘every woman should love to cook and clean.’ This ticked me off. I was just beginning.
Obviously, Tonto (or Kpoko as she is now fondly called and will be henceforth referred to as, since I don’t remember the character’s name) leaves her phone back at home and her parents are trying to reach her. Finally, they call someone high up in Local Government, maybe the LG Inspector. Who summons Kpoko to his office to berate her, ‘Why would you leave your phone at home? And you did not call your parents. You do not have your dad’s number memorized! That’s the problem I have with you graduates of nowadays,’ on and on, then rounds off with ‘I must say I am very disappointed in you,’ to which Kpoko keeps up a steady stream of, ‘I’m sorry sir.’ We get it, she is humble. Humility is a good Christian virtue.
What is wrong with us? Are we just stupid? Which corper will be saying I’m sorry sir because they left their phones at home? So because Kpoko is a born again Christian, she has to be bobbing her head like a stupid lizard, saying I’m sorry I’m sorry to drive home the point that she is a humble born again. Retarded. She is of course dressed in her full corper kit – need I remind us that wearing both the crested vest and khaki jacket is actually against regulation. Even on POPs, people get away with wearing half the kit. Yet looking at our Nollywood movies, dressing in full kit is the rule, not the exception.
We seem to have a problem with light touch; we lay it on so heavy. One-dimensional characters. If we say someone is a bad girl, she has to smoke countless cigarettes, dress in skimpy clothes (even on campus!), chew gum like they just put a ban on it and it’s their last, wear talons in jarring colours etc etc. If someone is wicked, they have to perpetrate like a hundred extreme acts of wickedness (we can never love our villain, never ever, they are bad bad bad). If two people are in love they can never quarrel, they have to love love love till we are gagging on it – chasing each other on the beach, in the boutique (where the guy does the spending to prove his love, and the woman does the simpering to prove hers), at fast food joints, where the guy has to feed her. They always, without fail, have very simple and inane conversations, as though once you are in love, your brain goes into freeze mode.
And this feeding and kissing business, really? How many times do we witness PDA in real life? I mean of course, here and there, but our movies again always portray the exception as the rule.
And, our restaurants. Christ! However elite the couple, it’s either Mr. Biggs (or any of the same breed), or some tacky place like that. I can’t understand it. How do you show me a couple traipsing round the world, driving around in fancy cars, then they end up to eat in some nameless, classless place. I don’t think I have ever seen a couple in a Nollywood movie eat in a place like (let’s go far) Four points by Sheraton or (let’s come back home) Terra Kulture or Bogobiri. No places that are remarkable for either class, or culture. They always eat in some nondescript place with cheap tablecloth and waiters (-tresses) with bad grammar and too much makeup.
Okay, back to the movie, there is a phone mix up and Kpoko’s father gets to answer a strange call where a woman is saying she has drunk four bottles of Harp and is waiting for someone somewhere. He begins to tell her she needs Jesus. But the worst part is where he yells into the phone, ‘And you say you are a woman. Are you not ashamed of yourself?’ Where is this brilliant scriptwriter let me hug him or her; they and all these script writers and movie makers that continue to promote gender inequality and double standards. I don’t know what is hurting us in these areas more than Nollywood movies. And of course celebrity figures that make statements like, ‘I don’t believe in gender equality’ – even if they mean something else by it. It’s like there is an unwritten mission; PRESERVE PATRIACHY; PERPETUATE GENDER INEQUALITY. I’m tired of it. And it’s done so persuasively and skilfully, (the only place where there seems to be any skill applied) that when Jim Iyke screams, “YOU ARE MY WIFE AND IT IS YOUR DUTY TO COOK FOR ME,” I catch myself saying yes bitch, get off your ass and hit the kitchen. And this is me Pearl! It is hurting us.
Now, Kpoko, in true SU born again fashion, is dressed in a flowing skirt, inner shirt and knit sweater, her head bound in a scarf. BUT, and it is a big but, her eyebrows are carefully shaved, carved so artistically my eyes hurt just to look at them, so sharp they could cut me if I came close. How? I hate this shit. It is so incongruous. You should see the makeup. She is seemingly not wearing any, but who sabi, sabi. So we who know can tell that she is wearing concealer, foundation, pressed powder, blusher and nude shades of shadow. And yet, her clothes are all born again.
It tells us in more than a thousand words, the back story of the movie. It tells us how Tonto probably arrived on location for a shoot the day before it began and saw the script for the first time that day. What time does she have in the one week allotted to shooting, to grow back her brows, poor child. But she could have scrubbed her face clean or done her makeup so badly we would be convinced she was truly not of this world (this world is not my home playing in the background). It tells us too of bad, or lack of control with the, directing.
Is that not how Genevieve in some Cinderella story-type movie was suffering in the village, gathering firewood etc with perfectly done French tips? Is that not how Rita Dominic in some Historical movie had on a weave? (and I do have the back story on that one- you see, I was in the movie and may it never see the light of day). What about when Regina Askia had a perm beneath her habit in Sisters on the run? And when a doctor told a wife in front of her husband that she was HIV positive? How about when you see beautifully painted two-tone walls, the kind you see in Home and Gardening, on a house with ugly curtains and threadbare furniture trying too hard to portray a poor family. But the paint job just betrays that. Can we not do research?
You notice, I am mixing up movies from as far back as 1999 with present day movies, to illustrate that Nollywood isn’t learning. Not really. The actors are learning to twist their tongues into more and more arcane home-grown ‘foreign’ accents, their hair, makeup and wardrobe is more expensive, the scripts are sometimes about contemporary issues like social media and blackberry (aargh), but it’s still the same. There are of course exceptions. If I mention names, bad bele people will say it’s ‘cause they are my friends.
And that brings me to another thing – culture placement in Nollywood movies. How do we know about Starbucks coffee, about Macdonalds, about The Ritz, The statue of Liberty, The Eiffel Tower. We didn’t travel to find them; we travelled to find them (mull over that for a bit). Who comes to Tinapa because they saw it glorified in a movie and thought I must see that! Third Mainland Bridge, National Arts Theatre, Obudu Mountain Resort, Olumiri waterfalls Erin Ijesha, Ikogosi Warm springs, Olumo rock, The Hills of Idanre, Kwa falls, Agbokim water falls, our food? We need to celebrate our edifices and let the world know that we do more than juju, 419 and Runs. How about the culture we are so hung up on? Our masquerades? Historical background to traditions like payment of bride price, wine carrying. Some research. Some context. Not make-believe Kings and queens and princesses in Igbo movies.
Our movies are such an important Tourist and Cultural tool. We all know what the white house, down to the oval office looks like; who knows what Aso Rock looks like? We know so much about Past US presidents (including their dirty laundry) that we feel almost related to them by blood, what do we know of our history except the things we grunt over in history class? (Oh by the way, hasn’t History been removed from our schools’ curriculum? Right! ) We know so much about Donald Trump, Bill Gates, Richard Branson, what do we know of our own Dangote, (let me not mention too many names – their money is probably too dirty that maybe they had best stay under wraps). Steve Jobs, Winnie Mandela, Mark Zuckerburg, Idi Amin, countless US Presidents, they all have Biopics. So, we mean we don’t have any interesting enough national figures, whose stories are important and inspiring enough to go beyond being named for Airports, roads, streets and stadia. And sometimes, universities – with the attendant riot.
So we keep our heroes (good and bad) under wraps, and continue to churn out absurd and utterly mindless movies, day after day.
The whole point of this post is to point out that we keep blaming the lack of quality of Nollywood products on finances and technology, but I want you to understand that while we can appreciate those challenges, let us deal with the ones that can be fixed,like our plots and scripts, which are getting stupider and stupider as the days go by. Many times you see evidence of such incompetent directing. How about the absolute indifference to post production? Do we do Rushes? Ha. If we fixed these, I would watch a movie recorded with phone video camera. I shudder to think what is the fate of anyone who derives majority of their entertainment from Nollywood.
Recommendations; there are a lot of writers all around the place. Buy scripts. There are lots of talented unknown musicians, please commission them for soundtracks. Our soundtracks make me cringe with embarrassment. You say if you made quality movies, you would run at a loss? Leave the business.
Nollywood insults Nigerians. Abi we insult ourselves? We are a consumer nation and we will continue to keep them in business, that’s why it will not get better. Lucky for the rest who won’t settle, more and more progressive moviemakers are emerging every day, still hugging the shadows and doing their work in the background, but slowly but surely, they will take over.
But dear Nollywood, you are twenty now. You can vote. You can have sex. you can move out of your parent’s home. You are an adult. Fix this already.
COROLLARY; I wrote this months ago, way before i ever knew I was attending a screenwriting workshop. So no, this is not about that. This is me ranting before knowing I would join the ranks of… well, the movie community.