9 reasons the Isaiah Washington ‘Doctor Bello’ movie (financed from FG’s $200m) is annoying

by Hauwa Gambo

So I’ve been thinking lately of the reason this much-hyped film is still not interesting a lot of people (apart from those who stand to benefit from the hype) – ever since this Dr. Bello film arrived on our sensibilities. I mean, there was more excitement over Uche Jombo’s ‘Damage’ (I shall let her enjoy marital bliss and so say nothing about that misadventure). And certainly, much more people are looking towards  the film adaptation of Chimamanda Ngozie Adichie’s ‘Half of A Yellow Sun’.

Over the weekend, I finally cracked the code.

People always think that once you put a Nigerian movie on proper film format, get a “big name” (even though in this case, this particular big name comes with quite a few inverted commas) and talk of a big budget, we’ll all get excited. Epic fail. They’ve been so many of those – ‘Amazing Grace’, anyone? – and now we are wiser.

As far as I’m concerned, the only good news in this film is that it sounds like a talent-vehicle for the phenomenal Genevieve Nnaji. Apart from that? Nada. Let me tell you nine reasons why.

1. It sounds like a crappy story:

Brilliant cancer specialist Dr. Michael Durant is emotionally troubled, wrestling with the traumatic loss of his 10 year old daughter from cancer. Immersing himself in his work from the hospital, away from his wife who blames him for their child’s death, he forms an unlikely bond with a sick, loving, but rambunctious seven year old boy Sam, the son of a rich Jewish couple who are major contributors to the hospital’s cancer research fund.

Unfortunately, Sam’s health deteriorates drastically, and soon, he slips into a coma, with only a few days to live. Dr. Durant becomes desperate, willing to risk anything to save the child’s life. A surreptitious Nigerian Nurse convinces him to seek the help of Dr. Bello, an uncertified Nigerian Doctor, known in Brooklyn-African underground as a miracle worker.

Dr. Bello, an introvert with a controversial past, secretly visits the child at night and administers a strange African potion, replete with incantations and by the next morning, miraculously, the child begins to recover, the cancer speeding into remission.

The hospital medical board immediately orders an investigation and soon the secret is revealed and Dr. Durant is suspended. Dr. Bello is arrested and charged with medical malpractices. Dr. Durant soon falls into depression after his wife leaves him. Meanwhile, Dr. Bello has fallen critically ill in jail and can only be saved by the ingestion of that same potion that can only be found in the mysterious “garden of life” nestled on the peak of Nigeria”s sky mountains.

Let’s forget the fact that no professional script treatment would ever appear in any real international movie project including amateur language like ‘malpractices’ (instead of just ‘malpractice’), convoluted phrases like the use of “meanwhile”, and grammatical  errors like Nigeria Doctor spelled with capital ‘D’ et cetera et cetera; doesn’t this story sound as convoluted as your average Nollywood fare?

2. Isaiah Washington. Seriously?

They want to impress me, and they bring Isaiah Washington? No offense, this man was one of the better talents on Grey’s Anatomy (which is a big deal, because there is a lot of great talent on Grey’s), still he is now persona non grata in America. No one will touch him, because – rightly or wrongly – he is seen as a bigot (he called a gay colleague a f**got and you see, in advanced civilisations, that kind of thing can end your career). He is no longer a big get. Big gets are people that everyone else wants to get. Don’t bring the big reject and then expect me to be excited.

3. It’s a study of the worst ‘Africa’ clichés :

How many times will the many elegant people of the African continent be reduced to primordial tribesmen living in the exotic ‘country of Africa’? Till we have our own powerful story-telling media, I agree. We cannot force Hollywood to tell our own stories the way we would. Perfectly fine. I understand. What I don’t understand is this: why is my government financing someone with plenty money to go and do a film that stereotypes me and you as primordial tribesmen? Why is the protagonist Dr. Bello yet another man from the “Brooklyn-African underground” who visits children at night, practicing illegally as a doctor, administering a “strange African potion”, and chanting incantations?

4. Government money is funding the film:

As Akintunde Oyebode pointed out, money for this film is coming from the generous guys at the Nigerian Intervention Fund  for the Arts. Why does our government think that intervention in the arts means giving people money to do a press conference at Radission Blu and then produce a crappy film? That’s how Diezani-Madueke went and threw money down the drain with that jewellery-seller called Chris Aire. What’s wrong with these guys in government?

5. Government money is funding the film:

So, of course they can afford the hype. So of course they can fly anyone in. And then … they went and invited the wrong actor named Washington? All that money couldn’t get a better story; a better script treatment, a better idea? Or at the least of it, dear dear Denzel? This is a waste.

6. Government money is funding the film.


8. It’s not any kind of international anything:

I have already told you the story of Mr. Washington, so let’s leave sleeping dogs alone. Then, the next “international star” is Jimmy Jean-Louis.  I mean, seriously. Then I’m terribly sorry ma’am, but I’ve seen Vivica A. Fox referred to as has-been.The first thing is that no serious film festival (apart from all that New York AFRICAN Film Festival “ish”) will take this kind of half-baked story on. The second thing is that Stephanie Okereke (who has been on stage with Meryl Streep) is more international than the gorgeously sculpted Jean-Louis. Finally, this film is more likely to inch towards a Best of Nollywood Awards than it would ever get to smell a Foreign-Film category at the Oscars. Take that that to the (NEXIM) bank.

9. Read the blurb:

“The Cure for Cancer has been found in the Sky Mountains of Africa and an American oncologist will risk everything to get it.” The Sky Mountains of Africa. The Sky Mountains of Africa?!! The Sky Mountains of Africa????!!!!! Like you mean, the continent called Africa which is so wide it goes from Egypt to Somalia? You couldn’t take your time to find out WHAT PART of Africa these amazing Sky Mountains are? And of course an AMERICAN oncologist rides to the rescue???

We are doomed.

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Comments (16)

    1. Bros, just leave them. Jealousy will kill them all.

  1. You ruin your credibility when you do not do your research and do not have a balanced view point.It is quite easy to sit behind a computer screen and throw stones at people, I would bet my bottom dollar that this same young lady would sputter like a school girl IF she met Isaiah and Jimmy Jean-Louis in addition to being tongue tied in the presence of Tony Abulu. You wouldn't say all these nasty things before this people so I guess we can thank the universe for the anonymous cover of computers, right?

    In as much as I can agree with some of the points of the article as someone who has seen the movie, please exercise BALANCE when presenting your view point on any subject. You based all of these points simply on a trailer? Really? I do believe if you had seen the movie you would have given yourself the benefit of a BALANCED view point because albeit it is NOT a perfect movie, it is not a total disaster as your article seems to imply.

    There is ALWAYS room for improvement in any endeavor but as the old adage goes, we must not throw the baby out with the bathwater.

    If you think this movie makes us doomed, what do you consider the likes of Blackberry Babes, Faze Book Girls, Spanner, Coffee & Tea etc. Again, I say REALLY?

    My last point to you, Hauwa is this – money given to make this film was only $250,000 and it was a LOAN which the film makers WILL PAY BACK WITH INTEREST! This was NOT A GRANT given to the film maker as is done in the United States where the money is not from private fundings.

  2. I am like,'well… on Hauwa's points on the matter. but, the portrayal of my dear continent as primitive and primordial by a Nigerian is a No NO. I love the casting though. it is the begining of better days in film collaborations.
    #which of the other big foreign actors do you expect to agree to shoot here considering our boko haram issue.thumbs up to the ones that came. it is a worthy feat.

  3. ORIGINALLY I was pro this movie, I thought it would bring us to the limelight and even if it wouldn't be our saving grace it would be the first ray of light that would lead people into discovering the (and I bullshit here) beauty that is in Nollywood and Africa and Nigeria and that kain thing.

    But on second thought, and especially after seeing the trailer, I feel mostly insulted! Why are we funding a so called AFRICAN MOVIE that really just looks like it comes in and does a few scenes in Nigeria and the main focus of the movie is abroad. I don't feel like it's an originally african movie. I feel like they took pity on us and shot a few scenes in 9ja like Phat Girlz did.

    I'm a bit insulted by this movie… they should have just given that money to Izu Ojukwu in my opinion and added to the funding for LIONS OF 76

  4. OMG, I have laughed and vexed to the extent of madness-no joke.
    Hauwa deserves a medal for reasons 1, 2, 3, 4, 8,9 and her weight in gold for 6 and 7. Needs no other words:
    6. Government money is funding the film.


  5. Chris and Mee, we shall sit here by the stalls and wait for this movie to arrive.

    When it rains, it shall pour! #Kpam

  6. This is a badly written article. For starters, it is premature to criticize a movie still in production. However, if you are going to do that at least be more articulate and specific.

  7. Your article is both malicious and uniformed.Isaiah Washington remains a big thing in the US, also other talents like Jimmy Jean Louis and Vivi ca A. Fox.

  8. Hilarious!!!!!!!!!! Cldnt stop laughing

  9. Oh Oh finally someone who is not impressed by this nonsense! I researched the director and this is the link to his last film Need I say a whole lot more.

    And to dash your only good point, it is not any sort of vehicle for Genevieve? Keke Marwa better pass this vehicle. Have we asked what role she is playing in the film? Going from the pictures, it was shot in a few days with 3 costume changes. Frankly they are using Genevieve star power to fulfill all righteousness to Nigerians and it is plain unfair.

  10. Sky mountains of Africa? That's so annoying already, its funny when we complain about how the west see us and yet we perpetuate that farce @ evry chance we got! Will see it still just coz of Genny!

  11. This is just a step…let's see d movie first…and fundin by gov is dat so bad?

  12. I couldn't agree more.

    I'm so sick of d-list actors like isaiah washington, vivica fox and jimmy jean whatever being billed in as big draws in Nollywood movies.

    Well written Hauwa…

  13. They touched hauwa's raw nerve

cool good eh love2 cute confused notgood numb disgusting fail