Cheta Nwanze doesn’t impress

by Onyeka Nwelue

Editor’s Note: This is a rejoinder to Cheta Nwanze’s piece, Ije Doesn’t Impress, in the current issue of Y! Magazine. Get the magazine to know the origins of this!

Dear Cheta Nwanze:

Many years ago, when I was young like you, I used to watch movies without thinking of how they were made. I accepted everything Amitabh Bachchan did. I loved Jackie Chan. I admired Denzel Washington (partly because he’s tall) and was scared of Pete Edochie, because of his husky voice and the fact that he looked scary too.

The idea of ‘when I was young like you’ is not to insult you or to say I’m older than you. I don’t know you. I didn’t bother to Google you too. I’m sorry. I will do that, right after writing this. It will help me more to tell you what I think about your piece in the 2nd edition of Y! Magazine, titled, ‘Ije Doesn’t Impress.’ That was a good title. Applause from the right and left.

I feel horrified that you take yourself seriously as a film critic because of that ‘one’ ‘movie making experience… with a British filmmaker.’ Clap for yourself again, please. So, after even saying that it didn’t give you the ‘experience to raise your shoulders above other people, but it CERTAINLY gave you a fair idea of what professional filmmakers look for when making movies’, you went about goofing on the ‘criteria’ for judging ‘a truly great movie’. Well, if Ije is not ‘a truly great movie,’ it is ‘a great movie.’ I will keep the ‘truly’ aside for now.

I know Kunle Afolayan, director of The Figurine. I’m working on a film project with him. I don’t know the director of Ije. I’m even trying to remember how to spell that Igbo name. But your comparison is a very lazy one and adds nothing to filmmaking in Nigeria. It is bland and baseless, and I will tell you why.

The American Film Institute’s criteria are widely accepted? Fantastic. Now, I assume anyone who employed you as a film critic or reviewer just wasted some bucks. I admire the fact that your employers give you enough money to go the cinemas, buy popcorn and a can of Coke to see a movie, but they should realize their film critic doesn’t pay attention to details. If Ije let you down, as a film critic, which movie will lift you up? Maybe you come from Venus? I’m from Mars then. We think differently. We see things from different angles.

When it comes to length, based on your American Film Institute’s criteria, sir, Ije is more than a ‘truly great movie.’ The language of Ije is sharp, crispy and original. What else? Or you wanted subtitles to understand the Igbo used by some of the characters? I had thought it was an Ije versus The Figurine article, but then you randomly jumped to ‘a certain Stephanie Okereke production.’ You seem to be very talkative and distracted. If Ije didn’t receive a ‘positive critical reception’ it is because of people like you who don’t understand what movie-making is all about. If Ije didn’t make a ‘decent effort at keeping’ you guessing until the end, it did for me. I wanted to know why a woman has to kill her husband. You didn’t guess to find out too?

If Ije was ‘truly’ shot on 35mm, then I feel you should know how difficult it is to handle that kind of film? And you are blabbering about the lighting, when there is nothing wrong with the cinematography? And if judging on the popularity overtime, Ije has strong grounds too, but I’m not here to argue with you, but to tell you to abstain from deceiving movie-goers. Opinions like yours should be bottled up.

Maybe, if Angelina Jolie had played Chioma in Ije and Genevieve Nnaji played Salt in Salt, it wouldn’t have been tagged Nollywoodic of that scene where Chioma visits Anya’s house or if her visa would have been revoked? Maybe, I have serious issues with your understanding of a storyline, because I’m a student of Salman Rushdie, whose stories are strewn in magical realism. I mean, if you are really a ‘truly great movie’ lover, you should go into filmmaking and come out with something that will ‘impress’ you. If the rape theme wasn’t well-done, you could as well do a movie with the title, ‘The Truly Great Rape Movie,’ and trust me, I will be the first in the queue to see the movie.

If the pogrom angle was annoying, you could do a comedy on Jos, where those killed will resurrect and kill their killers. That would make ‘A Truly Great Movie of Pogrom.’ If you loved movies like Denzel Washington’s The Great Debaters and you don’t love Ije, then I assume you don’t love your job as ‘a film reviewer.’ I found your argument about ‘length’ baseless when you wanted to know what ‘filled the gap between their move back from northern Nigeria to Anya leaving the country and Chioma getting a bank job?’ Maybe, you are looking for series? You seriously want a Nollywood film with 3 parts then? That ‘British filmmaker’ (because we are always obsessed with foreign things that we don’t bother to know how genuine they are) didn’t tell you that movies have ‘time durations’ too? He didn’t tell you that a documentary is different from a feature film? Or short film? Or those novels are not films? I feel elated he didn’t tell you all that. Or because he doesn’t know too?

Where are you from? Nwanze is an Igbo name and I’m sure Ije means ‘journey’ in Igbo. When Anya says, ‘in Nigeria, there are no queens, only kings,’ she means something we say in Igbo, ‘Igbo amaghi Eze,’ or ‘Ndigbo enweghi Eze,’ which could be translated this way: ‘The Igbos have no kings.’ Oh, you just ‘pandered to Western sensibilities’ by judging films based on what some film body in the States produced as criteria. Isn’t that tempting enough? How come you think Ije ‘pandered’ to Western sensibilities? Would you try think now? I will help you to think. Have you tried separating the ideologies you have chalked up in your head from Ije?

Isn’t Ije fictional? Isn’t the writer free to tell his/her story their own way? When was the last time you read a book? Which was that? Fiction? Non-fiction? Are they not separate? I wonder what your criticism of George Orwell’s Animal Farm film will read like? There was no gaffe in whatever Anya says in court. I’m assuming she is saying most of those things to create tension, pity and fear too, as a character in the film. Maybe, she is lying, but which woman dey marry man for Naija na?

Of course, I agree that ‘The Figurine did a much better job at crediting the audience with some intelligence,’ whatever that means, though.  Truth is this; both movies are different from every point of view. They do not share same ideologies and they had different writers. Same way anyone would come up and say, ‘Onyeka, you are a retard. Ije and The Figurine are not even ‘truly great movies’, because Stephanie Okereke’s Through the Glass is better.’

Your piece is full of contradictions. You went ahead to say that Ije is very Nollywoodic and then turns back to say, ‘Nollywood has never really lacked for great stories,’ which made me burst into hysterical laughter. And because you think you are a ‘truly great teacher,’ you ended your comic rant by saying: “Great cameras and fine editing are not enough. It is a great storyline that keeps one coming back for more.” What defines ‘greatness’ in storytelling, sir? Maybe, if every story has to be shot in the countryside and has to be about river goddesses? For once, next time you go to the movies, try not to look at your BlackBerry and please, don’t buy popcorn, because they are too sugary, you tend to focus on them most of the time.

Comments (22)

  1. Helpful post, bookmarked your website for hopes to see more information!

  2. Guys I seem not to understand why u dudes r critizing IJE. that movie was infact the number thiz year as far as I am concerned.
    I enjyed seein the movie. I am nt a great fan of nollywood movies bt after seeing IJE I never regreated seeing it. Pls u peeps to go n get sumthin doinin wit ya lives.

  3. At the two morons above me, if you read Cheta's piece well, you will find that he started eating the popcorn when he got bored with Ije. The very same thing that happened to me and others who watched the movie and had half brains.

  4. Guys, some of you talk as if you have something against Onyeka. The topic of this article is "Cheta Nwanze doesn't impress". Why do you want Onyeka to convince you that Ije is a great movie when those are not his intentions. If they were, the title could have been "Ije Impresses".
    Meanwhile, Cheta earlier gave prove that he is unprofessional by stating in his article that he was surfing on his BlackBerry phone and eating popcorn while seeing the movie. First grade distractions! For your information, you need to see a movie twice or more to review or criticize it. By the destructive criticism of Ije, Cheta has insulted himself, and Onyeka is only pointing that out so you don't go with the crowd Cheta wants to deceive!
    If you have not seen the movie you may not make efforts to do so because of what Cheta Nwanze has said. He definitely doesn't impress!

  5. Guys, some of you talk like you've always had something against Onyeka.
    He hasn't said he's doing a review, so why will you read an article such as this and expect the writer to convince you that Ije is a great movie. The topic of this article is "Cheta Nwanze doesn't impress".
    Cheta Nwanze criticized Ije destructively. Nobody should do that, especially for the fact, which he confirmed, that he was eating popcorn and surfing with his BlackBerry while seeing the movie. First grade distraction! That is enough to tell you how unprofessional a critic Cheta Nwanze is.
    For your information, you need to see a movie twice or more to criticize it positively or negatively. If figurine is a better movie, it doesn't mean Ije is a bad movie.
    Most importantly, it's also your choice to decide which you prefer, not Cheta's. Onyeka has not attempted that, and you don't need him to be convinced that Ije is a good movie, even if it will never be your best.

  6. I think you are the one who sound dumb…cos the dude has said his mind and that is the way he feels about it. get over it.

    1. Maybe this is even Onyeka himself trying to justify the childish rantings in this sorry piece. Onyekasfan you are a sorry excuse for a human being.

  7. Onyeka is not reviewing any film. He wrote a personal letter to Cheta,hence the title. You should understand.

  8. Those who think this piece is rude are stupid and should go see the lazy comparison by Cheta himself. Or are you guys lazy too to even go get a copy of Y! and read? Nonsense.

  9. The word Critic is scholarstic. Whatever approach, no one is responsible but can be criticised. Forget the typos, you no dey shit ?

  10. This post was a waste of my time and download limit regardless of how tiny on my internet.

    The only thing i feel the writer was trying to achieve was some cheap publicity and it would do Cheta good not to reply him because if he does, it would be like fighting a mad man.

  11. This reply to a film critic's appraisal of a film is just plain grand standing and frankly, dumb. This is nothing more than a personal attack on Cheta Nwanze and begs for serious content.

    I think I have seen something like this before. Chude did a review of ID Cabasa's album (which tanked, by the way) and some guy came out roaring against Chude, failed to tell us how Chude was wrong in his assessment and ended up losing face.

    This is no way to get noticed. Tell us why Ije is such a great movie in your view and leave Cheta Nwanze alone.

  12. Onyeka gets so rude you can't even see his point. I would have tried to support Cheta but I really cannot see Onyeka's point, just a barrage of insults. Dude,get to the point, then, we'd probably understand what you are trying to say.

    By the way, jackie chan and denzel are great actors,that is why they are still relevant. No matter how much you get for PR, Ije is still very Nollywoodic. I echo: a great movie is not just about 35mm and editing. It is the story that matters and as a storyteller, YOU should know Ije lacks a concrete story. Mainframe's Toluwanile wasn't shot outside Nigeria nor on 35mm and Saworode has a great storyline and is satirical at that(a la your Animal Farm). When you take musical accompainment and blow it louder than the voice, you get noise. That is what Ije has achieved

    FYI, I bought MY movie ticket and I regretted doing it. I could have just used the money to get myself the DVD(is it out?) of The Figurine(set in Nigeria,yet not Nollywoodic), so I'd keep reminding myself that with a little push, we can get great movies in Nigeria.

  13. For one,this writer is obviously unable to properly articulate and present his opinions on this Cheta's Ije piece" so he does what lazy and insecure people usually do,insult the other party. And secondly,the typos my friend,they always give you away. Pay more attention next time.

  14. I found this article rude, personal and condescending. I'm appalled dat ynaija published it. Film critiquing is a very subjective field. Becos Cheta has a difference of opinion from Onyeka, does not mean that Onyeka has the right to insult Cheta's intelligence and person the way he has done. This was not a rejoinder based on details and facts. It was a personal attack.

    1. Ijeoma you hit the nail on the head!
      onyeka, if you had even tried to do a proper review of the movie (as against this cheta bashing) maybe you would have convinced us Cheta's review was unfounded and the movie is good.

    2. Ijeoma thank you very much! Nigerian people need to calm the f*ck down and not take some things so personally. Like wow is it your money? This is not how adults handle things. If rejoinders were published every time a film critic did not like a movie then there would be no space in the newspapers and magazines for anything else.

      Like Rayo said, this Onyeka of a person came here to bash a critic instead of showing us why the movie is good. Y! Naija you guys should not have published this!

    3. I beg to disagree Ma. This is fact and figures and a process of learning. Where i come from, the critic must be able to accept criticism.

  15. I must say, this rejoinder is interesting, I will get the magazine, if only to read this controversial article. It's a long time I've seen something like this; where someone receives an intelligent, passionate response to his work. It goes a long way to show the quality of the brilliant young minds we have in this country. I read a critique on Onyeka's blog once, and I was really impressed with the way he presented his professional views, I also follow Cheta's pieces on NEXT, and I enjoy them too. Now these two people have collided! I hope we get an equally passionate response from Cheta Nwanze, and another and another … this is fun!

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