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Film review: Banana Island Ghost – Between style and substance

by Wilfred Okiche

As far as Nollywood is concerned, comedy is in right now. No other genre is even close to being as lucrative.

2017 has brought Isoken, 10 Days in Sun City and Alakada Reloaded, all attempting to continue where the duo of record setters, The Wedding Party and A Trip to Jamaica left. Add to this list, My Wife and I opening later in the month.

Who says comedy doesn’t pay?

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The producers of Banana Island Ghost are looking to cash in on this trend before it gets old with an unusual story that is as hilarious as it is nonsensical.

Ijeoma (Chigul Omeruah) is a typical Lagos hustler, but one with first world lite problems. A heiress who was bequeathed a mansion in Banana Island, playground of the Lagos ultra-rich by her dearly departed dad, Ijeoma finds her beloved home on the verge of foreclosure, while a property thirsty merchant, Mr King (Ali Nuhu) lurks nearby to seize ownership.

The house means so much to her, but for some reason, not to her mother, played by the otherwise consistent Tina Mba. Ijeoma goes on the grind, working in costume as a stuffed animal distributing leaflets, maintaining a day job, singing at corporate events and picking pockets, all in a bid to raise the 18million required to save the home. She also wants a husband, as does every Nigerian young lady of a certain age and prays quite forcefully for it.

Thankfully, Ijeoma is serving a living God and he sends some respite her way. Only this God, played with a casual wink by Bimbo Manuel, has a weird sense of humour. A recently deceased young man, Patrick (Patrick Diabuah) isn’t quite convinced he’s lived a fulfilled life. There is this thing about a soul mate whom he has yet to find on earth. Baba God gives him some respite and allows him three days to visit earth, find her and make her love him so.

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No prizes for guessing he lands on Ijeoma’s lap.

Written and directed by BB Sasore who worked on the short lived television series, Before 30, Banana Island Ghost is as wonky as the trailer suggests. The story is quite the stretch but it is delivered with appropriate amounts of seriousness and playfulness that the incredibility and inconsistencies recorded quickly fade to a blur.

Ms Omeruah displays deft comic timing but falls back on Sasore’s sharp retorts, plus the force of her personality to cover her weaknesses as an actor. Even these tricks fail her whenever the script opens up and forces her to step up to the plate.

Thankfully Chigul has the wonderful Patrick Diabuah to play off against. A familiar presence on stage where he is a fixture on the musical Wakaa, Diabuah carries his role with aplomb, rising above the wobbly scripting and inconsistencies with his appearing and disappearing acts. Should he just vanish? Should he run off?

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The real star of BIG is the pictures. Sasore manages something special here with drone shots and visual effects that tell a story all their own. His cinematography is pretty basic but the pictures are lit up to near perfection, only interrupted by the over enthusiastic product placements. Sound and music make strong contributions to the film’s effectiveness. Watch out for Akah Nnani who steals his scenes and makes quite the impression as a hopeless police sergeant.

BIG wobbles and jerks to the big blow out ending where it is obvious Sasore has saved all his energies for. The fight scenes are impressive, stunt work capable and comic set pieces almost side splitting hilarious.

Like Oko Ashewo (Taxi Driver) before it, BIG employs more style than substance while seeking to impress.

It takes off, flits around but is ultimately suspended mid-air.

The writer tweets from @drwill20

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