Forget the colorful marketing, the glossy rom-com ad-spin and the parade of comic heavy hitters, there is almost nothing redeemable about Makate must sell, the insipid new film written and directed by Don Omope.
A long time ago, Mr Omope produced the stylish urban noir, Oko Ashewo (Taxi Driver) with Femi Jacobs in the lead. After securing a stake in the box office breaking The Wedding Party, Omope went on to direct the erratic Tatu, leaving no doubt that perhaps his skillset is better suited to producing and film administration than directing.
No one learnt any lessons from Tatu obviously- screenings at the major film festivals in Durban and Lagos must have been confidence boosting. As a result, everyone now has to suffer through the ugly contraption that is Makate must sell.
Start with the title.
‘Makate’ (still not sure about the spelling though) is an ill-advised attempt at taking a jab at the accented tone with which the unschooled Igbo man is likely to corrupt the word, market. Sure enough, such a character appears somewhere as Makate must sell approaches its mid-point. Blossom Chukwujekwu – with bad wig and worse accent- has the unfortunate task of giving some spark to a dead, tired screenplay. Even he is not that talented.
Fortunately for him, his role is a glorified cameo that disappears just as awkwardly as it appears.
Chioma (Chigul) Omeruah is not so lucky in that she actually has to carry the entire trifle and appears in more scenes than any other actor involved in the project. It isn’t the first time that she would be tasked with this kind of responsibility- she had an equal burden in 2017’s Banana Island Ghost– but Makate must sell is the first instance where that she will be stranded without the material nor skill to ease the process. If only she recognized her own limitations.
Omeruah has her charms but is certainly the wrong fit to take Makate must sell anywhere near a safe landing. Truth be told, only the most charismatic of film stars can make sense out of material as cheerless as this.
The closest Omeruah gets to genuine assistance is from Toyin Abraham, who playing a character that is named after her real self, provides the occasional chuckle there is to be had. Media darling, Toke Makinwa may be many splendid things but the one thing she isn’t is an actress. Her painfully stilted delivery added to the generous screen time she enjoys makes the trauma of Makate must sell more punishing than it has to be.
Too many people associated with comedy (Gregory Ojefua, Wofai Fada, Josh-2-funny, Igwe Tupac) are parachuted into Makate must sell at various points but it is hard to see exactly why, seeing as there is barely a funny moment elicited between them. The architect of all this is of course, Omope who hasn’t the first idea of how to make an engaging romantic comedy. The screenplay ignores basic, boring beats in favor of directionless doodling. Perhaps romantic comedies are more difficult to pull off than everyone assumes. Omope certainly makes this case.
On the technical side, Makate must sell is a bust as well. Picture isn’t as presentable as the posters and the lighting as overseen by Ola Cardoso is not even capable. A faux meta element that has some of the actors play characters that also bear their real name doesn’t go anywhere and fizzles out soon after it is introduced.
About the story?
Omeruah’s Chioma is a Lagos based OAP who has approached the much-dreaded age where all of her peers- save for her- have gotten married and the baton has officially moved to her younger relatives. Facing humiliating pressure from her family members and taking advice from her clueless friend (Makinwa), she races from one bad date to the other with the hope that to find her prince, she must kiss the numerous frogs that litter the Lagos dating pool. Imagine how deficient one has to be to ruin a story as basic-and predictable- as this.
There is obviously a prince somewhere in the mix but don’t hold your breath that Chioma arrives at his doorstep- or he, at hers- in any sensible manner. This isn’t the kind of film that lends itself to any logic. Absence of logic can be forgivable, it is the movies after all but how does one account for the flight of skill?
Wilfred Okiche is a medic, reader, writer, journalist, culture critic, and occasional ruffler of feathers. One of the most influential critics working in the Nigerian culture space, his writing has appeared extensively in platforms like YNaija.com and 360nobs.com. Okiche has provided editorial assistance to the UK Guardian and has had his work published in African Arguments, Africa is a Country and South Africa’s City Press. He has received trainings and acquired experience in multimedia and online journalism. He also appears on the culture television show, Africana Literati. He has participated at critic programs in Lagos, Durban and Rotterdam.