Wilfred Okiche: Lessons from the 76 movie [NEW VOICES]

by Wilfred Okiche

At the just concluded Africa International Film Festival, I was privileged to have caught a screening of ’76, the much postponed, long awaited film by director Izu Ojukwu. Here are a few things that struck me during and after.

Budget is important

Many of the films that have made a splash this year (The CEO, 93 Days) have been made with budgets that are way above the Nollywood average. The regular Nollywood film, even those slated for cinema releases cost only a fraction of what the likes of 76 end up spending, taking into account budgets for publicity and promotion. Bigger budgets mean more risks can be taken and more attention paid to detail. 76 comes in at a reported 3million USD. Good luck making that kind of money back in Nigeria.

Cinema chains are key

Producer Tonye Princewill declared that thanks to a distribution deal with Shoreline entertainment, ’76 may have already broken even. Great news but the need for an aggressive growth of cinema chains nationwide rears its head once again. It is the only way that the movie going culture can be mainstreamed and producers will be willing to spend 600million Naira on a single film. Not all our movies will score a Hollywood deal but they need to be able to break even locally to encourage even more ambitious filmmakers. Community cinemas are welcome at this point.

Story is everything

Most films that have made it to the cinemas of late, especially those by new generation filmmakers have favoured style over substance, shots over story. Their films suffered for it. ‘76’s selling point is its story. Not just another love story but one that is situated in an important period in Nigeria’s history, with the plot twists and suspense factor ratcheted up. In taking care of the story, the filmmakers earned wings to fly.

Our actors are world class

Stars Ramsey Nouah and Rita Dominic are both Nollywood royalty but they can also compete on a global stage. Nouah in particular shows understated class and a familiarity with the screen in bringing Captain Dewa to life. Dominic’s role is a bit more problematic as she is saddled with some major histrionics but she does her best with the role, even speaking with a funny accent (she says according to her research, Igbo women spoke different then). But it is not only the headlining stars that bring their A game. When last did you see Chidi Mokeme give a decent performance? He does here. Other supporting players (Memry Savanhu, Adonijah Owiriwa, Daniel K. Daniel) are brilliant but there is always the weak link. We’re looking at you Ibinabo Fiberesima.

Yinka Edward is boss

You may not have heard of Yinka Edwards but those who know, know. A gifted cinematographer and respected professional, Edwards has proved his mettle over and over again. He is director Kunle Afolayan’s first choice when it comes to lighting up the screen and his trained gaze can be found on award winning fare like Confusion na wa and the MTN I don port advert. Edward does beautiful work in ’76.

The hair is on fleek

Rita’s hair. Ramsey’s hair. Ibinabo’s hair. Memry’s hair. Daniel K’s hair. It’s all on fleek. You’ll be hard pressed to find another Nollywood movie with such a glorious celebration of the afro.

The music too

The music of ’76 is a swirling blend of seventies pop music. You may have heard some of them, you may not have. Those who were there from back in the day will surely identify Bongos Ikwue’s Cock crow at dawn, Nelly Uchendu’s Love Nwantintin, Sir Victor Olaiya’s Baby mi da amongst other classics that populate the film.

Medic. Writer. Reader. Critic. Occasional ruffler of feathers. Works in a health centre in Lagos but manages to find the time to pursue other interests. His writing has appeared on various print and online platforms. He has provided editorial assistance to the UK Guardian and appears on the culture tv show, Africana Literati. He tweets @drwill20

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