#YNaija2019Review: 4th Republic, The Delivery Boy, The Set Up… These are the best films of the year

For the annual review, only feature length films that received a wide distribution either on big screens or streaming platforms were considered. Because of the limited options for distribution, documentaries that debuted in the festival circuit or screened privately within the year have also been considered.

Mokalik

Mokalik is a mildly interesting but far from holistic look at the artisans with whom we spend a chunk of our Saturdays. In Afolayan’s adaptation, a young chap, Ponmile (Tooni Afolayan) who shows an early fascination for machines, is encouraged by his father (Femi Adebayo) to spend a day in the mechanic workshop to get a front row seat to the action. Mokalik is merely an excuse to do the kind of moralizing cum social advocacy work that non-profits, slush with donor funding, would usually commission.

The Bling Lagosians

For this rudderless dossier on the inner lives of the Lagos one percent (the film’s tagline reduces the sample size to the 1% of the 1% actually) Austen-Peters has her eye more on the local box office than anything else. What this means is that The Bling Lagosians does not break new ground creatively. No surprise as originality is hardly a factor when box-office domination is the major objective. Rather The Bling Lagosians has been assembled to appeal to the same crowd that has kept EbonyLife films in business.

Light in the Dark

Ekene Mekwunye’s Light in the Dark isn’t particularly saying anything that Nollywood hasn’t said before- there is a married couple from different tribes, an unyielding mother-in-law and a rape. The difference lies in how he goes about it. Anchored by strong performances by Rita Dominic and Kalu Ikeagwu and featuring solid, moody camera work by Muhammad Atta Ahmed, Light in the Dark manages to bring a refreshing angle to the domestic drama, offering critiques on ethnicism and social class.

The Set Up

For the latest collaboration between Inkblot productions and Anakle films, all the world is a con. Deception is the name of the game and the screenplay credited to Naz Onuzo, can be likened to a stack of dominoes. Nothing is quite what it seems in this Niyi Akinmolayan directed romp through upper class, high rolling Lagos. Blending action, suspense and thriller elements in a noir adjacent atmosphere, The Set Up has a lot going on- perhaps too much- but it is thoroughly engaging and roars to a thrilling finish.

Living in Bondage: Breaking Free

Living in Bondage: Breaking Free as imagined by first-time director, Ramsey Nouah is a sequel to the very popular original. Set some twenty something years after the events of the last film, this glammed up take isn’t your father’s Living in Bondage. The franchise has been reimagined for the social media generation. Paying fan service while playing for new audiences at the same time can be a delicate thing to balance but Nouah does this admirably, handling the material with appropriate amounts of reverence.

The Journey of an African Colony

Adapted from two books, Possession and A Platter of Gold, both published by historian Olasupo Shasore, The Journey of an African Colony is a tour de force that chronicles decades of Nigeria’s history, presenting the findings and observations in a manner that is educative but never didactic. Directed by BB Shasore, and narrated by Olasupo, The Journey of an African Country is well researched, with Shasore’s scholarly integrity shinning through as he presents bits and nuggets of history anew, redirecting attention to the tragedy of the history academic curriculum.

4th Republic

Ishaya Bako’s 4th Republic attempts a cross sectional study of the Nigerian condition, resulting in an over-boiled examination of factors that are usually at play whenever citizens go to the polls. 4th Republic plots the graph from the political class at the very top of the chain to the underprivileged citizens at the bottom of the pile, pointing out how each one is affected by the broken system. Among the group of players that 4th Republic assembles, are the good, bad and ugly. The most interesting characters however are those who exist in the grey areas responding chameleon like to situations as they present.

The Delivery Boy

The screenplay for The Delivery Boy may be sparse and the running time compact – 66 minutes – but Adejuyigbe loads his film with layers of material and subtext that could easily take up three hours. The themes are as dark as the gritty tones which he chooses to bathe his film in, but the end result is a thing of beauty. Some of the hard-hitting themes which Adejuyigbe’s screenplay grapples with include religious extremity, sexual and domestic abuse and violence. Did we mention violence? Violence has never played out so beautifully in a Nollywood film and The Delivery Boy certainly deserves to be seen to be appreciated.

The Last Tree

The semi-autobiographical second feature by British-Nigerian writer-director Shola Amoo is a deeply felt yet understated coming-of-age tale about a young man struggling to find his place as an in-betweener. Plumbing questions of identity, race and even class, Amoo elicits strong performances from his cast while employing powerful performances, distinct visuals, hand held close ups, and a solemn score to his no-frills tale of absence and displacement. The Last Tree played at the London Film Festival last year and is set in the United Kingdom and Nigeria.

The Ghost and the House of Truth

Winner of the grand jury prize for best narrative feature (world cinema) at the Urban World film festival in New York, The Ghost and the House of Truth marks the second collaboration between elite producer Ego Boyo and director Akin Omotoso. A profile on empathy and a study on crime, reconciliation and the darker side of humanity, The Ghost and the House of Truth says as much with images as it does with words. It is a compelling, aching piece that devastates, uplifts and shines a light in hidden corners of the human experience. It might break your heart but to miss out on the experience would be the real tragedy.

 

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