Mildred Okwo’s much talked about political thriller, 30 Days, premiered to rousing applause a few weeks ago at the popular AFI Silver Theatre in Silver Spring, Maryland. Since then, the film has premiered in Atlanta, London and other public introductions are scheduled. The first movie to star Africa’s current leading home video face, Genevieve Nnaji, in almost two years, 30 Days is a fitting comeback vehicle for the actress who is still caught in the web of “blacklist” intrigue spun by Nigerian movie marketers.
30 Days, produced by Mildred Okwo’s Native Lingua Films in association with Ego Boyo’s Temple Productions, explores the action-packed tensions that arise when very public officials start getting mysteriously executed. The story requires keen following to fully appreciate it. Miss an important gesture or line and some of the subsequent developments may not make sense. That’s a good thing of course.
Okwo’s movie premiered at the AFI, fast becoming the place to showcase Nigerian movies in the Maryland tristate area, USA. It draws from a reservoir of Nigerians and Africans in the area who have turned up in the recent past to view Nollywood fare like The Widow, Osuofia in London, etc. In attendance from Nigeria – and from around the US – were Ego Boyo, actress Iyabo Amoke, Executive Producer Toyin Dawodu, actress Genevieve Nnaji, Chet Anekwe, actor, etc. Also heavily in attendance were members of the largest community of fans and critics of Nigerian movies on the Internet, www.naijarules.com.
30 Days gets a thumb up for taking the time in pre-production, on location and in post to do all kinds of things right. It has succeeded, in effect, in extending the horizons of Nollywood at home and abroad in some ways. The wide and effective use of Foley sounds, a first in Nigeria’s short Home Video history, compellingly reveals to the average Nollywood practitioner and audience how studio simulated background sounds like footsteps, car horns, sirens, doors closing realistically, natural atmospherics, etc., can powerfully enhance scenes in a movie. The sets are un-Nollywood busy, never bare and lifeless. Illuminated in subtle shades that breath life into most of the scenes, actively contributing to the scenic growth, this movie attempts in many instances to allow the actions and pictures and silences reveal the story, not the dialogues, as is typically Nollywoodian. The movie uses a lot of flashbacks, back and forth rhythms that gradually unfold the winding story.
AFI Silver, Venue of the premiere (Sola Osofisan)
In production for more than a year, again, untypical of Nigerian movie production schedules, Okwo’s script is peopled by characters seemingly hungry to assume lives on the big screen. Genevieve Nnaji’s “Chinora Onu” did not disappoint. This movie brought us in contact with a new Nnaji, the near skinny, even sexier Nnaji. Her role as the daughter of an assassinated politician out for justice didn’t have enough meat to challenge her acting bones, but the fight sequences obviously pushed her physically enough to unveil another side of the star. Chet Anekwe aka CBA is probably the guy to watch out for in 30 Days. If he chooses to pursue it, stardom awaits him in Nollywood. He can easily assume the role of Nigeria’s most talented and good looking leading man, a position currently vacant due to the greying of the great RMD. Unlike many of our marketer-manufactured actors, he understands the nuances of character interpretations. He translates the layers of moods into reality. The role, to borrow a cliché, becomes him. And this script helped him display that. Already a tested New York stage and screen actor, CBA brings to his portrayal of “Kene Alumona” an uncanny depth and range hardly ever seen in the current crop of popular Nollywood faces. Paired with the equally vastly talented, but often directorially under-challenged Segun Arinze playing Inspector Shobowale, their scenes together are smoldering highlights of the movie layered with experience-honed undertones. This is the once-upon-a-time Arinze who shone so well on stage and in the early TV shows and home movies before the lack of a directorial eye allowed him to grow lax. Good thing because a lesser talent would have been blown out of the water by CBA. Welcome back Segun. We missed you!
Joke Silva was effective in her interpretation, although I would have loved to see her do something different with the role. Not much room for that in the story though. Joke Silva featured as “Dupe Alade”, the most powerful minister in the story’s political regime, hell-bent on fixing Nigeria’s problems, although by the end of the movie, one is left questioning her tactic and the seeming lack of motivation for the extremes she embraced to fix the nation. With her partner in crime viciously played by the equally gifted Ebele Okaro-Onyiuke, they represented “Mother Nigeria” now incapable of tolerating the agonies the Men folk (the powered class) have inflicted on her and the many children for generations. So, calling up the children, they rose to speak in one voice. Their collective voice and actions send quakes through the country, leaving the dead bodies of corrupt male politicians in positions of power strewn along the way.
Genny Nnaji arriving (Sola Osofisan
Another notable talent that convincingly injected comedic elements into the movie is Gbenga Richards, a tested name not often seen in Nollywood productions. Richards brought the house down every time he spat out a line in his mock “bush” Yoruba man accent. Some insist he stole the movie. Other prominent faces in the movie include Norbert Young, Kalu Ikeagwu, Iyabo Amoke, Ekwi Onwuemene, etc. Ty Rawls, edited, Shona Peters directed photography with Jonathan Gbemuotor behind the camera, Soibifaa Diminas handled make-up and Andre Manga scored the music.
The version of this movie shown at the MD premiere I attended had technical problems that would make it unfair to fully assess the movie based on that outing. The projected image was also too large, thereby creating grainy pictures in several of the carefully lit scenes. A last minute erroneous removal of a scene threw much of the sound work out of synch (typical non-linear editing issue), and the editor somehow failed to preview the content before mastering for the premiere. This scene dropped from the version watched by this reviewer, turned the girls into mindless and motiveless killing machines. It turns out that the sequence, a poolside bit, was key to revealing how they got together as a unit. More importantly, it explains the “why” of their actions. Folks at the London premiere to
uted it as arguably the finest scene in the whole movie. Little wonder the Director looked so dejected at the MD premiere. She was premiering an incomplete movie! By the way, the scenes with the girls often came off as electrifying. Good actors, those girls, and fine harmony.
I think the movie was short-changed by the combination of a first time director teaming with a first time feature editor. There are scenes where the shots in the movie look like rough takes, or the second of eight taken. Certain scenes need tightening or unemotional hacking. I mentioned this to both the editor and writer/director and both assured me they knew precisely what they were doing. The average viewer will easily overlook these observations, but I think they keep the movie from being all it could be, considering the fact that many of us see it as a project that should introduce Nollywood to the international world as a force to be reckoned with.
What’s memorable? The sex scene between Nnaji and CBA got the crowd all happily uncomfortable. You know how Nigerians love sex, but they somehow think it should still remain in the closet and not on screen… It was a crowd pleaser, especially when Chet flashed a butt crack. A member of the audience quipped in the darkness, “dis film go sell o”. I doubt this bit will survive our currently confused Film ratings gang in Nigeria before it gets to DVD/VCD. Maybe you will be able to buy the American DVD version.
Overall, Mildred Okwo is 30 Days and vice versa, confident, opinionated, what have you. Under that exterior is still a first time filmmaker definitely capable of the talk, but now hoping that she has walked it too – since what they say is true: talk is cheap. Okwo sees 30 Days, a complete story, as the first segment of what she anticipates will be three interconnected movies.
So, does 30 Days live up to the hype? It doesn’t disappoint. Besides, it doesn’t matter. Hype is the great marketing tool and as long as the movie sells (so many people are already potential buyers), the publicist’s work is done. Let’s see more of the 30 Days type Nollywood movies at home and abroad please.