Monday, 19 May 2014


The movie, MAMA AFRICA, first premiered on Sunday the 4th of May, 2014. It was a well attended event. Stars graced the over- three-hours’ Red Carpet with all the attendant paparazzi. Ovation, City People, Vanguard, STV, Africa Entertainment News and Galaxy TV were among the media houses that covered the colourful event. Also in attendance were eminent producers and directors like Zik Zulu Okafor, Bond Emeruwa, Chidi Nwokeabia, Paul Okolie, Lancelot Imasuen, Tony Anih, Mike Nliam, Frank Dallas, Franca Brown, among other prominent Nollywood personalities.

Starring in MAMA Africa, is Jibola Dabo, Zack Oji, Livinus Nnochiri, Chigozie Atuanya, Tonto Dike, Belinda Effah, Chioma Igwe, and others whose acting prowess is never in doubt as they had put in their best in this satirical film. The film is rich in morals, intrigues, suspense, and action, an expose on the goings on in the corridors of power. The story, written and produced by Nobert Ajaegbu, directed by Joe Brown Ubaka, depicts how the wealthy and powerful, both in Military and civilian positions, oppress the helpless masses, embezzle and perpetuate unmentionable atrocities in the nations of Africa. The effort of the film is sure another plus for Nollywood, and any unique effort such as this should be highly commendable.

Now, to a critical review of the movie, MAMA AFRICA, the previewed copy we watched was sure not a perfect one, at least, technically. In view of these, I have made a few notes:

1. SOUND: while the picture quality is very good, there were sound issues in most and some very important scenes, especially in the detention camp where the disabled/destitute were kept. Some screeches and ambiance noise would need to be treated in those scenes.

2. GUNSHOT SOUND FX: While the editor did his best in applying sound effects to the gunshots, and I must say, he was good. But there were some times, during a fusillade in the fight for freedom by the destitute, where the sound effects were completely out of precision. In fact, there were one or two cases where the fire and sound came when the gun was faced downward by a one-legged cripple.

3. TOY GUN TOO LUCID: I think Nollywood has gone past the use of toy guns too glaring to viewers. If you don’t have access to real short guns, and will have to use toy, then they must be made to look very real. But toy short guns used in the film were just obviously fake, and to make matters worse, Tight Close-Up shots of the guns were shown, and for too long. To hide the fakeness, the director should have avoided the TCU in most cases. Long shots could have just perfectly done the job.

4. UNPROFESSIONAL SOLDIER SHOOTING: The Action scenes were actually well plotted. But I noticed when some of the soldiers in Uniform were firing in the open, in exposed defense. I don’t think real soldiers fire like that. This could have been forgiven if it had come from the destitute, but for professional soldiers, naaaaa. Professional soldiers will always take care of their defense even before launching an offensive. Of course, this was taken care of in some other shooting parts, but the one (s) with this error should really be reconsidered.

5. MAKE UP/MAKE OVER: Generally, the makeup didn’t do badly. But how would one explain a wound that remains fresh despite the span of days? A typical example was those of MALACHY, the deaf and dumb detainee. After the beating and his being chained to a tractor outside, he was there for three days, but the wound on his left cheek remained fresh, and unnecessarily over-made. That particular wound should have been a simple flesh cut or should have been avoided completely. Also, there was this guy with plaster on his right eyes with blood stain. He was brought into the camp that way, and despite the time span, the plaster and blood stain remained almost the same. Could that be an attempt on continuity? The artist missed it there.

6. DEAFMAN HEARD? Still on MALACHY the deaf and dumb, a “miracle” seemed to have been created when Sergeant Peters (Chigozie Atuanya) took his girl friend (Tonto Dike) into his room and supposedly was sleeping with her. The deaf man followed the soldier to the room, and while he was doing it, Malachy was listening at the window. The acting impression (reaction) we got from the deaf man was that he was listening to the sensual mourning going on inside. Did he actually hear it? Oh, I think he would have just been made to go directly and bang at the door, since he saw his girl friend been taken into that room.

7. HOW LIGHT/HEAVY ARE THE GUNS? Martha, (Tonto Dike) in one scene before the revolution had gone to smuggle out sets of guns from the armory on behalf of the detained destitute. Since her character was not initially depicted as a super-human, I don’t understand why she carried a pile of military weapon in a sack as if she was carrying a bag of pop-corn, or at most, quarter-filled with poff-poff. The weight of the guns should have naturally exerted strenuous pressure on her and shown in the way she carried it. But no, she almost swung it, and when she dropped it, ohhhhh, it was so easy and light, like a half-filled sack of cotton wool. Again, the toy gun effect there. I thought they should have added something like cassava or tubers of yam in the bag to make her feel the weight, that’s if acting it was a problem. Anyway, that was an acting issue, but the director should have noticed it. The props guy should have done better.

8. BARTHOLOMEW’S FINAL WORD: Bartholomew was the blind ex-soldier, who commandeered the other destitute. Brilliant acting there by LIVINUS NNOCHIRI. It was good that the brave blind ex-soldier had some last words for his son. But the way and manner in which he was killed negates that purpose. He was shot on the head, at a range not too far, and the impact was an instant splash of blood from the head, his brain must surely has been blown off. But, we saw him talking, making his last wish as if he just had minor headache and needed some rest. Not with such gun blast on his head. You don’t survive such impact and still have that strength to make very strong and audible statement such as he did. The gun shot should have been plotted else how, or the impact made to allow for the dying wish.
Chioma Igwe - member of cast

9. COMMANDANTS’ EXECUTION: Part of the last scenes showed the execution of the Soldier in charge of the military detention camp. It happened outside the camp, actually in a bush. One just can’t but imagine the coloration between the camp and the bush, which was never established in the story. All the long and wide shots showed the environment to be fully developed. You could even see other buildings behind and sideways. If there was bush somewhere around there, then it would have been proper to show the escape movement to establish a proper link. And if the bush was another area far from the camp, then I wonder how the one-legged cripple was able to limp there and even catch up with an able bodied soldier running for his dear life. Could that be real? Or was there a use of African Magic by the lame man? I think that bush scene was unnecessary. The soldier’s death could have as well been plotted within the camp, maybe caught hiding in a corner or making a tactical error and exposed his defense. And then the lame fires his deadly shot.

10. NATHAN’s MASS MURDER: Finally, the point made in the final execution of the corrupt Party caucus members was that the bad leaders pay for their evil. The scene is reminiscent of Jerry Rawling’s action in Ghana before he became a civilian president. But this also generates a lot of moral issues, especially for a film that attempts to give moral instructions and teach the necessity of shunning evil. Does the “Means” justify the “End”? Should evil be used to correct evil? Can lawlessness bring about order in the society? Well, it’s just a film, we would say, but when your HERO ends up a villain, good twist, yeah, but for the morality the movie producers preach, it’s a no-no. That would mean taking the law into our hands. Sacrifice?! How I wish their end, death or imprisonment, had been plotted differently. Like, having them arrested and jailed or making one of the soldiers carry out the execution, having turned. That way, you can uphold the rule of law, and your hero remains a moral and law-abiding one. I will skip other minor details of that scene and how the police came so swiftly (Nigerian Police o…or were they south Africans?). But what were the journalists doing singing the freedom song instead struggling to interview?

After premieres, reviews and critiques, final corrections are made before the final film is released into the market. I am some sure, some of the above notes, those others may concur with, as this is my personal observation, would be addressed; all the best for the producer, director, crew and the cast. It’s a good work well done.

God bless MAMA Africa

Emdee David.

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