The Film Mischief Daily Dispatch 1: Cinema Has No Boxes

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Catch up with the highlights of day one at TAFM and read what we think about the films that screened.

The immediate desire while covering a festival is to try to identify a thread connecting all the movies. It’s a critic’s fetish; a reflexive desire to unearth something hidden beyond the surface, even if the filmmakers are unaware of such consistencies.   But wouldn’t that be an unfair attempt to box art into definitions?

Wouldn’t that go against the very statement the Annual Film Mischief is trying to make? That cinema transcends labels like budget, genre and theme? Isn’t all that matters the original artistic thought and the angle of presentation?

With 24 films stacked in the slate of selections, the maiden edition of the festival made an assured start. The first day offered a rather rangy palette of statements, drawing from themes peculiar to the wishful and romantic, poetic possession and a cold, hard look at the mostly grim Nigerian condition.

Smile by Precious Rashidi

What about Smile?

Smile by festival debutant, Precious Rashidi, employed mystery and the inner contemplations of the mind to unravel passion, depression and the soul’s longing for affection.

Its narrative is centered around a girl, alive to passion but broken by depression, who, with slow diligence, sketches a vivid image of a lover she only admired with a wistful smile.

Largely experimental, the film uses landscapes, symbolisms to considerable effect to communicate its intentions. In a Q&A session after viewing, Rashidi admits to not having any intention while making the film. He was simply inspired by the unexpected appearance of a smiling face and the power it wields on mental health.

Songs of Ubong by Owen Olowu

What about Songs of Ubong?

Songs of Ubong by Owen Olowu attempts a rather daring take on the romantic allegories of the biblical book Songs of Solomon. Shot in black and white, the film glamorizes poetry, in a fine performance by the consistently enigmatic Wale Ojo, who plays a hopeless gardener possessed by the power of poetry as he expresses desire for his employer’s wife.

Aided by a sincere artistic direction, the slow dancing of the camera and, of course, the brilliant source material from which the film was adapted, Songs of Ubong pulses with romantic extravagance.

In a Q and A session live at the festival, Olowu admitted that the film was a spur-in-the-moment idea while on a courtesy visit to Wale Ojo’s home. Conception and execution took just five hours. The textual sentiment of the film points to conventional scripting and rehearsals, but Olowu’s surprising revelation affirms that art can emerge from the most random of scenarios.

Eyimofe by the Esiri brothers

What about Eyimofe?

Eyimofe, the globally acclaimed feature by the Esiri brothers, closed the day and it turned out to be a masterstroke. In the darkness of the hall, viewers were treated to a nuanced depiction of the Nigerian lower class, a category of people commonly disregarded by mainstream Nigerian cinema. These people are the ones face to face with the relentless hardship the country so casually doles out, and it’s within this space the Esiris flourish. The theme of immigration connects the tandem story threads of a grieving handy-man and a hustling hairdresser turned sex worker. Having tasted the harshness of the Nigerian reality, these people want out and are willing to do whatever it takes, even as they continue to resist the country’s attacks on their existence. Nothing is guaranteed in this duel. In fact, failure is the more likely resolution for most. Eyimofe was a rude awakening after the more romantic offerings from earlier. I could tell from the deafening silence in the hall. Nigerians, most of them young and dreamy, saw life as they know it and it scared them.

Isaac O. Ayodeji

David Osaireme

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