Sunday, January 26, 2020

Bling Lagosians: All over the place in search of a purpose

PRODUCER: Bolanle Austen-Peters Production
DIRECTOR: Bolanle Austen-Peters
RUN TIME: 97 minutes
MAIN CHARACTERS: Gbenga Titiloye, Elvina Ibru, Alex Ekubo, Osas Ighodaro, 
DOP: Adekunle “Nodash” Adejuyigbe
GRADE: 3/5

The Bling Lagosians is a nice family drama if we keep to the nuclear plot of the Holloway family — a flawed family with a couple of humane and beautiful daughters navigating through life in their various lanes and meeting at the necessary family junctions. 
Temidun and George’s marriage is struggling because of her one instance of infidelity while Tokunbo or Toku as Nnamdi calls her is an Oxford-trained lawyer who prefers screenwriting and dresses outlandishly. They are free spirits and we are happy that it ultimately ends well for them with George accepting Temidun back and Toku and Nnamdi discovering love while trying to make a movie.
But the father, Akin Holloway and Mopelola, don’t get such passes. Akin is a philandering, wayward, money guzzler who runs the company aground while the introduction of Mopelola’s character evokes images of a wicked witch or “spirit mother” which was a motif of the pre new-cinema Hollywood a la “Alaba Nollywood” as she proclaims “My party must be unrivaled in the land of Eko partydom…”

There are a few more subplots — a bunch of jealous friendly-enemy society ladies trying to out party each other; an Alaba/Upper Iweka movie marketer realizing that there was need for some professional diversification in movies invites a scriptwriter to write a blockbuster but tries top impose his own ideas on it; Shaggy and Helen Paul and the domestic crew who are being owed by an irresponsible couple planning a huge party and buying big cars and watches.
Production wise, the advent of international steaming services like Netflix, Amazon and co. to our film industry has had an effect akin to that of the arrival of MTV Base on our music videos. The quality of our films are improving by the day and is up there with international counterparts.
I also believe that we have some of the most talented actors, directors and producers in this country and what they were able to do on shoestring budgets are beginning to be transmitted to better funded projects and we are the better for it. However we need to capitalize on our strengths and not try to outdo anyone because we have enough and we are enough.
In an earlier review, I had mentioned that due to the fact that this “New Nollywood” is still at a formative stage, comedy seems to be the order of the day for now. Nnamdi says, “Nne we need to put comedy, people need to laugh, obodo siri ike.” But he was talking more about the slapstick kind which had reigned supreme in the Alaba and Asaba movie markets, but we are thankfully past that stage now. 
However there seems to be a pattern creeping into the New Nollywood. I don’t think it’s a full-blown genre yet, but it’s there and heavily too. Despite this film being called “The Bling Lagosians” which should already point us to its direction, there seem to be a whole world of movies designed in the “Crazy Rich Asians” model —“Wedding Party 1&2, Chief Daddy, etc… 
New Nigerian producers who are replacing the Alaba cartel, appear to have been caught up in this ostentatious display of riches trend in movies and making it look cool. But the danger here is that they are about falling into the Alaba pit and develop tropes that tell a whole different story from  the realities of the people outside the one percent of the one percent. Because while the one percent of the one percent may have the kind of money mentioned in the film, the current minimum wage of Nigeria is still 18 000 naira per month and we all live in the same country o!
Cinematography-wise this movie ticks the basic boxes and more but has some questionable blocking in some basic over-the-shoulder shots. There are a lot of profile shots of face to face dialogues where more frontal placement of the camera would have captured the emotions better. The scenes of Nnamdi showing Tokunbo his intended market and the party scene towards the end played out more like music videos than a movie. There are also a few focus-pulling issues while there are no subtitles for the various instances of Yoruba and Igbo usage. Netflix provides subtitles but not everyone watches TV with the subtitles on.
Even though I feel that Alex Ekubo doesn’t really fit into the role he was cast, his character was deep and funny and along with his looks, his romance with Tokunbo could be accepted even if it barely pulls through and looked more appropriate for a prose fiction which was the original form of the movie as written by Chris Ihidero. The exaggerated Igbo accent however, has become cliched and Alex has already done it in a couple of other films, so there was no need to replicate it here. 
Ultimately, The Bling Lagosians is another big step towards our freedom from the Alaba, Upper Iweka and Asaba creativity pits which bogged down Nollywood longer than they should have. It’s only going to get better from here and we would accept this and other movies of its ilk for now as we make steady progress in the New Nollywood.

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