Artists have been making movies in Nigeria for a long time. The late and great Hubert Ogunde made moderately successful movies as far back as the 50s and 60s. But the industry in its contemporary form really hit its stride in the late 80s and early 90s. The release of the Igbo film ‘Living in Bondage’ in the early 90s is often pinpointed as the birth of modern Nollywood. With its success, suddenly it was a whole new world for movie producers, directors, actors, scriptwriters and everyone else engaged in the movie-making industry. The astronomical growth of the industry was promoted largely by marketers of Eastern extraction, who invested heavily in the industry and found that it was profitable. These days, others are finally realizing that they need to invest in this industry if they really want the mediocrity they complain about to go away… but the Igbo traders still largely hold sway, and are even able to ‘ban’ top actors from the industry if they demand fees which they consider to be too high. Talk about power.
Nollywood movies tend to follow trends and themes. There are a lot of movies about wicked mothers-in-law, sons who have gone astray, girls who get into the wrong kind of company, envious family members who use juju to destroy their own relatives, and barren wives (I recently heard about a Nigerian movie that was a Nigerianized copy of ‘Chori Chori Chupke Chupke’, which is ironic as CCCC copied heavily from Hollywood movies like ‘Pretty Woman’). There is also a string of epic-style movies about our pre-colonial days and the challenges they faced at that time (the enormously successful ‘Igodo’ started that trend). There is a string of successful comedy movies, thanks to the likes of Nkem Owoh (‘Osuofia’), Sam Loco, Patience Ozokwor and two little guys who are fondly called ‘Aki’ and ‘Paw paw’. Family is a big theme in Nollywood, because family is a very big deal to Nigerians. Another HUGE theme is spirituality – both the good and bad kind. There are a gazillion films in which demonic powers are destroyed by the powers of Christ. Good v. evil, with good always triumphing, is a major theme.
There are Nollywood films in English, as well as in our other major languages – Yoruba, Igbo and Hausa (the Hausa movies are modeled on Bollywood films, unsurprisingly, as Bollywood is MASSIVE in the North where Hausa is widely spoken – some Hausa people speak fluent Hindi just from watching the movies). The English films, naturally, are the most successful (as English is our official language and is spoken all over the country). Recently, there has been a shift from the normal supernatural movies, to more contemporary, creative, hip, ‘with it’ stories… and ‘Games Men Play’ is one of them. I’ll come right back to that.
The industry is growing by leaps and bounds, and it is the most successful film industry in Africa and one of the most successful, by any standard, in the world. The movies are churned out at an amazing speed, and usually not on the biggest budgets. In terms of quality, they aren’t that great, although some film-makers are trying hard to change that. Nollywood is often sneered at for its myriad faults, but I am proud of the achievements of my local film industry and can only wish it the best.
Okay… enough with the “Nollywood 101: Nollywood for the Unitiated” crash course… and on to ‘Games Men Play’ (GMP). This movie was recommended to me by a number of people, most recently by Uzo (hey girl, now I know where you got the ‘permanent fixture’ post from!) and I’m glad I saw it. It’s a very entertaining movie, with good performances, some very funny moments (and some appalling ones), and a lot of resonance (if exaggerated) with what contemporary Nigeria is like. This review is massively spoilered, I must add, so if anyone who plans to watch this movie wants to read this… you have been warned!
Ok, but before I go on, I need to get this off my chest. The hair stylist on this movie should have been sacked – can I just say I absolutely HATE what (s)he did to Monalisa Chinda Deso Richard’s (that is one long name by the way girlfriend, I know you just got hitched and all but...)hair?
Anyway, now that I’ve got that said, on to my review. GMP is a movie about relationships: male/female relationships. The challenges faced particularly by the women as a result of the… you guessed it, “games men play”. The narrator of the movie, in the name of conducting research for her friend and boss’s talk show (called ‘Abby’s Corner’), tracks down some pretty interesting couples and follows the, shall we say, intricacies of their lives. (She also adds her love life to the research.) The narrator, Tara (or was Tara her twin sister? anyway, whatever), is played excellently by Kate Henshaw Nuttall, a very consistent actress who can always be relied upon to do a good job – this was a nice turn by her (but the groaning on the loo bit was a tad…eeuw).
Here’s couple Number One:
This is Hot-Body (sorry, can't remember her character's name). Dakore Egbuson (I love her dreads, her make-up and her dressing - she's very stylish) played her to perfection. Perfect deluded chick who thinks a guy is going to leave his wife for her. Pathetic, really.
Wifey is 'very' preggers, and they already have a cute little girl, but hubby is having a kind of 'I hope I'm still hot' phase and is still roaming around town with a young chick because she has (in his words) a hot body or sweet body (or something like that). Hot-body is telling herself that hubby will divorce wifey and marry her (yeah right), and wifey is trying to be a 'virtuous woman'. All I can say is, if packing condoms if my husband's toilet bag when I know he's headed for some weekend sex with his mistress makes me a virtuous woman, then... don't call me 'virtuous'. (really!) Apparently, being virtuous means being a footmat. It kinda works for her, I guess, cos hubby eventually (in the scene above) breaks down and apologises and begs her forgiveness. Aww... I liked this scene cos I think the actor in it (Jim Iyke) is a very good actor. I especially liked him in a movie called 'One Dollar' - he was in it for just a few minutes but totally stole the show. He really gets into each character he plays and does it with relish. I like him although there's something a bit 'funny' (funny in a Colin Farrell-ish, I'm-a-bad-boy-and-I-like-it way) about him.
And then there’s couple Number Two:
Couple Number Four:
All I can say is… eeuw (and trust me, you'll see why). This couple can’t have a baby because the guy has a medical condition (I must say I liked that, was a change from the usual ‘barren woman’ spiel). So, they decide to adopt. Just before the adoption, and at the woman’s most fertile time of her monthly cycle, she is brutally raped by a ‘robber’. She falls pregnant, and severely traumatized, wants to abort the baby. But hubby’s having none of it. He says the baby is a gift, regardless of the way he was conceived… eventually, we find out that hubby actually arranged for the rape (!!!!) by getting an old friend to do him the favour of pretending to be a robber and rapist. Anyway, 7 years later, old friend loses his pregnant wife and suddenly remembers – hey, my friend’s child is my kid! And he foolishly tries to get his son back. All kinds of mess ensue… Bottom line for me is, it’s absolutely appalling that the woman eventually goes back to a husband who arranged for her to be raped… APPALLING, APPALLING, APPALLING (can’t say it enough). Her friend tells her it’s just one of those challenges every marriage faces… uh… oh-kay….
Couple Number Five:
It’s Ms. Narrator herself, Tara (or whatever), who falls in love over the internet (the internet??!!!!) only to find out, at the fateful meeting, that her rich and handsome amour is actually a little person. An extraordinarily loquacious, mouthy, vain, rude, arrogant and hilarious little person. So not PC, but so funny. The funniest part of the movie, for me.
Couple Number Six:
The craziest thing about this movie (apart from Monalisa’s hair) is the outfits… I mean !!!!! What were they thinking?! It was entertaining in any case - the costume designer was definitely ummm... creative. Here are a few of my faves.
First we have the love affair with brightly-coloured frilly tiers/layers:
yup...almost the same pink-and-blue frilly ensemble on two different people.
Richmond was rocking hats and loud shirts with strange prints:
And this get up... Inspired by the disco?
Kate is wearing those nasty split down the front pants in this picture, and her sister is rocking a leopard print top (more of that later)...
The bit where they all dance at the end, all dressed in white at Abby’s wedding, was, I must admit, quite cool. I enjoyed watching that bit. Very self-indulgent of all of them, but I can’t hate…
Even the rapist in his jail cell gets in on the dancy-licious action (yuck).
This was a fun movie to watch... enjoyed it.