By Babanifesi Akpata
It is almost impossible to get me to watch a Nollywood movie but ever since Figurine, I’ve tried to play down my hatred for Nollywood. A couple of weeks ago, a colleague at work invited me to see Kunle Afolayan’s new movie October 1 and to her surprise I agreed to go. Lol! She asked why the sudden interest and I replied Kunle Afolayan might be the only Nollywood director who’s got my respect and adoration.
Interesting fact, I remember the movie like it was yesterday I saw it. That means it made sense and every scene painted a picture I agreed with, in my opinion.
The movie is still very new at the cinemas but I would really try my best not to give away too many details. One pointer I would offer is pay close attention to detail because the movie is all about details in its abundance. I’m late 80’s baby so my use of the word abundance might not sit well with the grownups.
October 1 is by far the best Nigerian movie ever made by a Nigerian in recent times. I expect people to quiz this claim but I’d state the facts clearly.
First of all, it’s a periodic-thriller; the trains, the cars, the people and locale all reflect the post-independence state of Nigeria not to mention the old school “Guinness” bottle which caused a stair at the cinema. As remarks were flying about the cinema hall when the liquid poured into the bottle, nothing commercial, just good old film-making and we were drunk in love with Kunle Afolayan’s Afro-psychological-periodic thriller.
We are introduced to Inspector Danladi Waziri, a seasoned police officer. Waziri filters through the atmosphere with experience reading the people and then when we meet Sergeant Afonja who plays Waziri’s sidekick we all had to laugh because he wore that comedic performance and he maintained that form from start to finish. Also, the banter and culture clash between Waziri and Afonja just makes room for perfect conversation between persons of different Nigerian tribes.
It is quite difficult to find a Nollywood movie with a seasoned actor as the lead character; the entire movie is seen through Waziri’s eye, something that hasn’t been done since Pete Edochie in Thing’s Fall Apart, Baba Wande in Ti Oluwa lo ni le and Nkem Owoh in Osuofia in London.
The Tribal Factor
Appreciating the Nigerian culture comes easy with October 1, as Waziri comes in contact with a number of key characters who represent different ethnic groups of our country. This interaction only proves how little we understand ourselves as Nigerian. With subtle touch Afolayan answers the question of unity and paints a typical picture of how the country can benefit from understanding one another for example a Hausa man travelling the forest of Akote is mistakenly picked up by the Igbo man as the killer of his kinsman’s daughter but his innocence is hard to prove because Waziri the on site inspector is also Hausa, so typically they question his loyalty. Then when the blame shifts to a palace guard whose name begins with “S”, Afonja the Yoruba sergeant also tries to prove the innocence of his kinsmen, which any fellow countryman is obliged to.
At some point during the investigation, Afonja finds it difficult to question the Ifa priest during Waziri’s routine questions around the town.
Carefully, Afolayan weaves bias around traditional beliefs when we eventually meet the killer but then these bias throw a far deeper question to what is happening today when the untouchable faults the law and mere citizens like Inspector Waziri cannot penetrate the four walls of the power that be.
If you understand the marketing that binds a film making process when cast you would understand that Afolayan is all about making quality movies rather than using actors to sell a movie. Sadiq Daba is legend to old folks. Yes, I said but then every time his name comes up people mention “Cock Crow at Dawn”. Cock Crow at Dawn was popular back in the 70s and the 80s, which means basically nothing to someone, like me. What market value is that to people my age? I ask?
My point is, Kunle Afolayan is not out to market actors but the content of this movie, which is common to a movie genre like October 1. Unusual actors unravelling despicable situations with lots of twists; and October 1 sells this concept appropriately.
The Religious Factor
Every time I hear about the missionaries who impacted the lives of Nigerians during the colonial era, not once did I ever think the impact could be negative? I would marvel and picture old King’s College, how rosy things were and all that but October 1 paints a picture so real to today’s situation that it would take extra effort to believe this evil deed didn’t happen at all.
I am not allowed to go into details but when you watch the movie you will understand me better. When we praise the religious system, we fail to see the metaphor therein.
Overall I would give the movie an 8 over 10 for certain reasons. The actors got me sold, the story was unique and the symbolic nature of independence was hidden when the Queen’s picture was brought down which I think was a stroke of genius by the director and script writer. By movie standards, October 1 takes you back to the days of Diamond Ring and old school Nigerian film making with new strokes. In many ways, October 1 marks the resurrection of Nollywood!