Movie Review: Ma’ami – A Tunde Kelani Film

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One of the prevalent movie tropes in Nollywood is the single mother struggling to raise her children in the midst of harsh conditions, poverty and sexual predators, but eventually going on to good fortunes via her children who blossom and reward her labor of love. One reason for its prevalence is that this is a trope that easily resonates with the Nigerian folk as it is true-to-life and equally powerful. Nigerians see this scenario play out every day and watching this story unfold on screen till its denouement is a cathartic experience. So it’s a shame that Ma’ami fumbles in the way it handles its subject matter.

First and foremost let’s talk about the major problems with the movie. Plotting and Character development.

The story is told from Kashimawo’s point of view (at least attempts to). The use of flashbacks is not a new one, but this movie makes a mess of this. It seems every five minutes, Kashimawo has a flashback. That’s bad storytelling as it hurts the pacing of the story.

Poor character development rears its ugly head also. Older Kashimawo isn’t a really compelling character. He’s bland, boring and one-dimensional. He seems like someone who doesn’t really have much going on upstairs. This isn’t the actor’s fault – Wole Ojo. He dazzled in Façade so I know he’s a capable actor, therefore my blame goes to the scriptwriter. Lesson number one in screenwriting – do not give your protagonist bad or cheesy lines.

Talking about acting, Funke Akindele overacts. It’s a fact so obvious right now, it seems as though she’s parodying her Jenifa character each time she’s on screen. Her performance in Ma’ami suffered the same fate. Her character was so heavy handed at times that, if I wasn’t trying to remind myself that this is a Tunde Kelani movie, I’d have been rolling on the floor in laughter. Not good, especially as this happened frequently in the more emotional parts of the story. I think her star power is the only reason why she was offered this role because she was a poor fit for the Ma’ami character.

The young man who played young Kashimawo on the other hand was the standout performer in this movie. The kid was phenomenal. Don’t know why I haven’t seen more of him elsewhere but I hope to see him in better productions than this.

From my research, this movie is based on a book by Femi Osofisan. Now, the way this movie tells its story could work as a literary novel but as a movie, it needed a proper visual treatment and translation. For example, the constant flashbacks would be an intriguing element of a novel (stream of consciousness and what not) but here in this movie, it crippled the pacing.

Another thing that bugged me, and to buttress my point that the book ought to have been properly translated into a movie, Kashimawo plays for Arsenal FC. Why wasn’t this rewritten into him playing for a Nigerian club instead? It’s fiction and if properly handled, the Nigerian league could be portrayed as a prestigious one. Just look at Yellow Card. This idea would have been more pleasing than seeing meagerly designed sets and backdrops in a supposed international football match. Instead we never see Kashimawo play for his club (a big disappointment) and even when he “played” for Nigeria, that scene was lacking the mainframe trademark quality production values.

There were redeeming qualities about Ma’ami. As this movie is a Mainframe production, the picture quality is still one of the best in the business. The costumes, especially in the flashback scenes of the 70s and 80s were rock solid and impressive. I just wish these were accompanied by equally compelling storytelling.

I’m not saying Ma’ami is a bad movie. Oh, okay, I admit it, I think this is a bad movie. Note the keyword being ‘I’. My opinion. I was really disappointed. I have enjoyed Mr Kelani’s (and Mainframe movies) productions in the past. Yellow Card is one of my best movies ever. I also enjoyed watching Ole ku with my family way back when. But this was just… bad.

If you’re a Tunde Kelani fan and you’ve not seen Ma’ami, spare yourself. Wait for his next one. It should be better.

Some updates and a Book Review: Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

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Hey there. Did you miss me? *shy grin*

It’s been really busy in Ibukun Taiwo HQ. Last month had a lot of deadlines and a few competitions to submit my work. The good news is I met all deadlines. The not-too-good news is that I think I’m recovering from creativity burnout (yes, it’s a thing!) so I’ve not been here too much.

What have I been doing in the meantime? Watching a lot of crappy TV. Oh, and wrestling. I recently rediscovered my love for “sports entertainment” so while the whole world was tuning in daily to see every country’s world cup ambition dashed (especially Brazil…Bad Germany! Bad!) I was either sitting through Monday Night Raw, Smackdown or just keeping busy on my PS3 playing WWE2K14.

I’m back to writing now though, so hopefully, I’ll have some good news for you very very soon.

July started with a bang! I ran smack dab into a book that’s been on my bookshelf for over a year – Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn – and bang! I fell in love. In fact, I think I may have read my favorite book for this year. Which is weird. The year’s best book usually lands on my reading list towards October/November (11/22/63 in 2012 and Steelheart in 2013). I guess stranger things have happened, like Brazil losing to Germany by such a huge margin.

Anyways, Gone Girl. By Gillian Flynn. It’s not normal for me to finish a book and immediately Google the author. But with Gone Girl, I did. I wanted to know who wrote such a riveting, character driven, batshit-crazy tale of marriage and love and falling out of love and… to say more would be to spoil this book. And trust me, you don’t want me to do that as this is a Whodunnit book, part of the fun is figuring out who did what and why.

Gone Girl is a crime novel about a married couple, Nick and Amy Dunne, who are having marital issues of the unusual variety. On the day of their 5th year anniversary, Amy goes missing. Naturally, the husband is the suspect, and the story is told from several perspectives. The husband, and the “wives”. Read it, you’ll understand that inside joke.

Like I mentioned earlier, I’ve had this book for a while now but I didn’t even get past the cover. It has one of the most bland covers ever. Don’t blame me, I’m an SFF person so I’m used to covers having 5 different colors and spaceships, and bearded wizards and long haired women on the cover. Instead the book cover is just black.

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See? So Gone Girl stayed on the shelf. Which was my loss. I wish I’d read this book as soon as I got it.

Now, I was uncomfortable when I started because it was obviously not fantastical or sciencey. I didn’t get that buzz and sense of wonder I’m used to, which SFF gives. But after the third page, Gillian Flynn had me completely hooked. Her writing is that compelling.

There’s a particular place where I knew that this book was something special.

My eyes flipped open at exactly six a.m. This was no avian fluttering of the lashes,
no gentle blink toward consciousness. The awakening was mechanical. A spooky
ventriloquist-dummy click of the lids: The world is black and then,
showtime! 6-0-0 the clock said – in my face, first thing I saw. 6-0-0.
It felt different. I rarely woke at such a rounded time. I was a man of
jagged risings: 8:43, 11:51, 9:26. My life was alarmless. At that exact
moment, 6-0-0, the sun climbed over the skyline of oaks, revealing its full
summer angry-God self. Its reflection flared across the river toward our house,
a long, blaring finger aimed at me through our frail bedroom curtains.
Accusing: You have been seen. You will be seen.

I wallowed in bed, which was our New York bed in our new house, which we still
called the new house, even though we’d been back here for two years.

I like this kind of prose, dense like Dennis Lehane but flowing and clever. And so real. We moved to our current place two years ago this August, and we still call it the “new” house.

One key to writing good fiction is to write believable characters. Characters so real that you could swear the author knows you or peeked into your diary and stole some part of your life. By the time you’re halfway through Gone Girl, you’ll hate and love the two main characters, the titular Gone Girl – Amy – and her husband Nick Dunne who are having a War-of-the-Roses kind of marriage bump but with more sociopathy.

As utterly crazy as the plot gets, (which is fine with me since I’m used to having people teleport and throw fireballs and timetravel in my books) it never veers into ridiculousness. And contrary to what some critics believe, the twists didn’t break the story, rather they made it work.

The defining thing for me about Gone Girl is that when you’re done, you’ll probably want to discuss it with someone intelligent. So many questions, about the human condition, about women, about men, about marriage, about love. It’s all there, in thick layers.

I could go on about this book (but I won’t). But I recommend you read this book. It’s not Science Fiction or Fantasy, but it tells an engaging story and isn’t that the point of good fiction?

Bravo Gillian Flynn. Bra-vo!