They said nothing else but comedy can sell in Nigeria. So the makers of “Ojukokoro” made a comedy. Except they made a comedy like we have never seen before.
Ojukokoro (Greed) is set up to look like a story about a series of unfortunate events in the day of one guy – the broke manager of a petrol station. This sort of a story is a plot sequence that becomes quite annoying after seeing a few because the overwhelming themes in these films are redundant – helplessness and increased foolishness. In that sense, Ojukokoro is a lie because it is much more than that. It is a lie that unravels its truths as the scenes go by and the characters pull you in.
Granted, it is a story of a broke petrol station manager played suitably by Charles Etubiebi. However, it’s also the story of Monday one of the workers in this petrol station who has financial needs, it’s the story of the accountant who might just be realizing that he has deeper issues as the story goes along, it’s the story of Mad Dog Max whose simple ‘job’ turns into a difficult situation that he has to get out of, and so on and so forth. But these stories all have one underlying thread – greed.
The first kudos has to go to the writer for succinctly interweaving all these different stories into the film at the right time without ever missing a beat or making the audience spend too long wondering. Just when you start to wonder why Sunday is such an ambiguous personality, the answer is revealed. When you begin to wonder what deeper significance each relationship between the characters hold, that too is revealed. Right when you wonder what’s actually inside the gift, the package is opened. And right when you wonder if the movie is ever going to turn serious, it does.
There is no loose end left unaddressed and it does all this while having you laughing your insides out. It’s not one comic relief character and it’s not even comedy that’s intended explicitly as such within the scene (you know the kind where all the parties involved are trying too hard). It is comedy that is infused within clever writing and intentional directing. And since we are on the matter of the directing, let’s talk about that. Kudos to the director (who by the way is the same as the writer for this film) who is a first class student of the school of art that teaches “show don’t tell”. It’s in the little details like when we notice that Bollylomo’s character doesn’t know it’s Mr. Manager’s birthday but plays along with Oyetoro’s character. It’s in the pacing of the scene between Lord Frank and Ali Nuhu’s character that tells us ahead of time that even though both work together, they are not necessarily pals. But my favorite thing about how this film was shot will always be in the decision and subsequent effortlessness in showing a specific scene multiple times from different perspectives without ever loosing the audience.
To the average onlooker, it seems we are hailing filmmakers for the most basic of skill but in an industry like ours we must hail as passionately for the things done right (as it doesn’t occur frequently), as we castigate for the things done wrong. Since we are on the matter of negatives, let’s talk about the cinematography. It’s what happens when great intentions meet average executions. During the latter part of the movie there was barely any cinematographic detail that stood out to me (okay so maybe the final stand-off scene was decent), however in the beginning I took note of and proceeded to dwell on two particular scenes: The manager’s wake up scene and the shot of the manager walking into Jubril’s house.
During the former, Andrew wakes up, attempts to call Jubril and gets no response. He’s frustrated. The narration goes over how his life is about to change today and he sits up from the bed. In that moment, as he sits up, the camera does some clockwise rotation that I assume is meant to forebode that topsy-turvy situation that the narration hints at. In theory it should feel like the Killmonger Throne Scene (from 1:08 in video below) from “Black Panther“, except in reality it just feels like an induction of a headache for the viewer. Then the latter consists of a sequence of tight shots on Andrew’s shirt followed by a shaky cam that I assume is supposed to again forebode the bad news he’s about to walk into. Except, here too, it doesn’t feel like art. It feels like a flaw.
Having said all that, I don’t sleep on the realization that the fact that we have a film in nollywood about which we are able to have conversations like this in and of itself is a huge feet. From the solid performances (especially the magnificent work of milk and kpomo purveyor – Shawn Faqua, the many faced Tope Tedela, and the convincingly deranged Emmanuel Ikubese) to the story itself, Ojukokoro grabs you, it amuses you, it entertains you and all this without dropping any IQ points. It’s a sign of our potential capacity, if only we the audience allow room for such art.
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