Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Where anything goes


I saw Last King of Scotland last week, and saw Babel last night. I now know that I'm fed up of doom and gloom. The next time I go out, I want to watch a chick flick, maybe something with Lindsay Lohan. I'd like to leave my brain at the door, because it seems that when I don't, I watch these films with great unease. So much for slice of reality, I'd like an unreal Hollywood ending, a good chuckle.

The problem with watching a film like Last King of Scotland, is that you know how it ends. Just as when watching Shooting Dogs or Hotel Rwanda, we all know what eventually happens. We all know that the cheers and exhilaration that greeted the charismatic Idi Amin's rise to power will soon be severely tempered by the babarous side of Amin's persona. Without knowing anyting about post-colonial Ugandan history, it's always been that way in Africa. Africans ove the next regime more than the last. So as the characters all crack jokes, full of jovial asides, patting each other on the back in revolutionary solidarity, I sit as an audience member, tense, waiting for the inevitable to happen.

No more. I had nightmares after watching Last King of Scotland, thinking that militias were coming after me. That kind of thing just isn't good for my constitution. One reviewer on the radio call Africa's place in films "the place where anything goes". You have government brutality, government corruption, corporate corruption writ large (Constant Gardener), lawlessness. There is no redemption for the African. And to add insult to injury, Africa is still the white man's burden. Be it Constant Gardener, Blood Diamond (Dicaprio's a Rhodie though), Last King of Scotland: only the white man wants to save Africa.

Go to Africa, and you can shoot a film with everything in it. I think I've reached saturation point. I want to watch a comedy set in Africa, a romance set in Africa. Enough of the brutal dictators, genocides, corrupt governments, corrupt people, let's see a human story. Let's see a lightening of the dark continent.

Last King of Scotland is still a good story. Forest Whitaker should win an Oscar for it. His protrayal of Amin as a charming, yet brutal man is earth shattering. You can feel him lovingly clasping you in his bossom, yet you could still be crushed in that same clasp. It's a frightening place to be. The director, Kevin MacDonald captures 70s Africa with a beauty I haven't seen before. This was a continent full of hope. The decrepit thieving postcolonial presidents had been replaced by idealistic military regimes - so everyone thought. Only for the yoke of military rule to crush the spirit of a continent even more forcefully. The music is before my time, but still nostalgic. Buy it!

Babel. Babel. Babel. Alejandro González Iñárritu's last film in the "death trilogy" (Amores Perros, 21 Grams, the first two), is a painful film. There are moments of touching poignance, such as the wedding scene in Mexico (they were spraying money!), the peeing scene (watch to see what I mean), even the knickerless terrorism (no spoilers here). But none of these detract from the pain of miscommunication. How often have you travelled somewhere and you have trouble explaining to the waiter that you'd like the beef well done, not slightly mooing? Now think of a life and death situation, think of preconceived prejudices, and you have Babel. We all spoke the same language, we tried to build a tower to the heavens, God scattered us for our audacity, and now we miscommunicate in a variety of ways.

The doom and gloom is enough to almost make me want to watch a Nollywood home video, but not quite.

18 comments:

culturalmiscellany said...

Well if you need someone to go to a chick flick with, and your gf is busy, I will go. I'm dying to see a brain numbing film too, studies hurting my head!

Omodudu said...

I'd like to see Richard Mofe Damija act the part of a dictator, and not some guy from hollywood.

Monef said...

After seeing Babel, I had to take a movie holiday. I loved it as I have loved all of Innaritu's previous work, but it really made my head hurt. Especially the Morrocan strand of the story

Fred said...

I have always been fascinated by Idi Amin and his sheer childish brutality. I haven't seen Babel.

Vixen said...

a romantic comedy chick flick which has some African'ism's in it is Phat Girlz, with Monique. It was hilarious watching non-African actors speaking in Yoruba...lol and the storyline was mind numbing enough.

Anonymous said...

Dude, CM, I'm going to see Showgirls on Friday evening. Wanna come? If all goes well it'll be a celebration of passing my driving test. I've avoided all the serious films thus far so I'm hoping this musical will not ruin my intended leave your troubles at the door cinema encounter.

CM, maybe you can come and check out my new place as well?

I'm sure you both know who this is.

Dilch said...

Until I read your last line, I was going to suggest that you watch the movie Lucky Joe - it has the Chief in Fuji's house of commotion from checkmate. It's a romantic comedy set in Africa for what its worth. My favourite bit is when the title character's wife is kidnapped by some nasty guys and he's telephoned and his wife is threatened with death if he doesn't pay some large sum of money, and he says , and I quote " Please kill her if that's what you want to do, I can always marry another wife........" That's African romantic comedy.....

everchange said...

want a comedy? watch "every single day" starring Onyeka and some lady I think is called Oge Okoye. You will laugh your head off.

soheb said...

Nkem,

Can you imagine - I took MY DAD to see The Last King of Scotland - am I mad?!

My dad was left... speechless.

I was also planning to see Blood Diamond with him next week. He says he's not sure he should see a movie with me ever again. Have you seen Blood Diamond? Have I traumatised my pensioner father? Oh dear....

Atala Wala Wala said...

What I'd love is to see someone produce a film based on a historical narrative of any of Africa's pre-colonial kingdoms, like the Mali or Songhai Empires. At least there's enough historical detail to base a plot on... but such a film is unlikely to be produced by Hollywood, and I doubt that African film makers have the technical expertise needed to bring this to full-blooded life.

Talatu-Carmen said...

atala wala wala,

There is a Hausa filmmaker I know who made a film "Amina," based on Queen Amina. Haven't seen it yet, though.

Also, there's Keita, that deals with the Sunjata epic. You can get that through California Newsreel.
http://newsreel.org/nav/title.asp?tc=CN0050

Also Yeelen, dealing with a Bambara myth:
http://www.amazon.com/Yeelen-Souleymane-Ciss%E9/dp/B0000D0YWS

I'm sure there are others too...

Monef said...

Please kill her if that's what you want to do, I can always marry another wife........" That's African romantic comedy...

lol at Dilichi!

@atala wala wala - maybe Mel Gibson can try his hand at that for one of his next projects:)

My Talking Beginnings said...

Oh Ms Lohan's moved on to bigger things now...see her starring in Bobby alongside demi moore and co!!I don't think that will help on your serious/depressing movie hiatus tho.

Folabi said...

Man its true ooo,, all this saga too much they should start partnering up with nollywood and showing a different perspective of life in africa

adefunke said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
adefunke said...

You could watch Monique's 'Phat Girls'. I am not sure you will laugh but parts of it is set in Nigeria and there isn't a deadbody, dictator, or corrupt politician in sight.

adefunke said...

@ Vixen - Godfrey (who plays the character Akibo) is Nigerian.

Ayoola said...

Have you seen 'Dreamgirls'? Light-hearted, feel-good comedy with an "everyone is happy at the end" ending (except the bad guy for whom justice is rightfully served at the end). Should make you feel good.