It is unclear who originated the “you played yourself” saying, but whoever did must have seen the cut of Okafor’s Law before it was released to Nigerian cinemas. The movie run was pushed back due to legal issues. In addition the reports that circulated concerning plagiarism and intellectual property theft left audiences primed to see what the filmmakers were eager to release. On viewing the movie, it became clear that the buzz around it, legal issues included could have served for more compelling and exploratory subjects than most of the movie’s premise. Perhaps an interest in the nature of ideas and the manner of execution? What is true inspiration in the era of social media? Instead the filmmakers collectively decided to discard logic and stuff a film with a simple and amusing enough idea, with all the romcom clichés possible. Yet, they failed to bamboozle us.
The film establishes itself harmlessly enough. Chuks aka Terminator (Blossom Chukwujeku) is an archetype. He’s light skinned, has a great apartment and smirks like he has the answers to existential fulfilment. He also has two best friends named Chuks who the plot pays attention to in descending order of screen time and comic relief. Together the three Chuks cavort between parks, Terminator’s house and bars to discuss women. In one of their social debates Okafor’s Law is brought up. And to be clearer about it the movie treats audiences to a Black and White narrative flashback of its origins. The meaning of Okafor’s Law is best understood by making use of the Urban dictionary.
Somewhere a bet emerges. As expected, it involves a fair bit of dishonesty and masculine manipulations of the fairer sex. Money finds its way in there somewhere too. Then the story nosedives from a pleasant assessment of millennial dating patterns into painful cliché territory. The film’s title and premise stemmed from a social media tag that went and stayed viral. If only the film wisely stayed in that direction. Instead we are introduced to a buffet of supporting characters that appear as needed. Terminator has to woo three women that encompass separate attitudes and natural hair curl patterns. From here, one can expect either true love to bloom or Chuks to drop the act and come out as gay and in love with Chuks. They could have a wedding with the Instagram tag #Chukssquared and P-squared could perform. At least the latter option carries more tang.
Nollywood deserves commendation for its wealth of storytelling However if real competition is expected, innovation is necessary. Filmmaking is a group decision, a high wire act once described as “trying to plan the invasion of Normandy and at the same time make art”. A simple love for storytelling is not enough to translate into quality. Neo Nollywood arose from the frustrated premise with the narrative quality among Nigerian films. Yet so far, many of these films have not challenged the status quo. What has happened instead is that the cameras have simply gotten better. True brilliant cinematography lends itself as an arm to a director’s vision. There a many wonderfully shot scenes in this movie, particularly in the earlier parts but as the story lazies itself out so does the technical direction.
Some of the scenes also ingratiate themselves well. Nollywood has struck gold with its cast. Friendship is a recurring and underrated theme explored in many Neo Nollywood fares despite on screen chemistry between co leads racking up the charts. See last year’s Dinner and The Wedding Party. Something to be said for the improvisational abilities of our actors, a hint that the problem is not talent but a disappointing lack of material that uses the talent well. Gabriel Afolayan is a national treasure, guard him well. He is yet to underperform in anything I’ve seen. Tina Mba sits well in her role of the concerned lonely mother.
After the movie has devolved into confused territory, there is a confrontation scene between two characters. Toyin Ahimaiku’s character retorts at an enraged Omoni Oboli, who seems to always play Omoni Oboli on screen. One asks the other when women will learn that the man does not pick the girl who slaves for him. This is a small but empowering sentence which the movie flips a finger to by turning around and proving the opposite. In Nigeria, a beautiful and God fearing woman will cook, impress a mother and chase away competition for a man who rejects her, yet will take him back when he displays the slightest remorse. Filmmakers what say you?
Okafor’s Law is a safe attempt, it is even funny at times and there is a clear sense of professionalism, in many of the scenes but it is a sad reality when the weakest part of the film is the part so easily amended, the story.