Tatu: What Happens When a Few Good Actors Can’t Save a Movie

With recent offerings, it seems there are two ways to make a bad Nollywood movie: take a flimsy plot, plop in some slightly above average actors and one or two Nollywood greats, use lots of bright colours and well decorated sets, write a terrible script, and have very nice cinematography. The other way is to take a potentially great plot, throw in some good actors, start off terribly like a broken down car with a few false starts, throw in some unnecessary scenes and forced humour for good measure, splutter into an engaging middle and then fail to leave viewers satisfied with an incoherent ending.

Tatu, which is an adaptation of the Abraham Nwankwo play of the same title, is directed by Don Omope and falls in the latter category. The eponymous character, played by Rahama Sadau, has a – wait for it – tattoo that is the cause of her dissatisfaction with life. We’re supposed to feel sorry for her and the confusion she’s facing about who she is and why she has this strange tattoo. She’s raised in a convent by nuns, and has been told that she’s an orphan.

The film really begins in the middle, after a fight between Tatu and Mother Superior (Funlola Aofiyebi-Raimi) where Tatu has to decide between becoming a nun and staying at the convent or leaving. There’s Wali – an exciting performance by Gabriel Afolayan, which sometimes crosses into annoyance – who is in love with Tatu for some inexplicable reason.

While the movie attempts to redo the classic Nollywood epic, it only ends up leaving the viewer confused and with a lot of questions.

Toyin Aimaku’s performance as a mother doing all she can to save and protect her child is not enough to save this film, and although his character doesn’t talk much, Sambasa Nzeribe is convincing in his portrayal of Tatu’s to-the-death protector (Kamani). It’s not quite clear what the motive of the high priest (Segun Arinze) is – there’s a scene that implies that he wants more power – and Arinze struggles to sell the role to the viewer.

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There’s an expectation of a showdown between the forces of good and evil – the overplayed Nollywood trope of the bigger good God defeating the evil lesser god – but that doesn’t happen. Instead, we’re left with a resolution that leaves the audience confused; mostly because of the poorly choreographed fight between Sambasa Nzeribe and Segun Arinze. It seems Nollywood hasn’t figured out conflict resolution.

Omope seems to favour the narrative of a character who does an unexpected thing – as with Zainab Balogun in The Wedding Party. This trope is repeated here, but excellently delivered by Aofiyebi-Raimi, and is probably the most interesting scene in the movie.

There are a number of inconsistencies and questions: how does the connection between Tatu and Kamani work and how does he manage to find her all the time? How is it that nobody in a convent knows how to make the sign of the cross? Why does a nun have French Tips?

While the movie attempts to redo the classic Nollywood epic, it only ends up leaving the viewer confused and with a lot of questions.

Oluwadeaduramilade Tawak was the 2nd runner-up in The Critic Challenge 2017. She is an almost psychologist, writer and researcher. She loves books and enjoys reading . Her works have been published in Brittle Paper and Arts & Africa.

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