From Kunle Afolayan’s role in Tunde Kelani’s Saworoide to his production of several award winning movies like The Figurine, he has distinguished himself as an award winning and excellent movie producer. Tunde Babalola is also another scriptwriter of repute. He is arguably Nigeria’s first full time scriptwriter. He does not do any other thing, probably because he studied drama in school. I believe that his experiences as an undergraduate in Obafemi Awolowo University and his subsequent experiences in the UK helped him greatly. The movie is rather gloomy, not in the Nollywood sense but in the real dictionary sense of the word. It mediates between a Western horror/crime movie and a Nollywood juju movie.
To begin with the negative features of the movie, Deola Sagoe’s Olufunmilayo Ransome Kuti cameo role is unnecessary, in my opinion. I do not have any concrete knowledge of the woman, not in books but I doubt she was as rude as she was portrayed. I have also observed that the character; Bisi’s dead body heave in the scene where her corpse was discovered. I am not an Ifa adherent and my knowledge of Yoruba cosmology is limited to my Ivory Tower education but I have some questions concerning the role Ifa played in the story. Ifa could have said that the criminal is highly placed or maybe tell the king that the fart smells right in his house. The explanation by Afonja that they don’t consult against the king and his family is rather dumb, to me.
Now to the positive sides, the casting is perfect. It is very typical of Kunle Afolayan. When he narrated how he got Sadiq Daba to act the role of Inspector Danladi Waziri, I was shocked but I concluded that he is a perfectionist. Femi Adebayo as Banji was unusually calm and he played his role perfectly. The character of Aderupoko is perhaps the character that shows the retro nature of the movie, even more than the costumes and props. Professor Biodun Jeyifo said drama is a ‘truthful lie’, Aderupoko proved that to be the truth, he is an old actor, a comedian whose presence in the movie eases tension and reminds us that we are watching a 1960 movie in the year of our Lord 2015. Prince Aderopo’s character is also perfect. The diction, the carriage, the sleek look, the tact and the sneaky manner that he speaks makes him a perfect cast. I also like how easy he made switching from being the good boy to being the bad guy. His face fits perfectly into both sides of the divide.
Beyond the major themes, the film asks several questions and unconventionally doubts some long held beliefs. It suggests that Nigeria got independence a little too early and that the tribes are just too different from one another. The kind of tribal sentiment treated in the movie’s 1960 still pervades our country today. At the eve of the independence of a nation, people were busy being sentimental about everything. Sadly, Nigeria has not really moved forward from that inglorious culture.
The representation of the 1960s is almost apt, according to the history books and the several accounts of people who were here then. The houses were apt, the costumes were not bad but the reconstructed vehicles were left hand driven. Nigeria of 1960 used right hand vehicles. And by the way, I saw what the scriptwriter did there; he stole the name Winterbottom from Achebe’s Arrow of God. October One’s Winterbottom and Achebe’s Winterbottom have similar qualities, their tempers, commitment to the Queen and Country and their over bloated egos.
The movie is replete in historical innuendos, Sebastian Tomkins corrected Winterbottom when he spoke to Danladi about ‘Independence Celebrations’, Tomkins said ‘Independence commiserations, more likely”
I had a nostalgic feeling at the scene where Sergeant Afonja’s son drew an officers’ badge on his arms. And the anticipation of Corporal Omolodun’s Army Test results also reminded me of how much love Nigerians had for their country. A scene that I really do not like, aside the Funmilayo Ransome Kuti scene is the scene where Waziri visited Koya in his farm. It was too artificial for me, Koya jumped on Waziri like he is Jet Li. Or maybe I expected better from Kunle Afolayan. And given the short duration of his stay with father Dowling and his only primary school education, Koya’s command of the English language is quite impressive, if it’s possible.
‘My educated opinion tells me Independence has arrived 10 years too early’ Prince Aderopo said. He touched on an issue that is almost a taboo for Nigerians because of the need to keep our founding fathers eternally canonized. The mention of Adunni Oluwole also shows how historically rich the movie is. Adunni Oluwole was a politician who believes that Nigeria was not ready for independence in 1960. Being a woman, she was ignored. To understand who Adunni Oluwole was, one needs to do a critical study of the KOWA party presidential candidate, Prof. Remi Sonaiya.
The movie convicts Britain of several sins; Tunde Babalola used Aderopo and Fr. Dowling to do this. Pedophilia, Neocolonialism, colonial mentality, corruption, and perversion are attributed to the west, albeit in a subtle manner. The group of psychological thriller that October One belongs to is extremely rare in Nollywood. The movie is a first in many ways, as a crime movie and as a deep psychological thriller. I do hope that this movie will be a precursor to several interesting movies to come in Nollywood.
Tunde Babalola, having shuttled between US, UK and Nigeria understands cultural clash perfectly, this is evident in the scene where Inspector Danladi asks Afonja to go and arrest the Chief Priest. Language is also used wonderfully in the story. The reliability of translations and the several misrepresentations that follow it is explored.
Another first in the movie is the willpower to reenact some grim realities and insert it into an already mystified past. Our culture as Africans require us to mystify the past and act like it was just the ‘good old days.’ To even imagine that a colonial priest could be a pedophile and a homosexual is quite commendable. To then have the courage to weave it as a story fit for the screen that deserves a medal.
Actual historical speeches and the reference to several historical facts make the movie more than just fiction. The speech of Awolowo that was aired on TV, Azikwe’s that was aired on radio, the Ankaras with their faces boldly imprinted shows how far the director went in trying to achieve historical perfection.
This movie advanced the belief that the bible and the sword were the instruments of imperialism. Father Dowling also exploited the Yoruba culture of not speaking the ‘unspeakable.’ It was unspeakable for anyone to report that his fellow man violated him, he risks losing his honor as an African man. Father Dowling also committed a psychological and sexual Imperialism. He exploited the boys, acted like he owned their bodies and created a demented monster out of Ropo.
Patriarchy is replete in the movie, when Inspector Danladi spoke about pain, he said ‘many years ago, I sent my wife and my son to buy me bitter kola…’ As if the woman was just an errand girl. Tawa also corroborated the second class status of women when she replied Ropo on why she was not taken to Lagos despite being the best student in her class. It didn’t come to her as a surprise because she was ‘just a girl.’ The director is not gender insensitive, he was only realistic.
The way the white men attempted to doctor the report of the murders, even after Nigeria has become independent shows how superior they think they are. It also shows the nature of truth in reports and how events are doctored before they are released for the general public.
Oh! The indescribable feeling of confusion after being tongue lashed by white men a few minutes earlier, in his own country only for his fellow countryman to come and replace the Queen’s picture with Azikwe’s. And if you watch too much of Nollywood and you watch October One, you would conclude that October One is not a product of Nollywood. The subtitling is enough to stand it out. It is simply impeccable.
With movies such as The Figurine, The Meeting and this, Kunle Afolayan might just be the best thing to ever happen to Nollywood. And to the scriptwriter, who belongs to that guild of the unsung, I doff my hat. I hereby give this movie a 9/10 rating.