Director: Abba Makama
Writers: Africa Ukoh & Abba T. Makama
Stars: Ifeanyi Dike Jr, Samuel Robinson, Jamal Ibrahim, Crystabel Goddy, Bimbo Manuel, Okey Uzoeshi, Meg Ontawa
Nigeria’s irony is difficult to translate on screen. All the multiple socioeconomic divides have created this twisted logic of high pop art versus low pop art: the former includes a reasonable amount of critical assessment/not enough fun for the masses, while the latter is reduced to a thing as simple as “this is so simple, anyone can get it.”
So it is an overdue and welcome experience when a filmmaker from this very Nigeria raises his middle finger to establishment and dives into all those ironies to co-write, produce, direct and edit what is one of the year’s best films released anywhere. “Green White Green” is recommended watching for Nigerians. Its inside jokes aren’t so inside as to distract or bore non-Nigerians so, recommended watching for them too.
Abba Makama’s feature debut is many things; colourful things as referenced by the movie’s second title ( “all the colours in my mosaic of madness” such a mouthful). The film focuses primarily on the coming of age adventures of three boys who originate from the biggest ethnic groups in Nigeria and who are also from diverse financial backgrounds. Any further plot description is a small waste, but the movie keeps a firm hold on the comic satire and documentary film genres.
In one of the numerous interviews he’s given (I forget the specific publication), filmmaker Abba T Makama, references an inspiration from classic Italian filmmakers who adopted choppy editing styles due to budget constraints. Nollywood has received much criticism for its slapdash method of film production which many have increasingly begun to find might actually be a positive thing. To the more critical new age film lover, Green White Green borrows with respect and old fashioned talent some of the silliness the industry has been so criticized for, by turning it on its head and using it to, gasp think.
Thinking in Nollywood filmmaking can be daunting and producing films of deep thought processes can carry the stink of boredom or pretentiousness. Slap, dash, drama, action, volume up, cut, sell, the end. It’s a formula that has worked for decades. So it is a welcome development when a young filmmaker and a small team singlehandedly demand and raise the industry standard of one of the biggest film producing countries in the world.
One can begin with the writing by the director and (accurately) self-proclaimed pensage, Africa Ukoh. It plays loose with the lingo that comes in English, Yoruba, Hausa and Pidgin but it keeps its context throughout. A mark of great comedy or any writing is knowing what to leave out as much as what to include, and save for one or two missteps involving a prolonged storyline of a pantless professor, everything “na on target.” Thank God for small and great feats like these in Nigeria.
The editing and sound mixing are equally great components of the indie. They contain strong Wes Anderson influences that match the bizarreness of the situation that we have somehow accepted as normal – the perfect metaphor for Nigeria as described in the tedious and hilarious intellectual jingo voiceover. The fast cuts, vivid and swift filming techniques bring to mind Stanley Kubrick’s seminal, “Clockwork Orange,” famous for its dark theme material that still manages to make everything seem funny. But in “Green White Green”, things actually are funny even when they are sad.
“Green White Green” is not without its small trips. For a brief period the movie steps into a lull, however, it recovers in the kick ass fashion the first frame brings with it. The cast of this film are impending stars. It’s only a matter of Nigerians looking inwards and turning their hero worship towards themselves and “Green White Green” deserves all the hero worship it can acquire, if not for the novelty of it but for the sheer balls and brilliance. Abba T Makama has given aspiring filmmakers a masterclass in working with what you have and we will definitely be looking out for his future works.
Green White Green also happens to be our pick for the best movie screened at AFRIFF 2016 and earns a perfect score of a Popcorn, Soda and Hotdog!
This review is written by Alithnayn Abdulkareem.