Surreal 16 collective’s latest offering puts a new spell on Nollywood | The culture keeper
Stories of Juju, the Surreal 16 Collective’s anthology of films is a fascinating departure from the corny stories of Nollywood. The anthology follows the 2017 edition of the Collectif Visions, a subversive collection with mystical appeal and grandeur. Through a particular type of abstract representation and spiritual references, the films of Stories of Juju depict everything from major life events to pedestrian activities, making them look like otherworldly tapestries. The directors mix different influences and styles to tell their stories and brilliantly challenge the notion of logic, albeit with small glitches. They find beauty, chaos, sorcery and death in the world of Juju Stories. The anthology is divided into three parts; Love potion, yam and Suffer the witch. Each film draws inspiration from Nigerian folk tales and urban myths to create beautiful fetish stories that quietly excite and frighten audiences.
I. Love Potion
Written and directed by Michael Omonua, this debut film is straightforward and thought-provoking. Omunua lends the spirit of a poet to everyday love relationships. The movie is a cute story that’s more about infatuation, love, and heartbreak. Mercy (Belinda Agedah Yanga) meets Leonard (Paul Utomi) at a party and falls for him. She can’t stop thinking about him. She imagines them getting married and starting a family together. For Mercy, Leonard becomes less a person and more an idea, a concept. It’s a mental trauma in his head that almost devours his thoughts. In real life, Leonard doesn’t love her because he has a fiancée and a wedding is at hand. But Mercy won’t give up. She follows a friend’s advice and seeks spiritual support to win Leonard over.
In love potion, Omonua’s meticulous ability to create something magnificent out of the mundane and to elicit understated performances shines bright. The film is a dose of poetic, extraordinary, breathtaking realization without false note. Shot through tightly curtailed humor and ideas, the film’s event spins and spins until it fizzles out in a seductive ending. The skillfully written screenplay, the director’s sense of direction and vision, the discipline of the characters, the cinematographer’s expressionistic camera work, the camera framing blends perfectly with the lyrical and dreamy acting. The angled and low-angle shots engagingly portray the dilemmas of the characters – and the sense of structure renders love potion wonderful and plentiful.
With Omonua’s writing, the script shows instead of telling; employing visual imagination to elevate the film into the realm of hopes and dreams. The film is not so much a film about infatuation as it is about romance. The project carefully examines how differences in lifestyles can turn a love story awry. The best thing about the movie is that it doesn’t end as the Nollywood formula demands.
Belinda Agedah and Paul Utomi’s performances are calm and punchy. It’s amazing how they mirror their angst and dilemmas with every part of their body. It’s alluring how they let their eyes reveal the battle in their souls, and their silence echoes the bursts of their hearts. With a well-written script, lovable characters, and inspiring music, Labove the potion captures viewers’ attention and redirects their minds to an important message that should not be overlooked.
chaotic and esoteric, Yam symbolizes human avarice and anxiety. The film opens and ends with Makama’s line from Edvard Munch’s famous 1893 painting, The Scream. Written and directed by Abba T. Makama, the film follows the lives of a miserly street urchin named Amos (Don Ekwuazi) and a greedy vulcanizer, Tohfik (Elvis Poko). Amos and Tohfik have a brief and insignificant encounter when the former walks past the latter’s roadside store. Tohfik laughs at Amos’ mad dash, unbeknownst to him that their fates are linked. Amos would later pick up some money by the side of the road and shapeshift into a yam tuber. Tohfik finds the yam tuber, brings it home, cooks it, and eats it.
With Yam, Makama opens all doors to the irrational and brings out events that excite, captivate and frighten audiences. One obvious thing about this film is that its visual language is private and hermetic; it is a dreamlike painting, a subtle interpretation of the replica of Edvard Munch’s Makama painting The Scream. Incongruous with reason, as with The Lost Okoroshi, Makama seems to tell us that understanding a film is not synonymous with appreciating it. But what’s an enjoyable movie that’s hard to understand?
At the beginning of the film, we are confused as to his intention. First of all, YamThe narrative seems wobbly (the scenes of Amos wandering the streets, begging and extorting money from passers-by seem improvised and lack direction). But as the incidents unfold, Makama stabilizes and twists the stories. It immerses us in its stylized staging and its shades of color, each decor becomes more irrational. The light hardens; the editing shifts from slow, fascinating staging to bizarre, nervous contractions; actions become incredibly ugly and pernicious. Even the music shifts from classical to woozy, booming, jarring ones and culminates in a more insane scream from the main characters.
Bizarre and beautifully juxtaposed, each scene is like a surreal painting fused into a film. And as the chaos mounts and the painting falls to the ground, we realize that the film is a subtle interpretation of the painting. The symbolism is fascinating, though there are glitches in its storytelling continuum and the actors’ performances are a bit scratchy.
III. Suffer the witch
Cute and relatable characters are what gives CJ Obasi Suffer the witch a dreamy call. Obasi is bold and assertive with the portrayal of women’s obsession with each other. Although the film leans towards surrealism, Obasi redirects its gaze to the old campus melodrama of Nollywood. The opening voiceover of Principal Chinwe (Bukola Oladipupo) thinking her friend and roommate, Joy (Nengi Aidoki) might be a witch, set the dark mood that the film involves. As the story unfolds and the tension escalates, the weird Joy sends us a clear message: she’s an enchantress (in both senses of the word) and she’s ready to hurt anyone who tries to s interpose between her and Chinwe. But Chinwe is in love with Ikenna (Timini Egbuson). Joy has a secret affair with Ikenna but is obsessed with Chinwe and will do anything to keep it to herself.
As the series of events develops, we see how Joy gets rid of Ikenna and her cultist friends who are trying to avenge Ikenna’s death and protect Chinwe from her. First she puts a spell on Ikenna, his car crashes and he dies. Second, Ikenna’s friends disappear after approaching Chinwe in a library and promising to “suffer the witch”, i.e. get rid of the strange Joy. The scenario of Suffer the witch is simple yet bold. The film’s hues of color and light, cheerful music set the tone for its unusual story. The characters performed at their best. The character of Nengi Adoki as the lively but strange Joy is gripping. Unlike the stereotypical Nollywood witch who is usually ugly and dirty, Joy is cosmopolitan, beautiful and bright. Bukola Oladipupo as Chinwe is gentle and affable. And in his playboy trope, Timini performs his role impressively.
Although the stories are typical Nigerian folk tales and urban myths, the directors are quick to proclaim their influences beyond the country’s shores. In the first minutes of love potion, Mercy references Japanese mystical novelist Haruki Murakami and constantly talks about one of his novels. Like Salvador Dali, Makama blends art with filmmaking and bridges the gap with his painted filmmaking experience. The incongruity and the metamorphoses of the characters in Yam give it a Kafkaesque or Lynchian appeal. by CJ Obasi Suffer the witch bears the bones of an old Nollywood campus movie but brilliantly twisted into a psychological horror. And for the accident scene, where Ikenna goes from alive to dead, CJ Obasi subtly reverses Jordan Peele’s popular “Sunken Place” scene from the film. Get out.
One could wonder about the illogicality of the films in Juju Stories. For love potion, one might wonder “isn’t the love potion supposed to make Bernard love Mercy unconditionally and blind to all her faults?” One might also doubt the logic behind a man turning into a yam after picking up money from the floor and another man going mad after eating said yam. Judging by the illogical model of Surreal Films and the mysterious workings of Juju, everything that happened in these films defies logic. What matters is not the directors’ aim of surreal verisimilitude or supernatural forces that put audiences on the edge of their seat, but the innovation of old myths and rusty Nollywood tropes presented in experimental film styles and avant-garde that blur the lines in fascinating ways. between fact and fiction. And although the films of Stories of Juju have airs of Magical Realism, they are rather Magical Feelism. The styles of directors are varied, but their looks and intentions remain the same: to disrupt, reorganize and inspire.
With Stories of Juju, the Surreal 16 Collective eschews melodrama by eliminating moments that would often be used in Nollywood in an attempt to elicit an emotional overreaction from audiences. Instead, they overturn industry tradition and cast a new spell on it.