Onyeka Nwelue, arguably one of Nigeria’s finest public intellectuals has produced an Igbo language film, Agwaetiti Obiutu in which he unpacks layer by layer the myriad manifestations of the complicatedness and hullabaloo characterising the Nigerian society.
The film is a grand pictorial, compelling, thought provoking and enchanting multidimensional reflection of the plights of Oguta people and in extension the dysfunctional structure of the Nigerian society within the interwoven and intermingling of politics, culture, economy and traditional religion and Christianity.
It features the usual friction between the elites and the commoners. Syncretic form of Christianity was brought to the fore. Onyeka skillfully utilises the weapon of the cinema to question the present outworking of Nigeria and invites all to reexamine the entity called Nigeria.
This film, which is set in Oguta, a town in Imo State, a place made popular by the Oguta lake, is Onyeka’s most daring, most insightful and perhaps most provocative trail-blazing work of fiction as it is a hybrid reality film merging real and virtual worlds; adopting a fusionist approach.
The film is an adaptation of his novella, Island of Happiness and features four prominent characters: Bugzy Dvinci, Willie, Arbenco and Akah. The four friends assemble at Oguta with the hope that Niger Delta Development Commission will make good its promise of paying the youth of the community monthly stipends. As their expectations are thwarted, the story becomes tense and takes an uncalculated twist. The scenes are however not all gloomy. There are plenty doses of laughter, romance, Igbo proverbs and jubilations. The characters showcase versatilities that will take them far in the motion picture industry.
Literary-minded viewers will not be disappointed, as every scene dazzles with promethean literary brilliance. Meanwhile, though an Igbo film, the exceptionally quality of the subtitling avails non-Igbos equal opportunity to engage and enjoy it.
Onyeka exhibits the genius of both a memoirist and novelist as a lot of laborious research went into this production. I see this film winning remarkable awards.
On the downside, the film admirably punctures hypocrisy but ultimately it tries to do too much.
I do also see some positive feministic representations depicted in the character of the Chief Priestess who Bugzy and his friends finally consult to help them redress oppression. Additionally, Flora Nwapa does not escape a mention in a laudable manner.
The opening scene and music are among the most powerful. From a technical point of view, the tempo of the film, characters, cinematography and music are diverse and intriguing.
The takeaway message is that Agwaetiti Obiuto sublimely is a micro reflection of the unprepossessing state of affairs in the broader Nigerian society. Secondly, and most importantly, is the notion that though the masses might seem aníschyros, hopeless and at the mercy of the ruling class yet when pushed to their breaking point or near annihilation, they unpredictably might collectively summon unexplainable courage and unconventional strategies to fight back tyranny and injustice.
In connection with this, I am tempted to ask if Onyeka has dramatically and wittingly become a prophetic voice signaling the corrupt elite, money mongering clergy and promise breaching politicians that except they swiftly retrace their steps and actions, revolution is ineludible and imminent.
This epic work shows that Onyeka is fast becoming the Steven Spielberg of Nigeria and as well reinforces his identity as the literary king amongst modern pan-Nigerian icons and storytellers.
Watch the behind the scenes video of the shoot:
Reviewed by Desmond Onyemechi Okocha, PhD
-Founder/Executive Director, Institute for Leadership and Development Communication, Abuja, Nigeria.
-Visiting Faculty, Indus International University, Himachal Pradesh, India