When staging.sabinews.com reviewed Kunle Afolayan’s October 1, we had high praise for it. In that review by Toni Kan we said “There is that same arrogance in Kunle Afolayan’s directorial touch but it is more confidence than arrogance.” That ‘confidence’ was rewarded on Saturday March 7, 2015 at the AMVCA with 6 awards, with Kunle Afolayan, son of Ade Love, going home with the Best Director statuette. Today, we present the October 1 review for those who missed it when it first ran. Tomorrow, we publish our review of Mildred Okwo and Rita Dominic’s The Meeting.
MOVIE TITLE: OCTOBER 1ST
DIRECTOR: KUNLE AFOLAYAN
STORY: TUNDE BABALOLA
STARRING: SADIQ DABA, KANAYO KANAYO, KEHINDE BANKOLE, FABIAN LOJEDE, DEMOLA ADEDOYIN, KUNLE AFOLAYAN, DEOLA SAGOE, NICK RHYS, DAVID BAILIE
YEAR OF RELEASE: OCTOBER 2014
The biggest problem with Kunle Afolayan’s new movie October 1st is that there is almost nothing wrong with it.
The cinematography is top notch. Yinka Edward, who handled Cinematography is a wizard who achieves something that is always problematic for Nollywood, shooting a scene at night. He handles this with poise.
The story is coherent, consistent and well resolved even though this is a movie with alternating plot lines and big themes. The disparate narrative strands are ultimately brought together into one whole.
The casting is excellent and whoever made the choice of fresh-faced and Nollywood newbie, Demola Adedoyin as Prince Aderopo deserves commendation because Adedoyin brings to the role the arrogant swagger and insouciance of a blue blood as well as the cold bloodedness that comes from a place not just of pain but privilege.
There is that same arrogance in Kunle Afolayan’s directorial touch but it is more confidence than arrogance, really, in a movie where he presents the villain to us from the get-go, yet we sit riveted, enthralled by our doubts and inability to accept that we have arrived at the right conclusions even as the evidence piles up that we are indeed right.
At the screening, a lady behind me kept saying to her husband: “He is the killer. Oh, he is not.”
Kunle Afolayan also drops many cues – Agbekoya eye balling the Prince, the nightmares that take Agbekoya’s sleep hostage, the white clad assailant – that point us to the killer but what gets in the way is our collective sense of doubt, that stubborn refusal to accept that which we believe mainly because of who is involved and an anachronistic chink in the chronology of events.
October 1st is a pretty long movie running for well over two hours but you do not feel the passage of time because the story is edge-of-the-seat gripping and oh, there is comedy aplenty. The character of Sunday Afonja played by Yoruba actor, Kayode Aderupoko is spot on. His thick Ibadan accent, tribal marks and an uncanny ability to operate with aplomb on two parallel spheres; the traditional, as a Yoruba man and the modern, as a policeman hold serious sociological relevance for inquiring scholars.
“Better to lose job than to commit taboo,” he tells his superior officer in jerky English as he hands-in his badge and then when Dan Waziri refuses to go drinking Afonja says “Palmwine is not alcohol.”
The movie proceeds at a sedate almost languid pace but it is languor not in the sense of an Ousmane Sembene movie but more in an Ogunde-ish and Cock Crow at Dawn/Village Headmaster-like pace and this is mostly because the movie is set in a bucolic locale where time is slow and the frenetic pace of the metropolis is alien.
Here, people go to the stream or take long walks along the dusty precincts. Life is simple and unhurried and that is the image the movie evokes.
Why is the movie called October 1st when almost all that happens in the movie take place before that date? In a private conversation, Kunle Afolayan confided that the original title of the story written by Tunde Babalola was not October 1st. It was ‘Dust’ in reference to the rural setting but October 1st works in the sense that it evokes anticipation. Everyone in the movie is anticipating something, collectively and individually; the coming of independence, the beginning of a new era, the departure for greener pastures abroad, a police man leaving for Sandhurst to become an army officer, an Igbo father pining for justice, a town on tenterhooks waiting for a murderer to be apprehended and a detective charged with solving the crime before Independence Day.
That sense of anticipation pervades the movie and provides it with its emotional currency because anticipation breeds anxiety and anxiety is already radioactive in this rural community where young virgins are being murdered.
So, in steps Danny Boy, Inspector Danladi Waziri played brilliantly by Sadiq Daba whose thin, wiry frame works well both as character and prop. His story is a tragic one writ large on the canvas of his body. His choice as the driven but damaged detective is pure magic.
“I sent my wife and child to the market to buy Bitter Kola. A truck lost control and ran into them in the market. I have carried my pain everywhere I go.”
The internalising of pain and its consequences is a big part of October 1st and again, this functions on both individual and collective levels.
“This country is not ready for independence,” the Prince says in the bar. “Give it six years, seven years and this country will be at war.”
His ominous words leave his hearers baffled but the evidence is already there; tribalism and xenophobia. For a country on the cusp of independence, the fault-lines are already very visible and that is what elevates this movie from mere entertainment to a historical document which must be why its title was changed from ‘Dust’ to ‘October 1st’ in order to firmly anchor its historical bona-fides.
The British know they have left a country that will not work – “Nigeria may be independent but you have no idea how fragile” one of the colonial officers says.
Ethnic tensions are rippling; the Yoruba’s don’t trust the Igbo traders who have come to live amongst them and vice versa while the seeds of genocide and Biafra are already sown as we hear the Igbos say to Inspector Waziri “We heard what you did in Enugu.”
October 1st tells the story of Nigeria and it is not a pretty one.
Murder especially serial murder may well seem like a far-fetched premise for a Nigerian movie set in the hinterland but that is what makes this movie interesting.
Young virgins are being raped and sliced open with an X carved into their chest. The colonial authority send in what journalists like to call a crack detective; an Hausa man who swaggers into the small Yoruba town of Akote and then proceeds to piss all over their traditions.
His is a tunnel vision; he has a job to do and nothing will stand in his way, not even the Ifa priest or the bumbling but highly respected village sherrif, Sunday Afonja, who is soon sent on suspension for in-subordination leading to shine time for one of the most beautifully realised character in Nigerian cinema; Corporal Omolodun played with tenderness, calm and professional élan by Fabian Lojede who drops his bad boy persona for a brilliant portrayal of a village policeman with great ambitions. He is an intelligent man wise beyond his years.
Corporal Omolodun is smart without showiness, ambitious without greed, dedicated without subservience, modern yet respectful of tradition; admirable qualities and dualities that lead ultimately to tragedy. The tragedy that befalls him is best explained by this quote: those whom the gods love die young.
When Inspector Dan Waziri instructs him to ask the Ifa priest a question he considers taboo, the smart young man asks a different question pleasing both his temporal and spiritual masters, something that Afonja with all his age seemed incapable of achieving.
Miss Tawa played by Kehinde, one half of the Bankole twins whom we first met as a very young woman in Wale Adenuga’s tv series, ‘Super Story’ is a delightful, smart, sassy and flirty young woman. The object of desire for both the prince and the haplessly shambolic village headmaster, Tawa will become the patron saint of many young women because never has the declaration “I am not a virgin” been received with such delight and relief.
October 1st tackles big themes and the biggest of them all is one with global relevance; one that will resonate in every clime and amongst all viewers and which, sadly, is at the heart of the murders that roils the whole community.
“How do you speak the unspeakable?” Agbekoya asks the Detective which now brings me to a slight recanting of my earlier submission: there are two things that I found problematic with October 1st.
One, that scene with Deola Sagoe as Mrs. Olufunmi Ransome Kuti was way too short. She should have had more screen time and then secondly, did Agbekoya break too easily or could it be that having bottled up so much for so long he was finally happy to let it all out?
October 1st provokes a lot of questions and provides few answers but what is unequivocal is that at the end of the movie when the picture of the Queen is taken down, Kunle Afolayan, son of Ade Love, is crowned King.