UP NORTH MOVIE REVIEW
By Morris Abdul Newton
Dir: Tope Oshin
Starring: Banky Wellington, Ibrahim Suleiman, Kanayo O Kanayo, Michelle Dede, Rahama Sadau, Adesua Etomi Wellington, T-Boss, Funky Mallam, Amal Umar, Lami Phillips.
There’s something about the right mixture of colours that tend to do the head over; especially if they are beautifully deployed on distinct pictures. Tope Oshin, Pindem Lot and Kagho Idhebor did a great job with the colours and pictures in “Up North” but “fortunately” that’s not all there is to film.
“UpNorth” is the story of Bassey (Banky W), the heir to a construction empire. He is brought back from outside the country to begin preparations for leadership of the family business. However, he chooses to be a rebel and defy his father (Kanayo O Kanayo) simply because running the family business and marrying anyone because of an alliance is not his thing. He’ll much rather his Sister, Idara (Michelle Dede) handles the business. For defying his father he is punished by being sent to Bauchi for his NYSC assignment with little or no luxury has he has always known.
Now, I couldn’t help but feel that there was something wrong. I understand that it’s cool for the stereotyped, obnoxious, rich kid type of character to be flipped on its head so we don’t have the regular, but then something had to take its place. Bassey never did have a character change in this movie and that in itself is a serious matter. I mean, as a rich boy, he was the nicest, well-mannered thing on our screen. All the ladies loved him. Save for the point where he ordered his soon to be friend, Sadiq (Ibrahim Suleiman) to carry his luggage in exchange FOR SOME PAY when he got to the NYSC camp, he was generally a good guy. So, for me, the main character technically remaining the same throughout the movie without particularly arching is not a good thing.
Most of the acting in “UpNorth” was average, not superfluous. The brown goat in the cab Bassey took in Bauchi was an excellent actor. It did its job perfectly. Banky in his role wasn’t bad and so was his side kick, Ibrahim. Adesua Etomi Wellington plays Zainab who doesn’t speak owing to the fact that she is shy… or something of the sort and that was really interesting.
There were some interesting dialogue and funny moments in this film. This is apart from the parts where some of the actors had pronunciation problems. Someday, just someday, we won’t be having this mentioned anymore.
I don’t fully understand TBoss’ character’s relevance to the story but I do wonder though how she faded out from our story just as such.
For the major character in this movie, Bassey learnt the ways of the Camp way too fast. This is where a good portion of the story would have settled on character but it had to “run” to the school where the girls would be trained to run. Hence, our major character ended up being rushed and unconvincing most of the way. If, for instance, he had gone through some rigours – because he was probably being stiff and annoying (even if it’s not his fault but just how he was brought up), then he would have been set up for a good arch. But, no, the movie would rather “run” and not pay attention to the hinges of its story.
Another example of this character building flaw is evident in the chase scene where Bassey and co were chased by the camp’s security personnels after flouting Camp rules and going out to buy ‘suya’ in the open market at night. This scene was hilarious, but also for a wrong reason. Bassey runs on a regular, so how come he is the one that was easily caught? Weird that a character was built that way still fails at the basics. Besides prior to all these, he was even the one cautioning the boys about breaking the rules by going out of camp that night and even decided not to give his accomplices up when he was caught. What a great guy! What a weird character!
Onto some specifics; The Principal (Rekiya Attah) sending Mrs Mariam (Rahama Sadau) to help Bassey out when he was confronted for taking pictures “illegally” looked staged. Mrs. Mariam had no reason to be hostile to Bassey later on because none was established. What she said as her reason was not convincing again because we need to realize that film is really about show and not tell. There’s a reason why the visual media is stronger than most. If she was established watching some of his video with scorn earlier, it probably would have worked better. And the argument between Bassey and the town’s men doesn’t count as strong enough.
The Parents of the girls complaining about their wards racing and the Principal threatening to cancel the girls racing team and their tournament hopes was weak. The buildup to that was nowhere near good enough. The principal had no tangible reason to complain and threaten if she hasn’t seen or heard something really untoward about the team. There was nothing there.
Executing story is a big deal in most of our movies. Though not all will be told to their full potentials but we can at least try to tell as much as we can, well enough. Some parts of “Up North” just didn’t do this well. For instance, our girls managed to make it to the finals and the satisfaction for the audience would have been in seeing them at the qualifiers like most of these kinds of movies give us. But unfortunately, this progression that would have helped to show the struggle and follow the emotions was not in the film. Also, when Idara confronted Mariam, she mentioned that Mariam has made a man out of her brother (Bassey) while referring to the relationship between both of them. The question is, how did Mariam make a man out of Bassey? They were also clearly not in a relationship. There was no indication anywhere. At the end of the movie, the relationship between Mariam and Bassey wasn’t even still well built and as a result it felt sort of awkward.
One thing though, the ruling on Aisha (Amal Umar) racing for the team or not was an important point in the movie but sadly again wasn’t executed to taste. Finally, the ultimate race had some sort of whimper about it. Yes, getting that much people and ofcourse the sitting Governor was a good thing, just as the shot of the festival was too but of what use are all those if a story is not executed to its full potential or even close. There are predesigned ways to how these things are done.
I didn’t understand why it seemed like everyone in Bauchi state was happy Aisha won for her school? Was she the State representative or just her school representative in a state competition? It was like something was amiss there.
A laughing point for me was how I still don’t understand how Sadiq got married to Zainab without “having” family or money. For what it’s worth, “UpNorth” was good for empowering the girl child. I see what they did with our girls. The girl child can achieve whatever she wants to.
We can safely say that the build of the entire movie’s storyline wasn’t strong enough. For the fun, humour and serious issues “UpNorth” brought our way, a great part of the movie simply felt like a tourism expose of Bauchi state. It really could have been way better. And yes, by this movie’s account, Bauchi is beautiful.