By Morris Abdul Newton
Dir: Mildred Okwo
Starring: Rita Dominic, Nonso Bassey, Chris Iheuwa, Mumbi Maina, Femi Jacobs, Bassey Ekpeyong, Shawn Faqua. 140mins
Mildred Okwo’s last outing in the film industry was ‘Surulere’, not decent piece, which was generally eclipsed by her first and fans favourite, ‘The Meeting’. Several years later she returns with something very different. This time a neo-noir crime thriller, ‘La femme Anjola’ translated as ‘The woman Anjola’ in English. The movie revolves largely around the femme fatale character of Anjola. This ominous feel is the rock upon which this Tunde Babalola written and Mildred Okwo directed film stands.
Dejare Johnson aka DJ (Nonso Bassey), a stockbroker is engaged to be married to a beautiful and successful South African lady, Thabisa (Mumbi Maina). However, he has been quite sluggish with getting the marriage plans on the road much to her annoyance and that of his family. He gets a part time gig as a saxophonist (his past time) at a club to ease off stress and earn a little more on the side and that is where he meets the Seductive lead singer of the band – Anjola Kalu (Rita Dominic), wife of Club owner, Car hop owner and criminal master mind – Odera Kalu (Chris Iheuwa). With this meeting, his world would never remain thesame.
‘La femme Anjola’ as implied by its genre has tragedy weaved into its fabric. Most of the elements of the film are quite good. Cinematography and lighting are great, set design holds some pluses, sound is not the worst. The plot is at best, fair. The film has a nice story, but doesn’t exactly hold its own in execution.
On actors and characters – For a young, seemingly smart stockbroker, Dejare Johnson is incredibly naïve. Yes, there is that naivety when it comes to women with some men, but it’s weird how the obvious kept flying over his head and this leaves a lot on the altar of believability with this film. Perhaps that is why there’s a certain level of overacting. Like folks trying to compensate for something missing. Also, if Anjola as a character had also played hard to get and Dejare’s chase of her had been brutal – then maybe, just maybe, my fears would have been allayed. None of that happened.
I’m not sure Brutus was a fit for his role. His speech pattern was a tad awful and labored. Also, to be quite honest, as much as I love her, Rita wasn’t a fit for Anjola. I searched and searched for what attracted Dejare to her over Thabisa and couldn’t find it. It wasn’t he allure or the quest for the forbidden fruit. It just wasn’t there. Rita barely managed to carry the role and that is only because she is a great actor. In casting that particular femme fatale role, a number of things were supposed to have been taken into consideration and they were obviously overlooked for whatever reasons.
For a film not as bad, and one that fought gallantly but seemed to lose on certain fronts, there are quite a number of wins as stated above. There is also the music choice of Brymo’s ‘Banuso’, which made a lot of sense for the scene where Dejare followed Anjola to her hideout apartment. The soundtrack gave that scene life. Generally music score seemed to cut it.
The car spin could be termed another win, though there were some little glitches with the transition from emerging accident to actual flipping of vehicle noticed only by trained eyes.
That said, a few other things that are quite hard to ignore peeked through and took their arduous effect. Great examples are – The unnerving coincidence that is Anjola’s relocation to Capetown and Dejare finding her way too early and easily – Anjola’s husband (Odera) mysteriously collapsing and dying just before Dejare reveals himself after the couple had been found out – The unnecessary fact that Dejare’s brother ended up with his Ex – The sudden appearance of a devious Super detective (Paul Adams) who brought another corrupt angle to the film – The arduous and annoying lead up to the Car accident with Dejare and the detective etc.
This car accident bit further leads me to wonder why Dejare didn’t even bother to strap in before going for the kill in the name of an accident. Was he just mad? Did he want to die after getting all that money? Turns out the character was still naïve and senseless, even at the end of our film. What was the point then?
La femme Anjola is not that bad. It did put up a gallant fight for the title – Fair enough.