• Monday, May 20, 2024
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SONU: Missing! Missing!! Missing!!!

SONU: Missing! Missing!! Missing!!!

By Ohiozokhai Elakhe

Success Precious Abi, missing since March 2022; Evans Isaac Obazee, missing since December 2022; Great Ozoemelam, since July 2022; Abayomi Anthony, missing since January 2023. The list goes on.

Vincent Egbe on the other hand is not missing. He is a young, upcoming content creator. From his plus 14 minutes short film on kidnapping (SONU___, which means missing in Yoruba), I guess the upcoming creative content creator will be more like it, if he can continue to come up with good interesting topics for viewing and better his video production.

Why come up with this idea? Has he experienced kidnapping? According to Vincent, “a friend of mine entered a private cab on his way to work” [around February 2024.] A few minutes into the ride from Victoria Island to Costain, he knew he had boarded a one chance­­­­­­­­­­­ bus___a situation where at least only one seat is left for an unsuspecting potential passenger in order to rob him in a commercial bus occupied by robbers posing as passengers.

[The friend] said what came to his mind is ‘‘so, this is how he would become a missing person whose picture would be posted on Twitter and then he thought about the trauma his family would go through.’’

“This film is about creating awareness for missing persons … via visual media.”

Who are Vincent’s target audience and if they watch his film, what does he want them to do? Target “are general public who are not aware of how many people are missing in Nigeria ….” I did show a few the film, here’s their take alongside mine on if he did well.

“The film didn’t really pass any message [well enough],” says my Science teacher neighbour antagonist. (Vincent now the protagonist character in this article ‘film’ comes to his own defense, informing this is his first film_short or full lenght_since graduating from a film academy, thus this will be considered a demo.)

Another noticed was Mama Kunle’s sewing machine wasn’t actually sewing. Then, Kunle’s hair, singlet and trousers were not messed up. He really needed to be so dirty that the viewer could perceive his body odor and feel his pain through the screen. Kunle got away through a body of water___It was either a rainy day or shanty area his clothes weren’t wet, how come? It’s the same with the back of kunle’s brother’s T-shirt which wasn’t drenched by the rain on their return from the police station. A minor (which can be overlooked) ‘is’ the man and girl sitting down to console Mama Kunle in her parlor. I think the man should have been standing to add intensity. I found the subtitling or captioning poor. It is a common fact we have our type of spoken English (aka pidgin English). Nothing wrong if that reflects in how the actors spoke but standard English should have used fully in the subtitling.

My neighbour also flowed with my thinking that the boyfriend part wasn’t well thought out as the man didn’t act as a typical Nigerian man/guy seeking a wife. Module’s boyfriend who never came down from his car and he never cried. ‘He should have shown more concern­ come down from his car to console his future mother-in-law well; hang around; spend money, do some if not all the running around to ensure Kunle is found.’ Even if Kunle isn’t found, very likely Modupe’s mum would have appreciated lover boy well enough to let her daughter marry him.’

Scotland-based film director, Alex Aigbike (a.k.a Albrin Junior) was more critical. While he liked the concept idea and the acting (‘at least they passed a message’, he said), he didn’t like the directing, nor the sequence of each scene, nor the editing, nor the lightning especially inside the house. They went to the station to file a missing person complaint. Well, maybe lack of enough funds didn’t let us see a police station scene but I felt (rightly or wrongly) that this was an opportunity to get the police (especially the Public/Media Relations Unit) involved to help educate people about entering unknown person’s vehicles and/or what to do if you find out you are being (or have been) kidnapped.

A call to the Police Public Relations Officer (Lagos State Division) Mr. Benjamin Hundeyin gives a brief of what to know: What advice can the police give the public about asking for free lifts? ‘Avoid free lifts’ was the short movie-like response. If you must ask for a lift, what should one consider? ⁠’Avoid tinted vehicles’ was another. Then when asked, if one notices one is being kidnapped (or has being kidnapped), what should one do? His response, ‘request to alight at the next security check point’ came a little more dramatic like an animation in a future artificial intelligence generated film. (In a check on the difference/similarities between one chance and actual kidnapping, Vincent informed ‘that someone said those guys unless the ones using guns, they just check for your ALERTNESS before kidnapping their victims. But from what my friend told me he said because he is aware of missing persons, he became very alert and was ready to raise the alarm. He said perhaps, that as why they just robbed him and let him go.’)

To add to our self-protection, in the scene where Kunle entered the car and thereafter went missing; he entered an unknown car without caution in today’s Nigeria? Not me though. I stay alert. Even with yellow-painted/motor park commercial vehicles. An example is when I go visit my sister in another state. I ‘secretly’ take photos of the bus both inside-out and its number plate. If possible, I do the same with the face of the driver; then send it to my sister. Any commercial bus owner who doesn’t like it risks me not using his services.

Kidnapping is not just a serious issue. It is tear(s) to hypertension issue. Aside Module tears, while seeing a street poster of her missing brother, which got to me for a second. Nothing like a woman in tears. I fell for it. The seriousness of the film was when the scene (as I would call it with your permission) of real missing people showed. It was both those parts that made me know this was article worthy.

When asked how much was involved in making this film? Vincent Egbe said “roughly seven hundred thousand Naira [N700, 000] in total, not counting the sweat capital. [The] apartment [I rented] for three days [cost a hundred and fifty thousand Naira] N150,000 per day [and that came] as favor to me. Food for three-day, morning and night was up to [a hundred and twenty thousand Naira] N120, 000. Logistics and rentals was around [two hundred] thousand N200, 000. These are the ones I can remember. I can’t give you a clear figure because that was my first. My second film ([which] I produced when I was in training) I have [the] complete budget breakdown. I rented the apartment, and everything to run the set for two days plus when we came back for a day reshoot. I rented lights; paid for the logistics of everyone (food my mum cooked, transportation, etc) that came to set. (He informed all are professionals, but they come under sweat capital or almost unpaid human resources.) I paid for props; got costumes from my mum and sister who are into the clothes business but I paid logistics. I got funds from personal savings and from friends and family members. I rented equipment (some were given to me by friends’).

As critical evaluators (or critic reviewers as some call it), we have done our job; review it; go through it with a sharp comb, but it doesn’t end there. Looking at things, I sensed something bigger than Vincent and his work with all the mistakes.

A listen to the daily news answered that. Egbe’s mistakes (which any can make) in his first attempt, indicates the need for further learning and consultation. This is a good opportunity for government to invest more in education. ‘With over $6.4 billion [U.S Dollars] in revenue and more than 2,500 movies per year, Nigeria’s film industry is taking the world by storm’ says filmthreat.com. This ‘[makes] it one of the fastest-growing industries in the country.’ This is an industry any Nigerian government in power has to take even more seriously. Egbe like any other youth will certainly get frustrated if he can’t improve by getting more hands to work with to create films that will eventually generate taxable revenue. The little mistakes are easy to correct by the right graduate professionals, long before the film goes public, long before it leaves the written script to the camera. These include professionals from the English (teaching/advertising/the film watching audience who can act as critical evaluators alongside those writing for the media). Our curriculum needs upgrading.

A popular radio newspaper review on air personality, once mentioned a silent revolution going on. If the youth who are in majority (I heard) can’t get by morally or legally, etc, things might not be silent one day for any government in power. We all will lose. Government needs to subsidise education more and make more grants available to content creators, if they can keep a financial logbook for government to check on to ensure everything is in order. When I watch the epilogue of films, I notice the involvement of governments of other lands. This might be to usher in more foreign direct investment, among others. Our government can critically look at things.

.A Short Film Review (and photo illustration) by Ohiozokhai Elakhe