‘NEXT NEWSPAPERS’ VERDICT ON MIRROR BOY’
Need we say more? NEXT Newspaper's verdict on the most anticipated movie of 2011, MIRROR BOY (featuring Genevieve Nnaji and Osita Iheme):
It may be tempting to say, 'Well, what's the hullabaloo about? Yet another film made by a Nigerian filmmaker abroad. Is this supposed to be another movie in the ranks of 'Ije' 'The Figurine' and 'Anchor Baby' made to challenge questions like, 'Can anything good really come out of Nollywood?' Perhaps it is.
'Mirror Boy', shown at a press screening at Ozone Cinemas, Lagos on Tuesday July 19, did say a lot of things in a seemingly effortless way. It's no mean feat telling a story, creating memorable characters and capturing an audience in the space of an hour and a half. Nonetheless, Tijan, the main character in 'Mirror Boy', was intriguing enough to captivate. The film also says something about the number of young talents that abound around us, if filmmakers were painstaking and determined enough to seek them out. Although Edward Kagutuzi, who plays Tijan, is a UK-based actor of Ugandan descent, recent debut performances by some young Nigerian talents attest to this. (See Tunde Kelani's 'Maami'.)
Kagutuzi as Tijan
Obi Emelonye, who directed 'Mirror Boy', noted that Kagutuzi "brought an adult view in interpreting the script and that paid off for him because he was nominated as best young actor at AMAA." It's not too much to say that Emelonye was lucky to find a young man from whose worldview and point of view the story is told, making him an important aspect of it.
From London to The Gambia (where most of the movie was set and shot), Tijan and his mother, played by actress Genevieve Nnaji, make a trip which translates into more than a physical journey for Tijan because blood beckons to him.
Enter Osita Iheme's character, the mirror boy himself; with eerie-looking teeth and laughter and a retinue of proverbs, philosophy and wisecracks which even a street-wise London boy like Tijan finds arresting.
It's rare to find Iheme, one half of the comic Nollywood duo Aki (Chinedu Ikedezie) and Paw Paw in a solo performance. However he goes it alone in 'Mirror Boy' and it's amazing how he manages to hold his own.
The journey is an arduous one for Tijan but he does make it home. We get a bit of the sights and sounds of the West African country of Gambia; from the teeming markets to the desert tribes, the urbane and the rustic and idiosyncrasies similar to ours, lending support to Emelonye's assertion that the film was intended to mirror what is homogenous about Africa; cultural homogeneity, the way we think and what our taboos are.
Symbolising the source
'Mirror Boy' delves into deep mystic terrain almost unapologetically and some questions raised during the press screening expressed disapproval at what seemed like the exoticisation of Africa and African cultures in the film. This comes to particular focus in a scene in which Tijan and Iheme's character run into a savage bush tribe with overtly 'exotic' costumes and body paints and a taste for human flesh.
It is quite an issue that all that the West wants to see about Africa is poverty, wars and civil unrest and undue mysticism and it is disheartening when Africans themselves pander to and fuel these demands.
African cultures make no bones about the fact that their roots are firmly entrenched in the supernatural and Emelonye explores this in 'Mirror Boy', with the metaphor of the umbilical cord which goes beyond the tie that binds mother and child to symbolise the source, the root.
It's a free-for-all; spirits live and wander in forests, in markets as well as even homes. Evil and scheming women with no physical might can send the strongest of men crashing to the floor with a touch of their hands; and murder need not be a messy bloody affair, for the littlest of pressure applied on an effigy can asphyxiate a living equivalent.
Not a romantic picture
Well, Emelonye seems to think that "the film is not really meant to paint a romantic picture of Africa, especially from the point of view of a London-bred boy. We wanted to make it as brutal as possible so that when he grows to love the place he is not really loving the permanent light or the permanent security. What he falls in love with is the natural connection. The umbilical cord is a symbol there."
The director adds that "[the film] shows that Africa has its own beauty and we shouldn't be afraid to say we are superstitious people. We shouldn't be afraid to say we are spiritual people. And that's what it is. So it's portraying that spirituality in such a way that we are not ashamed of it."
The storyline is rich in indigenous elements including proverbs and with a sigh of relief there didn't seem to be any incongruence as the story progressed. 'Mirror Boy' is a good story, one well told, and, in spite of any inadequacies therein, thankfully held together by our protagonist and the spirit man-child: the mirror boy.
'Mirror Boy' opens in Nigerian cinemas across the country August 5, same day it will be premiered at Silverbird Cinema, Lagos.