“Black Rose” blossoms from poverty and pain – Peju Akande

Black Rose starring Blossom Chukwujekwu, Ebele Okaro, Lillian Echelon, Betty Belloh, JKA Swanky and directed by Okey Oku

If you are not an avid Nollywood fan like me, you may just be watching Black Rose, a 2018 movie Directed by Okey Oku, for the first time.

Black Rose is a story about poverty, about a widow’s struggle to keep her family going. It is also a story of love, unrequited love and of innocence and blind trust, of deceit and sexual exploitation.

The opening scene is very captivating; we see two school boys, brothers obviously, racing towards their home. They get to the front door, lift the foot mat to get the house key, only it is not a key, it is an old spoon used to unlock a broken lock on a tired looking door. This about sums up the entire film.

The living room is no different; it is poor without being shoddy, it has been stripped of its beauty; dirty walls and peeling paints, old sofa and tattered curtains. Years of neglect have taken its toll because it seems the family is more interested in filling their stomach than keeping up appearances.

We experience more of this poverty stricken family when the brothers bring out a measly measure of garri to eat for lunch. They don’t immediately begin to eat but soak the meal and  patiently wait for it to rise, so that it will be more filling. While the boys wait, they discuss their family allowing us a peek into their destitution.

“We will still have to remain small for Rose and mama…”

“ Ugo has not come back since yesterday.”

Who is Rose, Who is mama? Who is Ugo?

The following scenes unravel the characters that make this film a must watch. Having not watched enough Nollywood films to feel like an authority, I have few reference points to accurately determine which of the characters played their roles better in other movies they have been in compared to Black Rose.

Rose, played by Lillian Echelon, is a beautiful young girl who helps her mother, Mama, played by Ebele Okaro, sell food to customers, mostly in a mechanics’ compound. She carries the food in a tray to distribute to the men there.

Ugo is Rose’s older sister, she is clearly what mama tagged a ‘prostitute,’ selling herself cheaply to men for money. We see Ugo having sex with a ‘customer’ in the bush, and after the transaction, he doesn’t even pay her the full value for her service.

Having not seen Lillian Echelon in any other movie before now, I can truly say this, in Black Rose, she killed the role! She is the picture of innocence, of budding and blind trust. She is your daughter, niece, neighbour’s little girl; wide eyed and trusting.

She is aware of her mother’s anxiety over her and promises her mother to uphold the strong Christian and moral values mama has inculcated in her.

She assures mama on their way home from the day’s sales, “Trust me; I won’t do the wrong things, I won’t let you down…I won’t disappoint you…”

You should see the moment Rose set her eyes on Desmond, played by Blossom Chukwujekwu. She falls hard, she fell so hard she spilled the tray of food mama had carefully portioned for her regular customers.

Who will blame her?

Desmond is pristine in white top and trousers with bulging biceps, wide shoulders and is the picture of Prince Charming. Rose is stuttering, confused, enamoured of this handsome guy.

Not that she hasn’t seen handsome guys before; there is Nelo, a young mechanic at the workshop, who is clearly besotted with Rose but like most girls Rose can’t see the forest for the trees.

Nelo, played by Swanky JKA, is told without ceremony that “ We can’t be more than friends.”

Nelo tongue is tied every time he approaches Rose. He stutters, “Look Rose, I really like you…I want us to be close. I know I don’t have much but I promise you…I am going to make it…I am…”

As the movie unravels, we see that Desmond like that risque song goes isn’t looking “for the love of his life, he is simply scoping and looking for a girl to defile” because even though Rose is clearly besotted all he does is lead her down a road that sees the rest of the movie devolve into something truly sad and painful.

The once decent Rose becomes someone even her mother hardly recognizes and Ugo, who is into transactional sex aka “hustling” to help feed her family is left looking like a learner. Desmond has groomed Rose and turned her into a monster.

There is a lot going on in Black Rose, we glean a bit of sexual grooming and trafficking. We watch Rose, our young and innocent, become a piece of her old self.

Like most Nollywood films, some parts of the movie appear contrived, for instance, the part where Rose walks upstairs into Desmond’s apartment and meets him with his gang of roughs. Nigerians are door lockers. How did she get inside the house and head upstairs immediately. That part could have been better done without it looking like a last-minute thought especially as the scene provides the inciting incident for Rose’s unraveling.

Black Rose is streaming now on Netflix and is a good movie to watch this weekend

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