“Oloture” by Kenneth Gyang is a very GOOD disappointment – Ruona Meyer

As e dey hot!Thelagosreview.ng serves you the first review of Kenneth Gyang’s Netflix original, Oloture, out today on the streaming platform. The review is by Ruona Meyer, Emmy nominated investigative journalist.

When it was announced that Oloture was coming to Netflix on 2 October; I set a reminder. 

There was no way in hell I was going to miss being among the first to watch the first contemporary Nigerian movie to have a female lead who is an investigative journalist going undercover to investigate sex trafficking. 

Of course, I had vested interests; I’m a female investigative journalist, have been for 17 years, and I have reported on trafficking and I have friends, sources and even family members who have been trafficked. 

I was ready to be very critical: women who are journalists are immediately at risk of sexual assault, much more when the added layer of investigations is considered; I know a senior colleague who was assaulted by the police officer she went to report her findings to. I have been beaten, verbally assaulted and threatened, yet I am among the lucky ones to still be alive. So I was not going to tolerate any trivialising of our world, our challenges and those of victims of trafficking. 

At 8:01WAT, I pressed play. 

And here is what I have to say (I’ll try not to give away any spoilers):

Characters

The lead, Sharon Ooja is not foisted on us; we have to go through the sterling performances of Wofai, Blessing and sundry randy customers before we meet her. When we do, it is love at first grind. The beauty of these characters is that where the dialogue sometimes does not, the scenes show us exactly what each person has at stake, and what their motivations are. In trafficking, what is often missed is that there are many victims on the fringes, beyond the obvious victims…I was expecting Oloture to miss the mark, but I am happy to say I was disappointed. It ticks all my boxes for nuance and does so unobtrusively.  

These story tellers and directors also leave us guessing about one aspect of two characters and messes us up with that one unanswered question to Oloture, during that ominous phone-call. That also explains the outbursts we see later. Yes, you can see I am trying really hard not to give out spoilers. 

Realism and detail

From language (sprinkling of Italian swear words and slang) to tasteful nudism and use of location, this film has the hallmarks of extensive research. We leave the whole over-done Nollywood/Lekki bridge scenario to enter the streets of Surulere, roadside shops, pedestrian bridges, danfos and whorehouses of Lagos. Even the signs on the buses, abandoned yet grand homes, are 100% true to the world Oloture evokes and takes on. Traffickers have other businesses, which they use to facilitate THE business: Oloture subtly and tastefully shows these. For instance, if we miss the dynamics of Blessing and Chuk’s relationship, Oloture’s reporter’s diary hits us over the head with it.  

Kenneth Gyang, Director

Speaking of language, the extensive use of Pidgin, our de facto lingua franca in Nigeria, is a high note for me; Pidgin is the native language of about three to five million people and is a second language for at least 75 million other Nigerians. 

 Furthermore, it is a masterstroke to play up to Ooja’s strength in speaking Idoma, and Linda’s with Bini; this effectively showcases two other languages that are not among the often-served Yoruba, Hausa and Igbo. 

*insert Chef’s kiss* 

And location-wise, the journalistic angle to this is not abandoned; the newsroom and even the newsroom library, that last bastion of research, with Segun Arinze holding a typical Nigerian library “album,” made my heart sing. I was literally back in the library at THISDAY, instantly. 

Of course, I have no shame in admitting that this ode to the librarians of our newsrooms won me over. 

Colour correction

There is practically no color correction in Oloture. 

No, I don’t mean the actual technical art of colour correction: I mean the “color correction,” where colorism is the order of the day – lighter-skinned actresses are usually used in whole series and movies.  We have often heard excuses like “it is hard to light darker skins” but Oloture casts all that nonsense in the bin. Glorious melanin is on display, waist beads and chains glistening within shot, with make up only enhancing but in no way obstructing the reality of what the girls are going through…I kept on saying yassss. 

Purposeful storytelling

Human trafficking is a really terrible, ongoing global crime, and the side hustles, channels and cells that fuel it are vicious. The severity of this is thankfully not lost on the producers, from the dialogue to that EPIC shot of Blessing getting slapped, the coffin shots, various points-of-view (e.g Oloture talking to her client), to Sir Philip the bastard speaking to his friends as the girls leave, as well as the pool scene, this is a really believable project on the whole, and I commend the director, Kenneth Gyang, the writers and entire cast and crew. 

Oloture left me introspective and reminded me of the reality I continue to face: sometimes journalism is not enough, and neither is love. We all, as investigators, filmmakers, law enforcement and people, can only do our best to expose this world and the actors who benefit. 

On that note, I rate Oloture a solid 9/10.

Why not 10/10?

I’m removing a half-mark for Blossom Chukwujekwu’s shirts. They were just too tight and ill-fitting in some places – take note, costume department. But to be honest I did enjoy seeing the outline of his nipples, anytime they made a cameo through the shirt. 

A quarter mark is subtracted for the excessive smoking – I mean, every powerful woman was smoking a cigarette – this is a tired trope, in my estimation and was a flat-line for all these characters. I didn’t even see anyone rolling a joint or shoving stuff up their nose. Just saying, for the sake of variety. 

The last quarter-mark is also deducted for the two short scenes at the party, where someone is supposed to be performing fellatio, but the receiver is fully clothed – even with his belt on. And that random guy in a blue agbada and black cap whose kissing was so fake I burst out laughing. 

Ruona Meyer is the first Nigerian to be nominated for an Emmy in Current Affairs (International). A PhD scholar and investigative journalist, she lives in Germany. 

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