Relevance and Difference: A review of Kunle Afolayan’s “Citation” – Aremu Adams Adebisi

In Citation, Kunle Afolayan draws a fine line between silence and sound, action and inaction. Urged on by the voices of rape victims, whose inflections took a more daring turn this year, the significance of Citation is urgent and affecting.

Filmed for 3 weeks in Nigeria, in the cinematic Obafemi Awolowo University, Citation completed its picturesque delivery at Gorée Island, known as the House of Slaves, and the Universite Cheikh Anta Diop de Dakar, both located in Senegal.

The filmmaker adopted 4 unique languages: English, French, Wolof, and Yoruba. Other cultures — like the Igbo culture, the Hausa, the Ghanaian, the Capeverdean, the Japanese — was represented in other forms of identity and symbols — naming, clothing, and martial arts, for instance.

The movie, written by Tunde Babalola, features a mix of new and veteran actors. Haitian-American actor, Jimmy Jean-Louis, serves as Professor Lucien N’Dyare; Temi Otedola as Moremi Oluwa; Ini Edo as Gloria; Gabriel Afolayan as Moremi’s boyfriend; Adjetey Anang, Joke Silva, Ibukun Awosika, and Bukunmi Oluwashina, all play strategic roles.

Decked in symbols of Afrobeats, Citation is bent on selling Africa’s story to Africa; this time, not to the world. And this makes the story different. This is the story of Moremi Oluwa, a post graduate student who has to stand up to her manipulative professor as a means of living up to the significance of her name, Moremi. The face-off does not go without an underlying theme, which is the need to start a new conversation about sexual harassment in Nigeria, and largely in Africa.

The movie opens with a phone conversation between Rachel, a previous college student, and her lecturer, Dr. Grillo. The latter had demanded sex in order to pass the former. Unfortunately for both parties, Rachel had another plan. While Dr. Grillo is cooling off in bed, Rachel’s boyfriend bursts in with his friends and the unfolding events lead to manslaughter and rustication..

The scenes pick up slowly, to reflect Moremi Oluwa suffering a similar fate. While the story is not new, the conversation this time is different, the setting is different, the time, moment and audience are different. This is what Citation offers us: the difference in what is seen as the norm, in what is regarded as the system. It drills into the roots to probe a new meaning, a new form of defiance.

Chrysane Oksana best defined this difference when she said “violators cannot live with the truth: survivors cannot live without it. There are those who still, once again, are poised to invalidate and deny the women. If they don’t assert their truth, it may again be relegated to fantasy. But the truth won’t go away. It will keep surfacing until it is recognized. Truth will outlast any campaigns mounted against it, no matter how mighty, clever, or long. It is invincible. It’s only a matter of which generation is willing to face it and, in so doing, protect future generations from ritual abuse”.

Both thematically and structurally, Citation makes use of simile to further stretch this difference — this truth. The main idea in the movie is developed around three similitudes, approached in three different yet similar ways. The mishandled sexual arrangement of Rachel is the voice of a society that has lost trust and faith in the authority to carry out justice. The silence and death of Diatta is a voice gnawing at a society that upholds silence and believes in the intervention of God. Yet, this silence keeps surfacing until it is recognized. The third is the reverberation of the revolutionary voices, the celebration of the women who have come to stay.

Now and again, we are reminded that this is not a story for the submissive, neither is it for the silent. This is a story for a new people, a different people who have found their voices, brave enough to make change happen. This is a story for the new generation of women, firm and different, ready to pledge a sacrifice for the liberation of other women from the shackles of sexual harassment.

If there are any defaults in the movie, it would be its slow dialogue and a few unnecessary scenes. This could be attributed to multiple languages deployed in the movie. Language multiplicity simply requires patience and tenderness to nurture at. Another reason could be the complexity of rape and abuse in the African context.

Regardless, the language and style offer a new approach and perspectives to sexual discussions in a different way. The dramatic use of flashbacks, the allusion to God, and the metaphor of Afrobeat will outweigh these defaults. Eventually, we will be left with a movie begging to be cited, pleading to be played, to be enacted and relived, urging us to be different and stand for the truth, like Moremi Oluwa — or should I say Moremi Ajasoro?

 Aremu Adams Adebisi is a content writer, author, editor, creative writing mentor, career and submission consultant, music and movie junkie, and economics graduate

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