Oscar winner, Antoine
Fuqua, began his film career making music videos, so did Spike Jonze. Here in
Nigeria, Ema Edosio has plied the same trajectory parlaying an early career
making music videos alongside Clarence Peters into a film making
career with her debut full length feature, Kasala which is another
word for Wahala or Plenty Trouble.
premise of her film is simple and one any young man who once had an
auto fixation will recognize. It is a buddy movie and laugh-out-loud comedy
which manages not to slip, as Nollywood films are wont, into slapstick. The
main characters undergo remarkable emotional growth even though all of the
action happens in one day over the course of 6 hours.
a young man who fancies himself a music star in the making is eager to up his
swag and so borrows his uncle’s car without his permission. He picks up
three other neighbourhood friends – Abraham, Effiong and Chikodili –
and they head to a party after a quick lunch at Shalewa’s, TJ’s love
arrive the party in style but while his friends are dancing, Abraham
steals TJ’s car keys and goes out ostensibly to move the car. He
turns on the ignition, steps on the accelerator and changes their lives in an
set in Lagos and plays out in the warren of streets around Ojuelegba and Nathan
street in Surulere. It is a realistic and gritty film, one that does not shy
away from the grime and the stench. The ghetto is up front and center in all
its tainted glory.
far from being an exploitative film which milks the deprivation of the poor for
quick gains, the film actually has heart and a soul. It is a love song composed
to Lagos and the denizens of the ghettos that dot the city.
aka Starboy, Chikodili aka Effiko, Abraham aka Ode and Effiong aka Hustler are
symbols of Nigeria’s young. Drawn from different tribes Yoruba, Igbo, Edo and
Efik, they represent all the rage and deprivation and lack that confront their
peers on a daily basis. Their stories are symptomatic of the anomie that
beclouds the nation. TJ is an apprentice meat seller with dreams of a
music career. Effiong has a dying father and prayer warrior sister but spends
his days earning money by doing odd jobs. Chikodili’s mother has fled the
homestead and left him and his father to take care of his eight siblings.
Abraham hides a shameful secret and is seen as having “no talent.”
‘Talent’ is important to Kasala because it is a portmanteau word loaded with significance. It is a metaphor for ambition, resilience, resourcefulness and grit. The core of the film is captured at the moment when TJ looks at his friends and says – “we raise 10k in 6 hours, if that no be talent wetin e be.”
simple message is that when pushed to the wall, the Nigerian youth
can be amazingly resourceful. These are not “lazy Nigerian youths” by any
stretch of the imagination.
these are young men at the end of their tether. Their lives have hit a cul de
sac. They are at a dead end and their only escape lies in dreams of what may
never bud. Education is out so all that remains ahead is a bleak tunnel with
faint glimmers of light.
is something perilously Sisyphean in their exertions. Watching them push the
damaged car for hours across Lagos streets, one is reminded of the hapless
Sisyphus pushing that boulder up the hill ad infinitum. Hope is a scarce
commodity in the kingdom of Kasala but these are young men who refuse
to bow to the cruel blows of fate and circumstance. They are athletes in an
Invictus game all their own. Bludgeoned and bloodied and scarred they persist,
insisting on confronting life on their own terms.
not aspire to the sentimental. It also eschews tacky
proselytizing. Kasala is not glossy and neither is it glamorous. It
is a bare knuckle tale that forces you to confront the reality of our
existence. In Kasala, Nigeria’s murky underbelly is laid bare and the
sight that confronts us is not pretty.
Kasala has bits that raise questions: where did Effiong get that sky blue shirt
he wears after his jacket has been stolen and what kind of party begins so
early in the day? Well, the party had to start early so we can have a stretch
of 6 hours before dark. But I am just being pedantic.
Edosio has given us a film that is eerily similar to “Confusion Na Wa” and
“Green White Green”, two films that plumb the very depths of Nigeria’s miasma.
The three auteurs, Kenneth Gyang, Abba Makama and Ema Edosio are becoming
harbingers of a brand new Nollywood ethos. They are telling stories that
reflect a Nigeria that many young people can connect with. Their stories are
critical examinations of what it means to be young and Nigerian and hopeless.