#Throwback: Rita Dominic shines in The Meeting – Toni Kan
The buzz is on about the forthcoming Rita Dominic and Mildred Okwo movie, La Femme Anjola, their newest collaboration from the The Audrey Silva Company. This throwback piece considers The Meeting, their award winning first feature starring Rita Dominic and Femi Jacobs.
The Meeting is the first feature length movie off the
stables of the beautifully named The Audrey Silva Company (TASC) which has
Nollywood star Rita Dominic and her business partner, lawyer and filmmaker,
Mildred Okwo as Head honchos.
The Meeting with original story by Tunde Babalola and
directing by Mildred Okwo is an amazing movie which is a worthy representative
of the new Nollywood.
It is a movie that sets out with pretty high ambitions and
it manages to achieve them all.
When I speak of ambition, we must not confuse this with a
movie of epic proportions. The scope of The Meeting is not epic. Not at all.
The movie has for the most part, an almost sitcom feel with its setting,
mostly, in the waiting room of a Minister’s office, huge dose of comedy and a
cast of stock characters through whom the script writers manage to typify and
poke fun at the average Nigerian from different ethnic groups and social stations.
The man from Nembe tells Makinde Esho: “That’s the problem
with this country, we sustain this nation with our oil yet you know nothing
The Meeting is in many ways a reflection of Nigeria. While
the Minister’s “Waiting Room” redefines the term waiting room, it is on a
larger scale symptomatic of Nigeria where red tape and officialdom have left us
stuck in stasis.
The film delivers a sucker punch when Ejura says to Makinde;
“How did you think you could close a deal in Abuja in one day with a government
minister?” and it was amazing to see the large delegation from Aso Rock and the
Ministry of Petroleum laughing during the screening at the World Premiere.
The Meeting is the kind of movie that makes us laugh just so
it can stop us from crying. In the space of two hours, the movie manages to
show us the problems of Nigeria writ large; from the power situation to red
tapism, from abuse of power to corruption.
When Makinde accosts the Minister who is dashing off on a
tryst with his girlfriend the Minister introduces her sheepishly as “my niece.”
The movie features a veritable roll call of stock Nigerian
characters: the brash Igbo man played by the diminutive Chinedu Ikedieze of the
Aki and Pawpaw fame to the religious and conservative Hausa lady; the high
falutin English speaking Professor Akpan; the prayer warrior dependent business
woman; Bolarinwa, the “runs girl” played by Nse Ikpe Etim and the changeable
well-heeled woman who will do anything to get ahead played by Kate Henshaw.
The cast of characters is a Casting Director’s wet dream and
Mildred Okwo employs them to devastating effect. But the beauty of it all is
that the Director manages to elevate this movie which is touted as a romantic
comedy far beyond the normal Nollywood farce which passes for comedy.
Rita Dominic is a revelation and a delight. She steals the
show with an astonishing comedic turn that I am not sure had been hitherto
explored elsewhere. Her timing is spot on and her “Oyo is your own” is bound to
make it into Nigerian street lingo.
When she tells the policemen to shoot Makinde Esho at the
tail end of the movie, you can’t help but laugh and yet empathize with her
because you are aware that by pulling off his stunt, Makinde has demystified
her, removing the very last vestiges of her power.
“Please sir, let them shoot him small. Just small,” she begs
As Clara, the impenetrable receptionist, she is a formidable
presence, deciding who does and doesn’t see the Minister. She is brash, mean,
solicitous, and suffering from an acute inferiority complex all of which she
masks with a show of bravado.
With the minister’s supplicants, she is a goddess who must
be appeased with sacrifices that range from recharge cards to soft drinks to
cash. With the Minister and important visitors, she is a groveling civil
servant making all the right noises and sounds while with Bolarinwa, she
becomes a whimpering dog trying to please. The result is amazing and
impressive; a true delight.
The premise of The Meeting is almost too simple to be realistic
but it is the unraveling of the unusual plot that makes this a worthy
As a romantic comedy, it thrives as most of them do on a
chance encounter between two disparate individuals; Makinde Esho played by Femi
Jacobs, and Ejura played by the amazing Linda Ejiofor, both of whom finally
have a stab at starring roles in a big screen production and it is to the
director’s credit that their characters are not completely obliterated by
Clara’s larger than life character.
By creating a sub-plot that plays out in the evenings, the
film makers create enough space for these two to show off their acting chops.
Their characters are well defined and even though Ejura comes off as brash and
almost like a ‘runs girl’ at the beginning, we can see that she is a
serious-minded young woman looking for a good man and a good life.
Tunde Babalola and Mildred Okwo who wrote the screenplay
deserve kudos for the way they keep piling on the humor and teasing out
laughter. Every character has a line or two to crack your ribs thus ensuring
that the movie does not fall flat or slip into preachiness.
As an aside, the major triumph of The Meeting may not have
been intended and it is the validation it gives to MNET’s soap opera Tinsel
which features both Linda Ejiofor and Femi Jacobs.
By introducing to the big screen two cast members from the
soap, The Meeting has inadvertently underlined the importance of that soap
opera as a fertile ground for talent and revival of what used to be a Nigerian
staple; the soap opera. Think Checkmate, Mirror in the Sun, Behind The Clouds
and Cock Crow at Dawn.
In the soap, Ejiofor’s character, Bimpe is hungry to become
a movie star. Mildred Okwo and her casting director have made her fictional
dream come true in The Meeting.
There is also the return of Basorge Tariah and Kate Henshaw,
two actors who cut their teeth on television in comic roles.
Nollywood often receives flak for pandering towards the
atavistic and occultic and it is heartening to see that Ejura does not run to a
juju man to help her ensnare the fetching Makinde but there is still that
recourse to the supernatural as we find Makinde’s boss in a mid-night session
with white garment prayer men at his office. Some things, it seems, are just
too Nigerian and if these movies we make are about Nigeria, they must reflect
us the way we truly are.
The Meeting is a pretty sedate movie. There are a few scenes
with quickening adrenaline rushes but it is on the whole a feel good and well-paced
movie that will have audiences laughing but this does not mean that it is
Technique wise, the movie does not rise above the usual
fare. There are no cinematographic flourishes or technical savvy like one would
find in a Tunde Kelani or Mahmood Ali Balogun movie; the dubbing goes askew in
some scenes and it is also surprising to see Bolarinwa develop a thick Yoruba
accent when she shows up for the second time; something we did not hear at her
On the whole, The Meeting is a beautiful Nollywood movie
driven by its story line and well chosen cast of characters and this is one
movie that will travel well; far across the Nigerian shores.
It shows us who we are and hints at what we can become if only we can get out of the damned ‘waiting room’ in which this country has been stuck for ages.