MOVIE: Much ado about Okafor’s Law
In 2016, eight Nollywood films were selected to participate in the Lagos City to City spotlight, a non-competitive programme of the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) that seeks to uncover new film vistas from around the world.
With Green White Green’s Abba T. Makama choosing to pursue less traditional methods of screening his film, Okafor’s Law, written, produced and directed by Omoni Oboli – she also stars in it – is the last of the TIFF eight to secure a wide release.
The wait for Okafor’s Law has been dramatic, marked heavily by controversy; something that is becoming somewhat of a trend with films directed by Omoni Oboli. A Canada-based writer, Jude Idada accused Ms Oboli of stealing his copyright and promptly directed his complaints to the courts. He also raised similar complaints about her directorial debut, 2014’s Being Mrs Elliot.
A Federal High Court granted Oboli some reprieve on Thursday March 30, vacating an interim order earlier restraining the premiere and release of the film and Okafor’s Law opened the next day.
A romantic comedy on gender relations, Okafor’s Law is based on some belief of unclear origin, one that bases its conclusion on primal psychologic instincts; that a man who has been intimate with a woman and performed a good job of it, is always likely to score again later in life, regardless of the circumstances that enforced their parting of ways.
The premise might seem flimsy but such are the tropes that the romantic comedy genre has been forced to fall back on, as fresher angles are continuously being sought for the same boy meets girl narratives.
Chuks Okafor aka Terminator (Blossom Chukwujekwu), in keeping with his Don Juan profile, is a wealthy, bored bachelor who hedges a bet with his unconvinced friends, Chuks the Baptist (Gabriel Afolayan, inconsistent), and Chuks the Fox (Ken Erics, unimpressive). Okafor stakes some of his shares in the business they run together on his being able to prove that Okafor’s Law exists, by tracking three former conquests of his and bedding them (again) within three weeks.
The origin of this law isn’t quite verified but Oboli provides some historical context as narrated by her leading man. It makes little sense but a suspension of belief is required to appreciate the entirety of Okafor’s Law.
Blossom Chukwujekwu, with his masculine good looks and smooth charm makes for a suitable rom-com lead. He puts in decent enough work as the rascally Casanova, but he is constantly undercut by Oboli’s script that has nothing genuinely interesting for him to do beyond dishing out half-baked seduction lines. In more capable hands, his Okafor could have been a star-making turn, and a reference point for future actors cast in similar roles.
But the problem isn’t necessarily his. It’s all Omoni Oboli’s. As the star, writer, producer and director, the strengths and weaknesses must be placed squarely on her table. She uses her clout to gather the likes of Yinka Edwards and Pat Nebo for the lighting and production design but for some reason, the work of these masters barely register.
Oboli’s directing is rote and she just goes through the motions of her screenplay without bringing any flourish or interesting angles. Everything begins with the story and audiences would have been better rewarded if the legal drama surrounding Okafor’s Law was for a more worthy screenplay. This one holds no cinematic urgency and could have been written by a second year Theatre Arts student, for a departmental stage production.
Heavy on dialogue with mildly interesting twists, plus some genuine comic moments, the scenes lack punch and go on for lengthy moments only to lead nowhere fast. The entire film barely has the element of suspense and demands little in terms of engagement from the audience, beyond the visuals provided by pretty actors and prettier sets.
As the first of Okafor’s potential conquests, Oboli’s slightly unhinged sister, Ejiro, who turned to God after a humiliating encounter has a few interesting scenes, but it is clear Oboli’s mind is preoccupied on other matters.
Toyin (Aimakhu) Abraham is miscast as an advertising high roller. She speaks in a smoky, seductive tone but isn’t nearly believable as a PR guru. Abraham is merely reciting her lines most of the time and the generic PR lingo she is fed, fails to convince of her authenticity. She enters familiar territory though when she lets it rip in her preferred Yoruba language.
Ufuoma McDermott is promising as the mysterious billionaire wife, Ify and is the only character on display that seems like she could interest the audience beyond the film’s running time. Speaking of, at almost two hours long, Okafor’s Law definitely overstays its welcome and would have benefitted from the services of an editor with an eye on precision.
Sound issues crop up in scenes that play like the voices were dubbed atop the pictures, the plot occasionally dances on the edge and the actors could have been better handled to elicit more believable performances. None can deny Oboli’s tenacity but hard work and grit alone never did a decent movie make. Taking on all of these responsibilities may be admirable but for everyone’s sake (including hers), perhaps Ms Oboli needs to shed some weight.
Plenty weight actually.