Tuesday, March 20, 2007

The Amazing Hype!

The Amazing Grace: Between Fact and Fiction
By Chude Jideonwo, 03.16.2007

I deferred watching the ‘The Amazing Grace’ but only with the best intentions. In a way, I was ‘saving the best for last’. After all, this was supposed to be Nigeria ’s ‘first’ 35mm movie (shot on ‘celluloid’, for the uninitiated), flying the national flag at major international film festivals. It is also collaboration between Jeta Amata ( Nigeria ), Nick Moran ( England ); with a budget from both the UK and the Cross Rivers State governments.


The movie starts quite perfectly: the opening shots against the backdrop of Joke Silva’s enchanting voiceover pull you into the story in minutes, setting the tone for a moving tale. It was very beautiful. However, once we move away from this montage, as the voiceover flows into Joke Silva in flesh, the film begins to get uncomfortable. Joke Silva, surprisingly seems out of her depth. The dynamics of her storytelling to her (rather morose-looking) daughter appear forced and flat. Her voice over also fails the test of continuity. Not only does her accent fluctuate from British to something not exactly American, her voice turns strangely hoarse some times, all conspiring to rob it of the much-needed authority.

Still, the film somehow maintains an even tempo, up until the scene Zack Amata gives his rousing cry. This is where the main story starts and the script begins to wobble, eventually dissolving into a heap of clichés. Dialogue sounds rather infantile and it not only does a very good job of portraying the pre-colonial Nigerian as a simpleton, better than any biased foreigner; but also doesn’t give insight – fresh or regurgitated - about the Calabar people. ‘The Amazing Grace’ is not located, as far as history goes, anywhere. Its reality exists in neither the jaundiced history of the conqueror nor even the prouder self serving version of the conquered. There’s no attempt, at mirroring the clash of wills and complexity of emotions with which our forbears resisted foreign occupation (hopefully there was).

That The Amazing Grace casually treats slave trade with kid gloves, nonchalantly colouring it with romance and sad music underscores its thoughtless, and its fatalistic attention to style above substance. It would be burdensome to give examples but the heroine, Ansa’s (Mbong Odungide) first conversation aboard the ship with Nick was absolutely incongruous, made worse by a tortuously long dialogue where the director forgets the girl is supposed to be illiterate!

Then from nowhere, (and take that very literally) we hear: “I like. Take me”. And “I love you”. Shock.

Hold on, love? Where – from the time he unchained her to their standing opposite each other, in the space of hours - did they find love? There’s no attempt to tell a real story: just an assemblage of clichés. Let’s say you ask me: what is the movie really about, which hopefully from all my rambling you must feel a right to know? I can’t give you any answer. It’s certainly not about the origin of the song as the pre-release publicity materials made us believe. It’s not also about the evils of slave trade, and even though the contrived end of the movie struggles to convey this, it certainly doesn’t come off as a tale about the redemption of a slave trader’s soul…

Apart from torturing us with the song (the prisoners sang that one song continuously every ‘single’ day of their incarceration), nothing else even attempted to tell us anything about the song’s origin, apart from John Newton translating it to English. Even worse, we are supposed to believe that John Newton was so touched he translated the beautiful song they hummed endlessly, yet we also know that this man continued slave trade for many years after this ‘life-transforming’ incident?

The film had its fine moments, no doubt. Fred Amata’s performance was consistently sterling – and at the times when he was at the centre of the action the movie was very tolerable, Nick Moran too was very convincing, in fact (with appropriate shame nonetheless) I have to say I thoroughly enjoyed the scenes that showed conflict amongst the white ‘captains’ more than anything else (even though, with appropriate joy, I also report that the worst acting also came from the enslaved white Simmons). Ansa was good to look at and there was an innocence to her that was appealing and to complete the chain of isolated fine acting was the chief of the second village.

There were two very bright moments of delightful scripting when Fred Amata engaged his black captor and when the two captains mirrored the contradictions of slave trade (‘When you return to England you shall go to church/ and thank God for your safe return from your pillage and plunder/ for your sake captain, I hope that God is an Englishman’).

P.S: Funny enough, Aunty Nosh in shortening the piece severely blunted it's sharper ends. And they are complaining! So would vessels have burst if they had seen the original version?!)

24 comments:

Lola said...

Chude, I thought I was the only one that didn't find anything that great about amazing grace except for the fact that it was shot beautifully. I didn't get the storyline and to me it just highlighted that we need to engage our scriptwriters more. The story was flat. I didn't get how the girl fell in love with the guy either and I felt the whole thing was terribly rushed, like the guy who wrote it knew how he wanted to start and how he wanted to end but nothing else in between. I'm not surprised about that either. A lot of our nigerian movies are like that so how would this one be different? how many people are actually studying these things?!?! Ahhh....

Anonymous said...

I totally agree, having bought the film and saved it till i got to england to bask its cinematic glow. The film did nothing, the story was incredibly absent, the characters dis jointed and the rest was just a sterotypical farce. Violated and evil twins where better Nigerian movies, for those hollywoood afficandos like myself. ALL in all , shd be celebrated for being shot 35mm maybe , yes, and the funding structure being innovative, that aside, evrythng else was just BAD. H

fan said...

Who is 'Aunty Nosh' please? I wasn't sure..

Chude! said...

Oh Aunty Nosh is Onoshe Nwabuikwu - she writes Airtime for Thisday. I referred to her in the post before this.

Cheers!

Chude! said...

Lola and Anon,

Thanks for the responses. I am glad though that both of you watched the movies. We must support Nollywood, and continue to hammer at them to do things right, I think?

Cheers!

bimbylads said...

hi chude,

thanks for stopping by on my blog! i ditto you on amazin grace.. i fell asleep right through it.. warra load of rubbish story line!

Seun said...

Person send you comment put im name as 'fan' - e be like say the man wants to monopolise the title abi?! Okay, let's form a Chude Fan Club!!!

36 INCHES OF BROWN LEGS said...

i saw this film too o!!!! i did fell asleep through it!!!! didnt make sense to me, but sha we have to support our own abi???

exschoolnerd said...

Thanx chude for stopping my my blog...totally appreciate it..as u know am a huge fan so that was quite lovely of u.(dont let ur head swell o)

I haven't seen the movie yet but i read a review about it in a mag(blast magazine) and i must say the review didnt make me want to jump out odf my sitand go get it the very minute..i've heard alot about the film...heard its nothing to write home about but i guess i wanna be the judge of that...so that means am going to have to watch it...LORD SAVE MY SOUl..*does the cross sign*....

hmmm...do u still do ur sons and daugters column...i used to really njoy it...havnt read a thisday newspaper in ages...

exschoolnerd said...

Thanx chude for stopping by my site..i totally appreciate it..as a huge fan it means alot to me...(dnt let ur head swell)

i havent seen the movie yet..but i read a review about the movie in a mag(blast magazine) and i must say the review didnt make me want to jump out of my seat and go get it..from what i hear its nothing to write home about but i guess i wanna be the judge of that...which means ill have to go and watch it.GOD SAVE MY SOUL.*Does the cross sign*...

do u still do ur sons and daughters column in thisday? i used to love it..I havent bought a thisday newspaper in ages...

mystoriesmytestimonies said...

please update....
like ur blog...

Nilla said...

I haven't seen the movie yet.....But I'll still like to see it nothwithstanding the bad review I'm reading :-)

omohemi Benson said...

look at pot calling kettle black!
I saw your comments on laspapi's blog.
Please update,thank you.

Mr.Fineboy said...

Great review! I absolutely agree with your critique of it. The worst part of the movie for me was the long conversation between Ansa and "John John" Newton. I cringed everytime Ansa spoke. Somehow, she knew what love meant, what wife meant...etc. It was horrible.
Interestingly, there's a movie coming out pretty soon in England called "Amazing grace." I believe it's about William Wilberforce and his fight to end slavery though. Well done on your review!

linda ikeji said...

just tot to drop by.I love ur review.I'll come again. linda

Chude! said...

@ bimbylads,
thanks for coming. Your blog is now one of my regulars. Wait ... you FELL ASLEEP?!Lol

@ seun, abeg lef matter! Thanks man for always dropping by sha.

@36 inches,
Yes, really, which is what I told his publicist, I AM supporting Jeta Amata, which is why I bought the movie. But he can't expect me to pretend all was well could he? Oh and by the way anytime I see your sign in name '36 inches of brown leg?... God save me!!Lol

@exschoolnerd,
Well it turns out now that I'm YOUR fan. Oh, Blast is out already? Sons and Daughters, I've been so swamped these days that I have been doing in like once in two months, but I'm still passionate about it so...

@my stories,
Aw, thanks so much. Thanks. Haven't really had much to say that's why, but have updated now. Thanks for dropping by always.

@ nilla,
no most def; by all means go see the movie! Afterall, I saw it didnt I, so why should I stop you for getting bored.Lol By the way, your discussion series is cool, I meant it.

@omohemi,
Okay now, the pot has cleaned up its act - will the kettle follow suit?!Lol

@fineboy,
Exactly! I cringed EVERY time she opened her mouth! And the whole 'John JOhn Newton thing was horrible'! - thanks for reminding me of that.

Yeah, I've heard about the new Amazing Grace - I think it's out already. Thanks for dropping by man!

@linda,
I'm glad you took my advice on your blog. Take in easy.

Chude! said...

@ bimbylads,
thanks for coming. Your blog is now one of my regulars. Wait ... you FELL ASLEEP?!Lol

@ seun, abeg lef matter! Thanks man for always dropping by sha.

@36 inches,
Yes, really, which is what I told his publicist, I AM supporting Jeta Amata, which is why I bought the movie. But he can't expect me to pretend all was well could he? Oh and by the way anytime I see your sign in name '36 inches of brown leg?... God save me!!Lol

@exschoolnerd,
Well it turns out now that I'm YOUR fan. Oh, Blast is out already? Sons and Daughters, I've been so swamped these days that I have been doing in like once in two months, but I'm still passionate about it so...

@my stories,
Aw, thanks so much. Thanks. Haven't really had much to say that's why, but have updated now. Thanks for dropping by always.

@ nilla,
no most def; by all means go see the movie! Afterall, I saw it didnt I, so why should I stop you for getting bored.Lol By the way, your discussion series is cool, I meant it.

@omohemi,
Okay now, the pot has cleaned up its act - will the kettle follow suit?!Lol

@fineboy,
Exactly! I cringed EVERY time she opened her mouth! And the whole 'John JOhn Newton thing was horrible'! - thanks for reminding me of that.

Yeah, I've heard about the new Amazing Grace - I think it's out already. Thanks for dropping by man!

@linda,
I'm glad you took my advice on your blog. Stay well.

36 INCHES OF BROWN LEGS said...

Chude

wetin do my name??????

Chude! said...

Oh my God, you want to make this harder for me don't you?!

Which young man, which all these raging hormones, and a fertile imaginaation will be able to maintain the cleanest of thoughts when he thinks of 36 inches of brown legs? 36. Inches. All legs. And the colours of chocolate - Chineke ... someone open the windows and let in some air!!!Lol

Idemili said...

Thanks for this. I was supposed to do a feature for my paper on 'Amazing Grace'. Thanks for stopping by my blog.

Is there any reason you refer to yourself in the third person throughout your profile?

Chude! said...

No waya. Great blog you've got going. I'm sure it's top secret what paper you write for and in what part of our globe?lol

Oh the profile; I originally asked someone to write it for me - but before you think that's cool or anything, just know that I immediately 'edited' it to suit my ego!lol

Wharra you talking about? it's all about the image!!!

And I mean what I said: your writing has power.

Chude! said...

*actually i meant 'no waya'!

Idemili said...

'No yawa' maybe?

Chude! said...

LOL, LOL. I must have been mega-drunk! Yes o, no YAwa!lol