Director: Biyi Bandele
Cast: Nse Ikpe-Etim, Omoni Oboli, Ireti Doyle, Dakore Akande
With music from Femi Kuti, King Sunny Ade, Nneka and Waje
101min | Drama | Nigeria
FIFTY is Biyi Bandele’s follow-up to his screen adaptation of Half a Yellow Sun. Kicking off docu-drama style to create a fabulous sense of place on the widescreen, the camera sweeps in over Lagos’ boat-strewn harbour and the interior of a building where a religious gathering is taking place. Bandele uses this technique several times to and elevate what is essentially a rather soapy, intimate drama that revolves around a few critical days in the lives of four professional Nigerian women at the top of their careers; and there are no glass ceilings here for the super elite. Immaculately coiffed and couture clad, these female power-houses have a tight-knit support system of liveried domestic staff, work juniors and family. And although clearly well-educated, they are by no means soigné in their behaviour; kicking arse and barking orders in a way that would have staff in the UK scuttling off to industrial tribunals.
In short, this is the same upper class, glamorous society that Bandele elegantly portrayed in Half a Yellow Sun. Tola, Elizabeth, Maria and Kate are late fortysomething friends who are now taking stock of their lives in the upmarket areas of Ikoyi and Victoria Island in Lagos. Tola (Dakore Akande) is a reality TV star whose marriage to lawyer Kunle is under pressure. Elizabeth (Ireti Doyle) is a well-known fertility specialist whose penchant for younger men has estranged her from her grown-up up daughter. Forty-nine year-old Maria (Omoni Oboli) is newly pregnant from an affair with a married man and Nse Ikpe-Etim plays Kate who is battling a life-limiting illness that has turned her into a religious nutter.
What doesn’t work here is Bandele’s rather clunky dialogue: Do women really speak like this in Lagos, may be they do and we’re short-changing the Nigerian director. At one point Elizabeth says:”I’m going to give these little babies some tlc” referring to her breasts which are due for surgery. Her daughter tells her, radically “don’t ring again or I’ll block your number” yet days later the pair are civil again, albeit frostily until Elizabeth shouts: “You will respect me young lady, I am your mother” – the daughter looks at least 40. All very confrontational stuff but certainly not authentic-feeling or particularly sophisticated and this, combined with the rather trite incidental music, gives FIFTY a dated air of Desperate Housewives Lagos-style.
That said, this may attract audiences who follow the soaps and there are some entertaining moments despite the rather formulaic plotlines. Highlights include the dynamic aerial shots of the capital and original live music from Nigerian icons Femi Kuti, King Sunny Ade, Nneka and Waje. MT
SCREENING DURING LONDON FILM FESTIVAL | 7-18 OCTOBER 2015