To do an objective review of Dirty Secret, an unusual Nollywood movie, I had to step out of the norm and view the Theodore Anyanji production purely on merits. If I hadn’t done this, the review may have been clouded by my worldview and thus be sentimentally biased. In any case, the movie is so X-rated, I decided to feature it in Denrele’s Day. Here, there is enough room to take it apart reel by reel; scene by scene.
Whatever mental images Anyanji had when he started developing the story of Dirty Secret must have been very lucid. The Nollywood director wanted to tell a story of incest, lust (for money, sex, power), political intrigues and manipulations which he achieved —in a round-about sort of way.
A movie buff would pick on that plot line after 15 minutes of trying to stay focused on the story. But, the most conspicuous interpretation to this movie is in its erotica quality. Anyanji pulled off one of the biggest coups in Nollywood movie making history; he produced a ‘soft porn’ under the label of a home video.
First, the movie parades a number of good Nollywood hands both in front and behind the camera. The lead casts include Jibola Dabo (Otunba Davies); Tonto Dike (Pandora); Muna Obiekwe (Cain); Maryann Apollo (Florence) and fairly new Frank Artus (Dr. Brian). Working off screen are Kingsley Okereke, Producer; Uche Ike, Editor and Chisom Juliet Okereke, Story/Screenplay. With such names on the movie credits, nothing would prepare a viewer for the full-frontal stuff going on inside.
Basically, Dirty Secret is the story of the twisted love shared by Pandora and her Father, Otunba Davies and how this incestuous partnership between them is employed to seduce like-minded individuals. Pandora, an only child (I’m presuming since the movie gave no indication otherwise) lost her mother at a young age and Daddy transfers his sexual desires onto his daughter who responds with gusto. Somewhere along the line, Pandora meets money-driven Cain, a gigolo, who she throws everything at (literarily) and they begin a torrid love affair. By this time, Otunba Davies’ new wife, political big shot Florence is living in the Davies’ family home. That introduces the movie’s first conflict; Pandora is unwilling to share her father’s bed with her step mother. She treats Florence with absolute disregard and the feud deepens after step mother catches the two in bed. However, Daddy and daughter quickly initiate Cain into a cosy ménage à trois. At this stage of the movie, I must confess I applaud the acting of Jibola Dabo and Muna Obiekwe. Since, the 2005 award-winning Hollywood production Brokeback Mountain, homosexual romances have been receiving wider and better portrayal by movie directors.
Yet, straight men are usually cast in gay roles for movies and it is a challenge for many of them to act convincingly. No pun intended but Dabo and Obiekwe put their backs into their first gay roles and I practically cringed during intimate kissing scenes. I completely forgot it’s all make-believe. Or is it make-believe really? As the plot thickens, practically all of the lead characters get under the sheets with Cain.
Florence does, Senator Flora does, Pandora’s Uncle’s wife does —keeping up with the who’sbedding- who sequence will make you dizzy. Exactly why I pondered Anyanji’s directorial point by throwing so much sex around if the movie is not under the X movie classification. Erica, Pandora’s best friend, who appears in a couple of scenes also somehow is given a steamy romp scene with Dr. Brian. Exasperated,
I seriously began to fear that soon enough, the cameramen and props staff would jump into the sex fray. Yeah, Dirty Secret is that raunchy. However, the scriptwriter caught my attention with figurative uses of characters’ names and a very contemporary dialogue. Particularly between Pandora, Cain and Otunba, the flirting lines were laced with innuendos and racy enough to stir the imagination. Pandora’s name, I’m presuming, is the scriptwriter’s allusion to Pandora of Greek mythology and the mayhem she unleashes on humankind from her box of evils. ‘Cain’ falls back on the Bible son of Adam who, overcome by jealousy, kills Abel, his brother.
As far as I can see, these are the striking features of Dirty Secret; of course not forgetting individual performances by the actors. Maryann Apollo is fantastic in her role; Jibola Dabo deserves an ovation for daring to act as a geriatric-daughter sexing-boy loving-politician and carrying it off like he does it in reality. However, I reserve the biggest awe for Tonto Dike who I never gave a second glance in her previous acting productions. Yeah, she has a certain sparkle but that isn’t iridescent enough to enthrall me. Neither has Dirty Secret done it for me, but I think it might bring her into stronger reckoning in Nollywood; so long as she carefully chooses her subsequent roles. In her defence, the first African- American leading lady to win an Academy Award ‘Oscar’ for Best Actress (not supporting oh) was Halle Berry for her performance as Leticia Musgrove in 2001 Monster’s Ball. Critics flayed Halle for showing too much flesh in the movie that put her in numerous and daring sexual escapades with Billy Bob Thornton’s character. Also, Dike isn’t the lone actress to be risqué in a Nigerian movie and believe me she isn’t going to be the last. Certainly, incest, sexual immorality and spousal infidelity are prevalent in our society as in any other, but making a movie based on it in a sexually explicit language may be counterproductive. For that reason and technical lapses; sloppy editing, Dirty Secret failed to ace it with movie pundits.