The Abuja premiere of Inale, Nigeria’s industry’s first musical, on Thursday, October 28, marked a turning point for an industry slowly rising from the ashes of mediocrity. It was a star-studded affair, as many Nollywood players turned up to welcome the latest addition to their pantheon.
For the night of the premiere, the Silverbird Galleria in Abuja played host to some of the nation’s most powerful, including Senate president David Mark, who stopped by with a retinue of ministers and directors that took up several rows in the overhead gallery. Red carpets and ushers dressed in traditional red and black cloth, added to the spectacle. Inside the theatre, an excellent live band played smooth Afrobeat and Highlife tunes.
The premiere went off without any of the logistical hitches that have been known to plague such events. Programmes started on time and each segment of the night flowed smoothly from one to the other – though a good deal of time was spent introducing the politicians and other VIP guests.
The film itself was lush and imaginative, showing off the beauty of the Benue rainforest. Its cinematography was complemented by a captivating soundtrack, which was composed entirely by Bongos Ikwe - popular singer of the theme song for the classic television series, “Cockcrow At Dawn” - and his Double X band. However, the otherwise beautiful production of the film was marred by stiff dialogue and a scanty storyline that kept peeking through.
The story is based on an Idoma folktale about a beautiful princess who is married off to a man she does not love for the sake of peace between two villages. She is betrayed by a servant who kills her and takes her place. Will the princess be rescued from death and allowed to be with her true love in the end? It is an exciting premise that, unfortunately, is never mined for any true feeling or depth.
Director Jeta Amata does a wonderful job of pulling in high-class acting talent of Nigerian extraction from across the globe, but once in the movie, there is little for them to do. Both UK-based Caroline Chikezie (Inale) and US-based Hakeem Kae Kazim (Ode) are excellent actors with wide ranges, but in this movie they are reduced to longing looks and worried frowns. Their lines sit too heavily in their mouths. The end result is a beautiful movie that feels like an overly long music video.
While the movie may have disappointed somewhat, the premiere did not. The crowd was treated to an impromptu concert by Bongos Ikwe, who is also the executive producer of the movie and whose daughter Keke Bongos-Ikwe co-directed; and Tuface, who was a guest at the event.
Inale represents another addition to the rising ranks of “New Nollywood,” movies which are abandoning the poor lighting and cheap theatrics that have come to characterise the industry. It is emblematic of the return of committed professionals to the scene and; both insiders who make the films and the outsiders who watch them will only benefit.