My Thoughts on ‘Half of a Yellow Sun’

 

My Thoughts on ‘Half of a Yellow Sun’

By Veronica Nkwocha

‘Half of a Yellow Sun’, the movie directed by Biyi Bandele and adapted from the book by the same name by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is a story of two lovers who find themselves caught up in more than the regular mundane trifles that would otherwise concern those in their same situation.

The normalcy is captured quintessentially at the care free start, where Olanna (Thandie Newton) and Odenigbo (Chiwetel Ejiofor) worry about things we see across time and across climes; does he/she love me enough, affairs that break the heart, and mothers-in-law who are frightened of the new woman.

We are introduced early on to an archetype angry mother-in-law (Onyeka Onwenu), a cheating boyfriend and a woman in despair and we have a recipe for what obtains quite frequently in Nollywood movies. Same ingredients but tempered as the particular conflict between mother and would be daughter-in-law did not overwhelm. The story was laced with more depth as the characters flowered and found themselves.  HOAYS also takes more risks allowing the audience a peek into a wider range of interactions, the scenes move in quick succession. It sits resolute in a time period, the near picture perfect setting transports the viewer giving integrity to the story.

The serious but optimistic doctor of ‘books’ Odenigbo (a university professor),   his returnee beautiful girlfriend Olanna, her twin sister Kainene (Anika Noni Rose) and her English boyfriend, Richard (Joseph Mawle) and their academic friends including Ms Adebayo (Genevieve Nnaji), enjoy some happy evenings discussing politics, wine, romance etc, laughing heartily and showing an optimism for the future. Ugwu (John Boyega) the houseboy trailed, never quite commanding the presence he had in the book, not a fault of the actor but more likely the adaptation.

The pacing allowed one momentarily forget that a war loomed. When the conflict that introduced ‘Biafra’ inserted itself violently into the narrative, it came as a shocking intrusion especially with the brutality shown. It drove home a well-known fact in wars; that those who are killed and those who suffer are the innocent, caught up in a gladiatorial contest far removed from their control. Swept along, we follow Olanna and Odenigbo on a journey through their pain and fears and heart-racing; through their triumphs served in small measures, tepid in parts but overwhelming in its intensity.

The gore that typically crowds war movies was nuanced and the flashbacks in black and white, documentary-like, gave a background to the story and fleshed out the narrative. The choice not to use real life actors but archived footage lent a stamp of authenticity of a real life war, it gave a sombre bent to the story taming the after-glow of the happy love story.

HOAYS portrayed the Nigerian Civil War with a delicate balance, walking a tightrope in a story of a two sided conflict of nervous protagonists and antagonists even in today’s Nigeria where a collective amnesia is the seeming default position, a shroud that never quite covers the ‘why’ of the story, barely there but the elephant in the room.

We are held curious to the end. The hunger for more lingered at the end, not only because Kainene was lost, an unending thread tying her to the hearts of her loved ones. Odenigbo and Olanna were brought to life by Chiwetel Ejiofor and Thandie Newton so strongly.

One must not forget Odenigbo’s blue car, it became iconic meandering here and there dodging bombs by sheer luck and nothing else.

The story was told in the second half in ‘quickened’ succession, we raced along as they raced for their lives and arrived at the credits breathless yet wanting more.

Related Articles

http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/review/a-yellow-sun-london-review-647828

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/film/filmreviews/10756927/Half-of-a-Yellow-Sun-review.html

http://variety.com/2013/film/reviews/half-of-a-yellow-sun-review-toronto-1200603565/

http://africasacountry.com/review-of-the-film-version-of-half-of-a-yellow-sun-chimamanda-adichies-novel/

http://www.loladeville.com/2014/04/review-of-half-of-yellow-sun-movie-by.html

http://www.hotnaijagirl.com/2014/04/movie-review-half-of-yellow-sun-by-biyi.html

http://brittlepaper.com/2014/04/mad-men-nollywood1960s-fashion-yellow-sun-film/

 

Embers (Poetry)

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Embers

By Veronica Nkwocha

Consumed
by a yearning
only you can heal
Marked
by a hollow
only you can fill
Every hour
my heart whispers
your name

Trapped
in bonds
made of the tendrils
reaching for you
The clasp elusive
Hidden
in knots
grafted
into my every form

I walk
With a smile on my face
Wave a hello
to the gorgeous sunrise
I sing
A happy song
As I face the world
and wipe the tears

My heart
melting wax
The candle lit up
with the light
of a craving
So strong
So endless
Etched with a seal
of my love for you

My Thoughts on ‘The Wolf of Wall Street’

My Thoughts on ‘The Wolf of Wall Street’

By Veronica Nkwocha

He is an enigma;  a drink driving, cocaine snorting, sex crazed, sleaze ball whom they all adore. Welcome to Jordan Belfort’s world. A gigantic ball of shiny, newly bedecked, noveau rich stock brokers whom Jordan himself moulds into mini Jordans, each one garish, brutish but entirely loyal and fiendishly capable of separating obtuse investors from their cash in huge mouth-watering sums.

Leonardo DiCaprio hits the road running. He is the chameleon whom we can’t differentiate from Belfort as he strikes at the heart of the role giving it his all. There is nothing caricature about this. He becomes the character so much so that his excesses are no longer something to wonder about, it is just who he is.

Jordan changes his first wife Teresa (Cristin Milioti) as he would his old car and old life; he trades her for a newer fresher and more beautiful model with nary a look as she weeps fading away from our screens. Naomi, beautiful, voluptuous and willing to be his fantasy and go the extra step but it is not enough as he pushes himself further and further. His cravings have the lead and they drive him to seek satisfaction from even more debauchery.

The Wolf of Wall Street (directed by Martin Scorsese) is shocking in its decadence; naked grinding women and men become so common place they barely need a glance from the audience. Jordan and his clones are perpetually on a high from a cocktail of prescription drugs and hard drugs, they float on clouds from where they pluck witty comments by the dozen.

Jordan’s charm lie in his ability to sell stocks not only to investors but in his ability to sell his vision first to his friends beginning with Donnie Azoff (Jonah Hill) and then to a teeming army of passionate near worshipping salesmen; scratch that, parishioners.

When he stands before his audience, he is like a preacher whose intense belief in the rightness of his cause begins to inspire. He is charismatic, and funny and handsome. He ‘preaches’ with a passion so intense it appears to rival the orgasms from their many orgies, the ‘congregation’ trashes about on the throes of a high so infectious from their benevolent ‘saviour’ they remain hooked as they rake in their successes.

He is himself the proud husband who gifts his new wife Naomi Lapaglia (Margot Robbie) a yacht with a landing pad, a helicopter sits daintily on top.

When an investigation into his activities by FBI Agent Patrick Denham (Kyle Chandler) comes to light, he is nervous but yet arrogant. He belittles the agent’s poor wages and mocks his respectable normal life. His undoing is his greatest strength; his addiction to his vision. He simply cannot let go and when the steam train crashes, Jordan lies in a heap crafted with his own hands. He loses everything, every material thing. Except his gift of gab, his ability to sell and to inspire a following. He fades from the scene and sits a shadow of the former lusty Wolf astride his empire; he is a shadow that lurks as the movie ends, a fool and his money are soon parted.

The Wolf of Wall Street is audacious; it pulls no punches celebrating the lead character as an enigma, and although the victims are a part of the narrative, they are weak and hidden from view. When Jordan Belfort gets his comeuppance, they are but an afterthought, eaten and spat by the Predator and the storyteller.

Related Articles

http://www.theguardian.com/film/movie/155767/wolf-of-wall-street

http://www.theguardian.com/film/2014/jan/22/jordan-belfort-wolf-of-wall-street-depiction

The Storyteller

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By Veronica Nkwocha

Storytelling:

From time immemorial, Man has always found ways to tell the story of life as it happened using rock paintings, folklore, genealogy, dance, staged plays and writing. Art imitates life and poets, writers, painters, griots, actors etc. have always found creative ways of expressing the dynamics of the world around them. They hold a mirror to the interactions and preserve for future generations, a unique insight into what life is like during their time.

As long as life carries on unabated the ‘Storyteller’ will reflect society in its raw form; the good, the bad and the ugly.

Any prescriptive boundaries to cage creativity does some harm to the integrity of the ‘picture’ of our world. Is there family, love, pain, joy, heartbreak, redemption, religion, philosophies? Are there wars, deceit, trials, triumphs etc.? Until we can edit life and make it pristine clean, Art will imitate life especially for the sake of those who will ponder about our world in the future as we do today, paintings on rocks by ancient man.

My Thoughts on ’12 Years A Slave’

My Thoughts on ’12 Years A Slave’
By Veronica Nkwocha

‘12 Years a Slave’ (Directed by Steve McQueen) feels like one is going into a hole, deeper and deeper into an abyss. The dark is cloying and the damp draining every spring within to merge with the tumultuous grey and wet of the Mississippi.

‘12 Years a Slave’ is the story of Solomon Northup played with aplomb by Chiwetel Ejiofor, a free black man from New York in 19th century America. A family man, his jaunty step as he strolls with his wife, son and daughter speak of hope, life and prosperity. He is a violinist, an excellent one. Things go ‘south’ when he is lured under false pretences to Washington for some work, kidnapped and then sold into slavery.

Solomon Northup sheds the garments of a fine gentleman and dons the toga of a slave, from then on, he must answer to the name Platt Hamilton.

Stripped of everything, there is nothing sexual about the nudity and we cover our eyes in shame, embarrassed for the slaves who have to wash in front of others. The dehumanising is thorough and the trembling obeisance that colours nearly every slave is infectious killing any semblance of rebellion.

In Louisiana, the flowers are mute and the surrounding plains of the cotton field are joyless even though there is a song for every scythe that hits the cane. Solomon is wide eyed almost throughout as though he cannot yet believe his new circumstances, even years after.

There aren’t many moments of happiness and life carries on. He leaves a near benevolent master (who even gifts him a violin) where he almost becomes a fatality, almost hanged after a falling out with overseer John Tibeats (Paul Dano). He is sold on to a ‘religious’ Edwin Epps. His new master reads the scriptures as though he believes them even though we catch him making up verses. Michael Fassbender is thoroughly believable and we watch as Epps attacks his role with glee. He is seemingly bumbling yet extremely faithful to the commonly held ideas of a vicious slave master.

Epps’ music by the slaves for his entertainment show a ‘disconnect’ on his part, he is the only one happy and excited as the slaves dance a pretend merriment. His missus (Sarah Paulson) is not pleased; what is there to be jealous of in Patsey? Played by Lupita Nyong’o, she is unwashed, enjoys no perks for being the masters bed mate, favours which he takes mercilessly.

Mrs Epps pristine appearance mirrors her halo wound so very tight, she looks like she has a perpetual headache. It is not a surprise when she declares her own bed is too holy for him. Her simmering rage does not discriminate, the rapist and the victim are fair game for her wrath. We would feel some compassion for her if she didn’t end up looking like she needed penance for her part. Patsey is the broken reed, bruised but waving in the breeze, flowing with the current unable to put an end to it all.

The master’s chat with Bass (Brad Pitt) is illuminating, sound bites and clichés take on new meaning as they are held under the harsh light of an anti-slaver’s scrutiny. Bass is eventually trusted with the buried secret as Solomon tries one last time, would he take a message home?

We hardly see Solomon’s family after the first moments in the movie and we never know how they reacted once they found out he was gone. In not knowing, we are cast into Solomon’s reality, the wall separating him from his loved ones is resolute, impenetrable.

The movie ends in an anti-climax. One is reaching for a happy ending and when the homecoming happens, it all ends suddenly. We are left hungry for more. We want to share in the redemption, in their celebration. We are robbed of the ecstasy that would otherwise have been a catharsis to the intense ordeal of Solomon Northup’s 12 years as a slave.

Related Articles

http://www.theguardian.com/film/2014/jan/09/12-years-a-slave-review

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2024544/

The Lone Elephant

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The Lone Elephant
By Veronica Nkwocha

A certain family of Elephants were on a long journey across vast plains, deserts in search of water. The journey would take them weeks upon weeks.

The Matriarch was strong, she was wise and above all, she had the fire of ten thousand men. She led them, walking alone. Apart and slightly ahead, a lone powerful beacon; through the hills she triumphed, through the valleys, she inspired. And the elephants all followed her. They were tired, they were growing weaker by the day but they had the fire of mama’s leading to urge them on. To the hope of water for everyone, to life.

As the sun set one terrible day, a lion found them. It sniffed for the weakest and trailed the broken. Those who had undergone the journey over the years had the experience to carry on; they were at the fore of the journey, right behind the Matriarch, each one eager for the oasis that was nearly within sight. They could smell it in the air, and most importantly, they saw their old faded footprints from a distant past to show them the way.

At the far end limping along though, were the calves. They tried with all their waning strength to keep up with the herd but their small legs betrayed them.

The lion was getting closer and closer. It gnawed at the heels of the last of them all, a lone yearling, the smallest calf, drawing blood. She limped along frightened and yelping in pain.

Then something strange happened. The stronger, older and wiser elephants surrounded their lone kin to protect her from the lion.

They bellowed and trumpeted, they stomped running around wildly, their large frames covered in a canopy of dust wafting from their terrible anger at the prowling lion.

They formed a bulwark against the rampaging hunter and provided a secure refuge for…
their lone beacon, the Matriarch,
closing their ears to the bitter cry of the lone yearling even as the lion took her away,
the smallest of them all.

*It is easy to be strong for the strong, the true test of humanity is whether we can be as strong for the weak.