Trendy Film Review: NYAFF’s ‘Confusion Na Wa’ is Nollywood’s Celebrated Staple

The New York African Film Festival will run from May 7-13, but  industry insiders are privy to early samplings of what is to come.

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We were eager to take in the offerings supplied by Confusion Na Wa, directed by Nigerian filmmaker Kenneth Gyang, and winner of Best Film at the Africa Movie Academy Awards 2013.

The film is seeped in the homegrown themes that have propelled Nollywood into a global phenomenon. The storylines usually rely on traditional folklores, laced with Shakespearean plots that kinetically build up into a balloon filled with the pieces of the tragic figures, blown to bits. You can always rely on an anti-climatic ending that you saw coming a mile away but somehow you still end up being impressively entranced.

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That is the magic of Nollywood – Nigeria’s thriving version of Hollywood. The system that manufactures these gems, doesn’t necessarily deliver anything that hinges on the prolific or profound. In fact, it’s the very opposite. You won’t walk away stunned by the discovery of a new language of love or betrayal. You won’t necessarily be enlightened or even inspired by the dominant characters. But you will be entertained in a fashion that demands your attention and focus. It’s almost like spending time with a troublesome cousin who you can’t resist because you know despite the predictable outcome; you will be in for one hell of a ride.

Confusion Na Wa is a dark comedy set against a thriving metropolis in Nigeria. We are quickly introduced to a vibrant collage of characters and before too long, it’s clear that they will eventually intersect in a coincidental manner.

Emeka, played by the always reliant Ramsey Nouah initiates the chain reaction when he loses his phone while in the midst of a chaotic scene during a traffic jam. Certified slackers, Charles (O.C. Ukeje) and ChiChi (Gold Ikponmwosa) stumble upon the gadget and things take a turn for the worst as Emeka fruitlessly tries to bargain with the annoying jokesters. Through a haze of weed and liquor, Charles and ChiChi playfully taunt their new phone’s owner, escalating the situation into a full-blown blackmail.

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The plot inevitably thickens as a series of characters are introduced to help add fabric to an expanding quilt of incidences. Babajide (Tony Goodman), is a man of good standing, who can’t help but be concerned about the pathetic morale of his community. But he is even more disturbed by the questionable behavior of his son Kola (Nathanial Ishaku). He has tolerated his share of mishaps, but he will not stand by and allow his son to get lost in a world filled with sexual ambiguity. So he begins the work of setting his son straight. Meanwhile, his daughter sneaks out of the house to attend a neighborhood party and runs into transient troublemakers, Charles and ChiChi.

Then there is Bello (Ali Nuhu), the idealist, who believes in hard work and deserving returns. Too bad he is surrounded by co-workers who don’t share his work ethic and would rather dump their load on his shoulders then support his need for a cohesive corporate environment. He provides much of the comical relief especially for those of us who understand the longstanding affair Nigeria has had with bribery and corruption. Bello is part of a special breed that holds onto certain principles that aren’t applicable to his surroundings. His wife Isabella (Tunde Aladese) is fed up with her boring spouse and escapes in the arms of a successful businessman, Emeka. The same guy who can’t seem to be able to broker a deal good enough to retrieve his phone.

Eventually he does, but that turns out to be bad news for one of the two rascals.  The film concludes with healthy sense of irony that remind us of the relevance that propelled the beginning. There is also episodic sparring between Charles and ChiChi that involves a figurative narrative centered around The Lion King. The banter recalls elements of colonialism that sounds entertainingly far-fetched but still provides a delightful respite for those of us who lived amidst the relics of forced impoundment.

Confusion Na Wa employs all the antics that most of the Nollywood audiences have come to expect. Gyang and his capable gang of talents, cinematographer Yinka Edwards and British producer Tom Rowlands-Rees, are living up to the reputation of their production shop –  Cinema Kpatakpata. The cinematic overview definitely showcases a level of grit that reinforces the sense of urgency that plagues each of the characters. There is also a well-endowed effort to include the backdrop of the city as a worthy adversary amongst the building blocks.

Nyang is a young impressionable ingénue, who cites the likes of Alfonso Cuaron, Alejandro Gonzalez Innaritu and Fernando Meirelles as influences. He is certainly headed in the right direction and is garnering the kind of recognition that will surely catapult him on a global scale, if that hasn’t happened already.

The major takeaway from this award-winning film, is it’s successful depiction of a society bloated with desperate indigenes that have no choice but to mercilessly hustle in order to adhere to the gangster code that challenges every street corner. The film seamlessly presents a sinking ship with participants that are either willing or unwilling to accept their impending fate. The ones who still hope for redemption are laughable and the ones who surrender to the madness laugh the loudest. There is no compromise and that’s why Kenneth Gyang is a genius in the making.