Clara Ikemba steals the show in Mildred Okwo’s latest offering, the Meeting; a satirical representations of the daily drama in a Nigerian Minister’s office that has the audience asking along with the characters “but how can a common receptionist be so powerful”?
Anyone accustomed to the wiles associated with Nigerian politics as a whole would watch this and have an ‘Aha’ moment; but for the rest of us who are encountering this scenario for the first time, it’s nearly like a journey. Being a Lagosian myself, watching Mr. Makinde arrive in Abuja and go through all that he did was an experience for me as much as it was for him.
In this movie, Mr. Makinde played by the exquisite Femi Jacobs, is an uptight corporate executive who comes to Abuja for a meeting with the minister with plans to leave the same day. Someone must have forgotten to inform him that this is Abuja not New York, as he soon realizes when his meeting turns out to be more than he expected.
The Meeting is not a simplistic sort of a movie that one can restrict it into a single genre, for as it deals with the story of corruption in our government, it also tells other side stories in the lead character’s life: his quest to secure his family, and hopefully his discovery of new love. I was wondering for an extended period whether the movie was intended to be a comedy or a romance. Is it a love story or does it set out to prove a point only? Half-way in I realized what everyone who watches this eventually does, that it doesn’t matter.
Mr. Makinde is met with an unrelenting gatekeeper in the minister’s office where he learns that nothing goes for nothing in Abuja. The movie does the comedy aspect exquisitely well especially with Rita Dominic as the infamous Clara Ikemba. One cannot but applaud the makeup, which is probably one of the best we’ve ever had for making a younger lady appear elderly. Ms. Dominic delivers the laughs be it in Igbo or English with amazing timing and hilarious expressions.
On his journey, he meets a young lady played by Linda Ejiofor. This would normally be the cue for romance and predictability would have taken a plunge, but interestingly enough we are left uncertain as Ejura mentions the ring on his finger. Linda Ejiofor who plays the role of Ejura is a surprising actress. ‘Surprising’ in this case meaning that she was surprisingly good. She was on cue with facial expressions, dialogue and tone, and when her character breaks down she is able to make that pain relatable.
Now past all this into the climax and resolution it begins to feel almost like a Disney movie, as all the conflicts are solved in a manner that are implausibly convenient. From the meeting to the jet to the traffic, I find myself wondering ‘what are the odds?’
The movie does have a couple interesting motifs that I’m not certain if I’d be misplacing accolades by delineating. I love the juxtaposition of the messy disorganized government setting with Egunje-transfers and runs-girl meetings versus the reliability of the possibly private hotel where Mr. Makinde is lounged that actually brings his suit in on time from the laundry. This is again pointed out in the end where Mr. Makinde confronts the Minister and asks him how and when he changed from the man he was in the private sector to this man he is in government.
Watching this movie, you know someone definitely did their research with the dropped-in mentions of the ‘Abuja masterplan’ and the ‘Hausa man on pilgrimage’. At times these wordy conversations do seem a bit out of place and off-mood in the scene, but they do serve the purpose they were inserted for.
The Meeting is an embodiment of the things that we hope Nollywood will one day attain in all her movies: splendid acting with all round commendable performances (except maybe in the case of Jolomi – who does get better as the movie progresses), priority being placed on the story over the celebrities, music that has so much character, and an actual tangible original storyline.
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