Mbong Amata, Akon, O.C Ukeje, Billy Zane, Hakeem Kae-Kazim, Sarah Wayne Callies, Barbara Soki, Fred Amata, Wyclef Jean, Nse Ikpe-Etim, Robert Peters, Mickey Rourke, Persia White, Vivica Fox, Enyinna Nwigwe, Anne Heche
Black November recounts the true story of the Niger Delta community’s struggle against their own government and a multi-national oil corporation.
"Am I supposed to collect bribe to be Nigerian?" – Ebiere
Magnificent picture, story, direction, performances
Could have had a stronger emotional pull
We hold these truths to be self evident that Black November strikes immediately as an emotionally compelling story that brings to the forefront a highly relevant political issue – the struggle in the Niger Delta.
There is no room allowed for guesswork in this movie, the writer gets that right out of the way by starting with a shot of the protagonist, Mbong Amata, locked in a shabby police cell with talks of her impending execution. The majority of the movie is set as a flashback as we explore the events in the life of our protagonist that brings her here.
The story revolves around a young Ebiere who does not seek the spotlight in this Niger Delta issue but is thrust into it when she refuses to be a pawn to the game of the elite after the death of her family members in a gas leak explosion. One would expect that a movie like this would be divided into two clearly distinguishable portions either Ebiere before the struggle and after, or Ebiere’s struggle and then her kidnap, but one major success of the writer was in creating a cohesive feel to the entire movie.
After the death of her family, Ebiere spear heads the revolution with her outspoken nature and her refusal to shy under pressure. The people naturally gather beside her and together they attempt to take forward the course. Ebiere seeks to change things with peaceful protests, however, Dede played by Hakeem is blood thirsty and these two philosophies inevitably collide at some point.
The strong suit of the movie is its cohesiveness as previously mentioned. The parts of the story flow into a cohesive whole with no parts sticking out. The cohesiveness of the story is however broken by the occasional actor here and there whose performance is not on par with that of the others. In ‘Black November’ even some of the star actors fell in and out of conviction more times than one. From Wyclef to Akon and Hakeem, there were moments where you’d hope that dedicated citizens who claim to have been ‘born and bred’ of the land would at least be able to properly pronounce the name of the protagonist.
Mbong Amata brings forth her most convincing performance till date in Black November. She did not give her character, Ebiere, many depths of emotions but the one emotion that was a constant for most of the scenes was suited well enough to the characterization that all else is nearly negligible.
The story does lose a significant aspect of its pull because it was not until the very end did I realize that this as much the story of Ebiere as it is that of the Niger Delta – if not more the former than the latter. This realization was lost because there was not enough focus on her as an individual. Yes, I do grant that only so much can be done in the length of a movie. However, I still hold that if the climax of the movie relies so strongly on a character then it might be important that the audience feels a stronger pull to that character. This again is a point were a stronger Mbong Amata as an actress would have been more than useful for soliciting some tears during those final sequences.
Having said that, the things done right were so marvelously impressive that every other negative aspect pales in comparison. The action sequences set in the United States and the rallies and fights set internally in Nigeria were so beautifully well done cinematographically and otherwise. The action directing in this movie is probably the best I have ever seen in a ‘Nigerian’ movie, even counting “Half of a Yellow Sun“. Kudos to the director for not shying aware from the action scenes and also not making so many of them that they become irrelevant and seem like a clutter.
In essence, Black November was a brilliant work of cinematography with an engaging and cohesive storyline that could have done with a little more character development for the protagonist.