O.C. Ukeje, Adesua Etomi, Sola Fosudo, Ireti Doyle, Somkele Iyamah, Beverly Naya, Gregory Ojefua
‘The Arbitration’ tells the story of Gbenga (O.C Ukeje) and his employee Dara (Adesua Etomi) who had an affair. After the affair ended and Dara left the company, she sued Gbenga and accused him of rape. An Arbitration panel was constituted to find out the truth.
Chinaza Onuzo, Zulu Oyibo, Omotayo Adeola
In the first few minutes of “The Arbitration” the audience is introduced to the central premise of this film – a powerful boss uses his position to coerce an employee into having sex with him. At this point I began to think, “oh what great timing!” Especially in light of the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements that are taking over social media. Then barely 10 minutes in the movie, it turns into a ‘Suits-style’ drama and then I realized why it was hard to sell this movie to the common man. Nigerian’s don’t like to think with movies, and I myself had to rewind a few times to make sure I didn’t miss anything.
I’ve said for a few other nollywood movies before that ‘the story’ was the strongest part of the storyline and that said writer needed to be praised for that work. I don’t completely take back that statement but I would like to apologize for subconsciously insulting Nigerian writers. Those stories prior were great because of the buildup and the chemistry between the characters, however, The Arbitration is not just great for that reason only but also for the actual content. The narrative involves a steep dive into business and business management as it were, and the writer manages to weave it into the storyline so well that even in the scenes without a flashback the audience’s investment is solid.
The tagline of this story is that there are three sides to every story. So you get the vibe that at each point each character would be made to appear as the villain – “was she really raped?” “Is he truly a rapist?”. By the end, however, that effect is not a hundred percent achieved. In fact, it is probably only 2-5% of the time that you begin to waver about who the true victim is here. The charm is not as advertised, it’s not because anyone could be the villain.
Instead the charm is in a completely different storyline. It’s in the intricacies of the business, it’s in the relationship between the two, it’s in their characterizations. To state it simply, the charm of this movie is watching how Iwaju grows and how the relationship between the two lead characters develop over time. In fact one could argue that the entire court proceeding isn’t even about rape, it is more so about a rightfully disgruntled and unjustly removed employee trying to get her due.
The movie is not without it’s faults. The biggest and the most obvious would be it’s tendency to loose the audience. I imagine that this would have been a frustrating movie to watch at the theater because even with watching it completely alone in a quiet place, I had to rewind numerous times to make sure I caught everything. I can only imagine the torture of watching it with people interrupting you with their movie-time-dialogue and the popcorn sounds. The movie did tend to get a bit heavy and quick on the jargon such that when you miss it, you’ve missed an important part of the story and there’s no spoon feeding here.
The film has a steady pace. However, it’s a pace that’s not for everyone. 30 minutes into the movie and it felt like I had already been watching it for an hour but at no point did I feel the need to give up. The pace picks up somewhere around the introduction of Chijioke’s character and holds strong till the end.
In the end, there’s that well shot music video look-a-like of a montage that’s inserted at the end and called “the truth” but to be honest I didn’t really care much for it nor did I understand it. I was eagerly waiting for the moment when the writer would attempt to appeal to our usual nollywood mentality (you know the type where the bad guy is obvious) and end it by saying that it was all pre-planned but I was glad that it never came.
It would be hard to appreciate this movie without the actors. The biggest compliment to the actors is that they created an atmosphere where the audience could be lost in the story being told – every single one of them.