From 'Wives on Strike' to 'Goodwill Hunting' here's what the Nigerian filmmaker is watching while stuck at home in Lagos.
Kayode Kasum, like most filmmakers, has been stagnated by the coronavirus pandemic. The director behind the blockbuster Sugar Rush and the critically acclaimed Oga Bolaji was working on the post-production of his upcoming movies, The Fate of Alakada: Party Planner and Kambili—a collaboration between FilmOne Entertainment and Chinese Huahua Media— when the Nigerian government announced the lockdown order.
While post-production on Alakada has concluded, the stay-at-home orders have delayed work on Kambili. "Since the team cannot meet at a single point, we are moving hard drives left and right," he says to me over the phone from his home in Lagos. "It is a challenge, but the beautiful thing about a challenge is, when you make it work, it is fulfilling."
Still from 'Kambili'
Kasum has turned to books and films for an escape from the unpleasant realities of the pandemic. "I have been reading Elnathan's books: Born on a Tuesday and Becoming Nigeria," he tells me. "I have also been reading film directing books, Directing Actors by Judith Weston." However, Kasum longs for the movies. "I miss going to the cinemas; I miss that experience," he says. "There are times during this pandemic that I'm like 'na wa o, I wish I can go to the cinema.'"
Below are five films he recommends you watch during this pandemic.
Birds of Passage (2018, directed by Ciro Guerra and Cristina Gallego)
Plot: This epic crime drama explores the origin of the Columbian marijuana trade through an indigenous Wayuu family, who are dragged into a drug war that put their culture, lives and ancestral traditions at risk.
Kasum's notes: "It is one of those films that go back in the past to talk about the [origin] of the distribution of marijuana. It is the type of film that I like, films about real-life people. I like movies that do not come across like "oh, you are watching a film." It comes across like you are documenting somebody's life.
The directors and screenwriters found a way to fuse culture and history. You don't know where the movie is going for the first one hour, but when you are finally in, it takes you to a whole different world. The action and fight are very realistic; somebody shoots, and there is no fast-pace cut. It is like the camera is a fly on the wall and you are in the film.
Watch on Amazon.
Bacurau (2019, directed by Kleber Mendonça Filho and Juliano Dornelles.)
Plot: Following the death of its matriarch, Bacurau, a small fictional town in Brazil, starts to witness strange events, including its sudden nonexistence.
Kasum's notes: "It is about a mysterious event in a small town, and for the first twenty minutes, you are immersed in the culture of the town. It is so realistic—similar to Birds of Passage—and you feel like you are in the town and become familiar with the people in the town. You know who sells what, the leaders of the town, you know who has guns. It is set up beautifully.
"For a small moment, they found out that they are not on the map, and this innocent, quiet drama slowly turns into an action-horror flick. Two motorcycle riders come into the town for a drink—they are members of a group of crazy people who just want to shoot people alive for points, it's like a game—but this small town you think is sweet fights back and kill everyone, and life returns to normal."
Watch on Amazon.
Wives on Strike (2016, directed by Omoni Oboli)
Plot: A group of market women embarks on a sex strike to get their husbands to tackle social issues like child marriage.
Kasum's notes: "I'm late to the Omoni Oboli train. I gave myself the challenge to watch Nollywood films on Netflix, and I watched Wives on Strike and I kept asking myself, "why wasn't this film one of the top films of the year it was made?" It is such a good film; the characters are real – they aren't designed just because it is a film – they are characters you can relate to. The film made me respect Oboli more as a producer and director.
"The movie does two things: it makes you laugh and also passes a message. Also, I like that it focuses on lower-class Nigerians and the everyday problems they face. I appreciate the film's authenticity and use of pidgin. I think it was a ballsy move, and if it were shot last year, it would have been the selection for the Oscars."
Good Will Hunting (1997, directed by Gus Van Sant)
Plot: Will Hunting is a janitor and genius mathematician who can solve any mathematical problem thrown at him but must turn to a psychiatrist to beat his inner demons.
Kasum's notes: "It was great to see Robin Williams again. It is not a new film. I like how the director shot the main character, which is Matt Damon's character. He picked a boy that does not fit in, and in two hours, he found a way to make us understand the character and fit him in. I do think it's basically who everybody is, we are just trying to find our place and fight our fears.
"It was pleasantly written. Every single character had an arc and knew what they were fighting for. It is a film that's more character-driven with less emphasis on production values. In Nollywood, we tend to think about production values first, but for that film, it was a well-balanced effort on production design and characters. The director did a great job introducing us to the character in the first forty-five minutes, you know who the character is, and you want him to win, but he doesn't want to win, so you are more interested in his life, and when you find out why towards the resolution, you kind of see yourself in that space.
Road to Yesterday (2015, directed by Ishaya Bako)
Plot: A couple goes on a road journey to save their failing marriage.
Kasum's notes: "I think it's a very different Nigerian drama. It starts slow, but it's worth the watch. The pace was different, Nollywood audience like our films to have a fast pace and if you notice in cinemas, the audiences are like "oh what's happening here?" I think it is in Nigerian culture; we want to collect the information and move on fast—we are always in a hurry.
"Ishaya Bako was brave to reduce the pace in directing and editing, and he gave us time to understand the characters, their relationship and how they have grown. And the actors—Genevieve Nnaji and Oris Erhuero—did an excellent job because when you watch them in the past, it was obvious they were naïve and just falling in love. When you watch them on the road, you can see the growth, and this was not done with dialogue, but with mannerism and acting. So that's why I said it is different from the usual Nollywood drama; our pace is take it take it, but Road to Yesterday was slow, and it was worth the watch."
Watch on Netflix.