The format of the modern romantic comedy is well known: the meet-cute, the teasing period, the alignment of the stars, the rise of obstacles/fall of obstacles, the happy ending.
But these seemingly formulaic stories still get told because we love them, and because they’re an easy way into a culture, both to celebrate it and subvert it. And these two cultural goals are evident in Femi Odugbemi’s Gidi Blues.
The meet-cute that opens Gidi Blues occurs in Idumota with a bag snatching and a knight in shining amour—or James Bond/Robin Hood as he’s referred in the film—Akinola, going after the bag of Nkem who is shopping in the market with her friend, Simbi. All the contrivance that is required to make a meet-cute work is deployed here, for Lagosians know you don’t chase robbers into empty buildings in Idumota.
Akinola Kuti is a thirty-year-old man who lives off his mother with his philandering friend, Jaiye, while Nkem is an event planner in business with her partner, Simbi. Gidi blues is a story of the love between Akin and Nkem, but Jaiye and Simbi also have a dedicated love-arc of their own that involves cat-fishing, a familiar trope in this age of love via social media. Gidi Bluesembraces the time perfectly, with a lot of conversations done via mobile phones, images of the laptop screens on Facebook pages, hovering text bubbles etc. Odugbemi’s film is the story of modern love in Lagos.
If the plot is of romance, the cinematography is a love-letter to the islands of Lagos. Almost every scene cuts-off to an image of Lagos, either at night or in the day: sweeping vistas, time lapse images etc. From the Lekki-Oyi Bridge to Makoko, the Lagos of Gidi Blues is colourful and bright and filled with beautiful people. The director has made his desire to eschew poverty porn known, but there are extremes to this attempt at an aesthetic counter-narrative. When parents, who live with him in Makoko, take a child with a defective heart to an uncluttered hotel with clean design, I wondered about the limits of this attempt to paint a beautiful Lagos.
There’s been much chatter about the feminist (or anti-feminist) nature of Gidi Blues. Indeed, Gidi Blues isn’t a feminist tour-de-force, but the director is aware of the nature of the world he’s portraying and tries as much as possible to invert the norm. As a matter of fact, the places where it is accused of being anti-feminist are the places where it tries to present an image of women outside familiar tropes. Nkem is shown to be a woman with a direction in life, self-aware and responsible, in the process, she becomes a woman built to make a man right. Carmen, the pastor’s child who is planned as Akin’s fiancée is called a tramp in the movie, this is in posturing her as a girl who isn’t shy of embracing her sexuality. There’s little that can be done with these, as a wholly feminist movie has to emerge from an imagination unmoored from the patriarchal realities of Nigeria, either by experience, or a rigorous unlearning.
Gidi Blues, in its attempt at telling a romantic comedy very rooted in Lagos yet more progressive side in its humanity, excels even in places where it falters. For a movie posturing as the quintessential Lagos love story, that’s good enough.
by Ifeoluwa Nihinlola