The burden of telling important stories usually burns in ways that tempt creatives to turn them without paying attention to the form. This is even more complicated if the important story is one of pain. In the process of emphasizing the importance, in ensuring the audience gets the emotions, the work is prone to turning into a cane in a teacher’s hand, beating the lesson into the student: it doesn’t work. This is the story of Udoka Oyeka’s short film No Good Turn.
No Good Turn is a film about the aftermath of a Boko Haram attack on a market, mosque and police station. Mutilated bodies dripping with blood are dragged through injured people, an image of gore that attacks the senses. Or it would if this were a different time, less saturated by images of war and pain delivered to our palms.
Oyeka’s film tries to make the audience closer to the war by offering a more human side to the war, but if the image of a village of corpses laid down dark and shrunk, or of parents crying on national TV holding up images of their kidnapped daughters isn’t potent enough to jolt imaginations in ways that preclude selective amnesia, then a film that explores the same subject is already starting with a handicap.
A doctor reaching for the bottle of wine, a policeman brandishing a gun in the face of the hospital staff in a torn uniform, same policeman getting a call from his daughter just as he’s about to make a decision in the height of emotions, all scenes that seem shot with the intention of eliciting an emotional response from the viewer but don’t quite manage to do so. The moment the camera pans from doctor to image of doctor’s wife on his table borders on being tacky.
A shot of blood being washed off the walls of the hospital shows the glimpse of the form that would have made the film achieve its intentions, but that is just a drop in an ocean of sentimentality. Telling the story of Boko Haram’s effect in the live of people is important, but the right style and medium must be found for that story if that story won’t disappear in this media-saturated age like a tweet that sinks down the timeline rapidly as we scroll.
by Ifeoluwa Nihinlola