The multi-million naira film by Lancelot Oduwa Imasuen, Invasion 1897, is a thought-provoking historical film on the deposing of Oba Ovarhehem Nogbaisi of the Benin Empire by the British colonialists.
Oba Ovarhehem Nogbaisi is very powerful and his influence extends to Akure and other towns. Intrigues, betrayal and ambition lead to his ousting by the British administration hell-bent on instituting their supremacy through colonization.
Lancelot Imasuen justifies the huge resources invested in this film. The story is compelling, prompting reactions from the audience from time to time. The set by Iyen Agbonifo is spot-on. One imagines the creativity and effort that went into the erection of the numerous thatch and mud houses used in the film.
The guy, who plays Ovarhehem is convincing in his portrayal of a king. The established as well as new actors give very good account of themselves. The soundtrack by Mike Nliam is evocative of authentic traditional African music. The costumes are beautiful. Almost all the special effects are believable. The picture quality is lovely and the sound is impeccable.
The screenplay puts the viewer on the edge of his or her seat, hoping that Nogbaisi will triumph in the end. The story is told from the Oba’s point of view, arousing empathy and sympathy at the same time for him. The dialogue is replete with very deep African proverbs rendered with oomph by the actors; simply riveting. The dialogue is also written in the English of the Victorian era - impressive.
The scene where the British soldiers and Benin warriors have a confrontation and the almost simultaneous pronouncement of ‘Long Live the King’ and ‘God Bless the Queen’ is hilarious. The portrait of Queen Victoria in the office of the British administrator heightens verisimilitude.
Invasion 1897, above everything else, demonstrates the futility of bloody human conflicts and the sad fact that there are people, who will always join forces with the enemy to undo their kinsmen.
However, in spite of its merits, there is an observable flaw inInvasion 1897. A couple of the British actors did not perform well. In fact, one of them was almost reciting his lines, appallingly. The producers should revisit the film’s subtitle before it starts showing in the cinemas. Diligence and several other words were misspelt.
One expects that the artistic and cinematic success of Invasion 1897will surely lead to the production of other remarkable historical films. The excellence displayed by the producers of this film will expel the skepticism displayed by organizations that are keen on making endowments for film production in Nigeria. This is also a call for Public-Private Partnerships that will lead to the production of films, which will not only highlight our rich cultural heritage but will, also, tell our numerous untold stories.
If the 83-minute picture, which yours truly saw at the premiere, was quite interesting, then viewers will certainly be thrilled when the 2-hour version of the film hits the cinemas.
Reviewed by Amarachukwu Iwuala.