First, the trailer sold it off as a feel-good movie, generally the type of movie that you want to have some popcorn and a drink and just reel in laughter.
It also had some of Nollywood’s favourites with a story that anyone who had passed through or heard about the NYSC program could relate with.
The trailer may not have entirely had a lot of people sold on it, but it definitely got people excited.
‘Up North’ is a story about Bassey Otuekong (Bankole ‘Banky W’ Wellington), a spoilt and rebellious heir who, as expected, believes life is a bed of roses.
To punish him and try to curb his excesses for a while, his father, Chief Otuekong (Kanayo O.Kanayo) decides to send him to Bauchi for his compulsory service year, preparing him to take over the company and humbling him in the process.
In Bauchi, Bassey finds friendship, love and a passion that burns deep, and as his father would say, make him into a man that he was never before. ‘Up North’ is Anakle Film’s debut feature-length film, in collaboration with Inkblot Productions and a runtime of about two hours.
It is not exactly an original piece of storytelling, given that we’ve seen films like Legally Blonde (2001) where the wealthy person has to go on a journey of self-improvement, often with the aid of a person, but it’s definitely a good effort.
It turns to the NYSC experience to bring it home, seeing as many young people dread this for obvious reasons.
If anything, it shows the service year in good light seeing as Bassey was reluctant at first, but then he ends up making a good friend in Sadiq (Ibrahim Suleiman) and finding love in Aminat (Rahama Sadau).
All that was left at this point, really, was for Bassey to finalize with a personal CDS project and get the accolades that come with it.
The film makes use of easy-breezy language to pass its message and you can see the effort to interject a couple of shady, and witty lines into the dialogue, which is very well appreciated.
Nonetheless, there are a couple of issues with the story, some that would have made the story appear better.
To begin, the love story between Aminat and Bassey seems so far-fetched especially seeing as there were no prior discussions or ground motive for it to be hinged on.
It would have been better for their love story to have a little bit of progression, something similar to what Sadiq and Aminat (Adesua Etomi-Wellington) had.
Also, at some point, it feels like everything was done in a rush, especially during the first few minutes of the movie.
It’d have been better to allow these things to play out and see how it goes. It may be a reach, but there had to be a reason why Chief Otuekong was referred to as 'Chief' by Bassey and his sister, Idara (Michelle Dede). I would have liked an explanation for this regard but we don't always get what we want.
Apart from the little loopholes in the story, 'Up North' came correct in every other way. This film is definitely also going down as one of the Nigerian films with the best scores ever.
It borrows songs like 'Bahd, Baddo, Baddest' by Falz, Olamide and Davido, 'Fresh Love' by Dinachi and 'Motherland' by Sound Sultan to a couple of original Northern themed pieces done by Gray Jones Ossai.
The film also boasts amazing location which is another winner in the grand scheme of events. It is shot predominantly in Bauchi, with a few shots in Lagos, and for the period of the movie, it does a good job of whetting your appetite enough to want to visit Bauchi.
It will also come in handy that the governor of the state, who makes a cameo in the movie, is very interested in exposing the tourism potential of his state, and Up North actively serves this purpose.
The acting in the film is pretty decent, from start to finish. With performances from a stellar cast consisting of Kanayo O.Kanayo, Hilda Dokubo, Michelle Dede, Adesua Etomi-Wellington, Rahama Sadau, Bankole Wellington and Ibrahim Suleiman, it’s not that hard to see why.
However, the star of the movie is easily Ibrahim Suleiman, who in his role as a sidekick is very able to bring all the words to life, through his actions and most importantly, his facial expressions.
The camera work is great and whether it’s an aerial view or a closeup one, it properly brings the viewers in to share in what is happening at the moment.
‘Up North’ is a beautiful movie and one that everyone needs to watch, especially filmmakers, because it’s a starter course in what strategic marketing should be like. It had its moments where it felt too much, but compared to what we see in the typical Nigerian films, we’d have this any day, any time.
It also serves so many purposes to various audiences and that really is the beauty of it. Apart from the tourist potential it serves and the rich culture and tradition, it also seeks to debunk the illusion that Northerners are generally illiterates and it does this so well. It is a visual delight, that is hilarious and entertaining.
‘Up North’ is directed by Tope Oshin and is out in the cinemas from 28th of December.
Written by Frank Ugobude