I was looking forward to Shanty Town dropping on Netflix. But when it dropped, it wasn’t the movie I expected. It was a miniseries. Again. We saw “Glamour Girls”; we saw “Blood Sisters”; we saw “Far From Home”, etc., in episodic forms.
This is not always necessary. Maybe it carries some form of economic importance for the producers but in a country where the average movie lover is more on Netnaija than Netflix, I struggle to see the import of breaking a movie into a series of episodes.
And that is the first thing that went with “Shanty Town”
Shanty Town – The First Wrong Step
The length of the show is a problem. The events of the movie happened in about two weeks or less, not including the epilogue, of course, but somehow, they made it go on forever without making it not look like it’s forever.
“Shanty Town” at best, at a stretch, should be 90 to 100 minutes long. But we saw around 250 minutes. And the problem with this is that there are unnecessary fillers.
Dialogues that go round and round. Scenes that refuse to end even when the point (s) has/have been made. Unnecessary display of colour, emotions, and sexuality – anything to occupy the time.
And this is not the only thing they got wrong.
Other Mishaps in The Show
The storyline feels so confusing and cumbersome. The character of Ini Edo is a government agent whose sister is a prostitute that is presumed dead. Somehow, she only learns about her sister after her sister goes to prison. Somehow, the sister is dying of cancer. Somehow, the punishment for drug pushing (or what took her to gaol) becomes two years. Somehow, there is zero motivation on the part of Scar to treat the returnee with suspicion despite her kicking the ass of the number 2 guy and money missing.
Too many somehows.
Remember, too, the somehow of Nancy Isime’s character not checking on her bestie who just left with her freedom and not even opening her Whatsapp voice note abi voicemail (who sends voicemail in 2023?) for weeks.
There is also the somehow of trying to use “touch and follow” for Femi Hernandez then abandoning it and deciding to use force and kidnap even though Her Excellency, the governor of Lagos State, Shaffy Bello, has expressly ruled out the route.
The fight scene at the end had me fast-forwarding the show. It wasn’t somehow; it was poor.
And don’t forget the somehow of Peter Okoye’s character who lives in Lagos but thinks his father is a saint. However, when pressured to give his father up (whose big man son would try this nonsense in this country when he is not mad?) he finds the clip of his father abusing a “call girl”.
And that brings us to the characterization.
Characterization of Shanty Town – Who worked and who bombed?
Peter Okoye as Femi Hernandez didn’t work. As the guy is Obidient, I refuse to analyze his acting beyond just revealing to you that it didn’t work – I feel dirty already (Get a bath ready for me, sweedy).
The character of Jackie played by Mercy Eke is a goal. I didn’t know that this reality star could act – where have you been? She was really brilliant and I was sorry to see her leave.
Chidi, Chidi, Chidi Mokeme (how many times did I call you?) is the star of the show by a long mile. Where RMD was struggling to play bad boy and Shaffy Bello was told that a badass woman is by laughing like a teenager in a funny room on 2go, Chidi Mokeme held his own.
His glare, the venom in his voice, the way he walked, the red-hot energy, his use of Yoruba (and Igbo that one time) with ease called for a stool, at the not-so-proverbial fireside, to sit, to watch, and to marvel.
The fact that people are amazed at the performance of this old star is a testament to the fact that people do not remember the Old Nollywood and the people who crawled so that Nancy Isime and Deyemi and co. can shine on the big screen and streaming apps.
Chidi Mokeme was a bad guy who ran shows on cassettes and CDs. He and Hank Anuku. And Sam Dede. And Pat Attah. And Emeka Ike.
While Ramsey Nouah and Jim Iyke made the transition into the big screen in Lagos, the other guys were slow in doing the same – Mokeme’s appearance in Izu Ojukwu’s brilliant “76” (forgotten?) did not follow up with more well-known numbers.
Here is how I would rank the performance of all the other main characters.
Ini Edo: Above average.
Nancy Isime: Average (except in the African Zombie mixture scene where she was a delight to watch).
Nse Ikpe-Etim: Brilliant (despite walking on the rails of being put in the box of playing madame).
Shaffy Bello: Poor.
Sola Sobowale: Average.
Ali Nuhu: Just there.
Uche Jombo: Odiegwu.
Zubby Michael: Above average.
If I left any star out, it wasn’t intentional. Their names and acts just slipped by. And if your act slipped by in a 6-episodic show, then perhaps it’s not my memory, it’s your role/acting.
How would you rate Shanty Town?
It is a good show. Not earthshaking but ticks many pastime boxes. I find, most interesting, the feature of Ibibio language in the show. You know Nollywood’s hitherto claim to culture resolved around Igbo, Yoruba, and, to a smaller extent, Hausa. The so-called major languages.
The so-called minority languages have not been featured at all, enough in the new Nollywood. This is why I considered Mercy Johnson’s “The Legend of Inikpi” a missed opportunity. She had the opportunity to show us the beauty of the Igala language and she threw it Niger.
This is the new Nollywood and there is nothing new if culture is defined in the Igbo-centric nature of Old Nollywood or the Yoruba-centric nature of Wale Adenuga Productions. Ibibio, Ijaw, Urhobo, Igala, Idoma, Efik, Birom, Itsekiri, etc. are the future of Nollywood.
Africa Magic/MultiChoice knows this as we saw with “Ajoche” set in precolonial Idomaland and “Riona” set in ancient Itsekiri.
I will rate “Shanty Town” 5/10. One extra point for its Ibibio sense and half a point extra for the brilliance of Mokeme. 6.5 seems a big score for a show I will not watch again.
It is what it is.
Image source: Netflix