You Should Watch ’76 (This is not a spoiler)
You should watch ’76. I’ll repeat that — you should get yourself to the cinema and watch a gorgeous piece of storytelling. A friend suggested we go to the movies to see the film. She was insistent. I wondered what the fuss was about. I’m not the biggest follower of Nollywood, and watching movies these days has become a drag. But I’m glad that I’m gradually building a taste for Nigerian movies, at least, if not for a need to follow Nigerian pop culture and storytelling forms, but to save myself from frequent embarrassment when foreigners ask me about Nigerian movies. I usually look lost and awkwardly wriggle myself from the conversations. (From my experience, foreigners ask more about our films than our books. I suppose the cognitive biases of social media and an echo chamber of the culture-intelligentsia suggest folks out there are into our books than our films. Well, I don’t think so).
You should watch ’76. I hadn’t seen the poster or anything that could hint at what the movie is about. I, in fact, looked confused when my friend said, “Let’s go and watch ’76.” (I thought my born-again, no-dirty-talk, Jesus-is-the-love-of-my-life friend was tryna joke about that glorious sexual position named after a number ;)). So, I didn’t make the connection that the story is about the skirmishes around the Dimka coup of 1976. In fact, it’s hard to decide what the movie is about. The coup is an obvious guess — there’s an enactment of Murtala’s assassination, but, as the story continues, one sees that it’s even more about a love story backdropped against a military event. It’s a triumph of storytelling how the coup became a canvas for a love story.
You should watch ’76 if you ever doubted the brilliance of Nigerian actors and production team. I’ll be quick to mention this — the story revolves around Ramsey Nouah whose performance is mostly sterling but his accented Nigerian-English, in some scenes, gets in the way of his performance. I don’t recall the name of the officer that prosecuted him but that man, that actor, is a brilliant man! All the actors are spot-on, even the extras!!!
You should watch ’76, if you haven’t watched Rita Dominic in action. I haven’t, until now. This lady is superb. Easily my favourite actor from the movie. She is everything a supporting actor should be, carrying the weight of a movie from the side with tamed gusto. Though she mostly plays the frustrated wife but she controls her performance far from the exuberance and overacting that one associates to Nigerian emotional scenes. The silly director or costume director, perhaps, noticing that there’s no sexual suggestiveness or kissy-kissy scenes decided to make it up by cupping Rita’s fine boobs somewhere towards the end of the film. They nicely showed up from under her ankara wrapper. You can’t miss them.
You should watch ’76, at least to see women’s strength when siding their husbands and their weakness in solidarity to themselves. There’s a contrast to Rita’s character, a neighbour’s lover who I think is supposed to be a hooker or a spoilt chic or whatever. She had sided her husband in a domestic brawl against Rita and Ramsey but when the story took a dark turn of both women confused about their husbands’ fates and Rita having a baby, they quickly bond on compassion. Don’t put men in that scene!
You should watch ’76, if you’re in love with the arts and culture of the ’60s and ’70s. In my opinion, those were the glorious decades of Nigerian arts and culture. It’s a triumph of production how the movie’s picture toned into nostalgia and the panoply of the era’s cultural elements. (About the coolest production of similar epic quality is the Star Beer commercial featuring Victor Uwaifo’s “Joromi”).
If anything should be said about the movie’s costume and picture team, it is that the team suffers from a perfectionism that makes them attend to every cultural element to the T! I even noticed a yellow, horse-patterned ankara fabric that my mum owned and that is older than me, same as some china plates with the thickness of a fitness tool.
You should watch ’76 because it is about strength and honour, and watch it because it is fine storytelling.
Or you should watch ’76, with a born-again friend so she or he can hear the unadulterated version of Victor Olaiya’s classic, “Baby Jowo”, not the equally cool but censored remix featuring 2Face. Abeg, if you must sing about oyàn, sing about oyàn!
Watch ’76 because it is history.