Lunch Time Heroes
Banke Adewunmi (Diana Yekinni) is deployed to Excelsior Academy, an elitist junior secondary school, as a corps member, but the condescending school authorities fail to assign her any responsibility. Circumstances arise and she is finally assigned a class, where she proves her brilliance through an extracurricular activity.
The three screenwriters – Diche Enunwa, Temitope Bolade and Seyi Babatope (who happens to be the film’s director too) – collaborate once again to write Lunch-Time Heroes, following the success of their first joint screenwriting effort: When Love Happens.
Lunch-Time Heroes is riveting and explores a genre, which is a rarity in Nollywood. Champions of our Time, ZR-7 – The Red-House 7, Cindy’s Notes, Without Love and Nightmare are among the very few resonant children, high-school and family films in Nollywood.
Champions of our Time won an award at FESPACO a few years ago. ZR-7 – The Red-House 7, a 2011 film by Udoka Oyeka and Femi Ogunsanwo, also won one or two awards. Without Love, a mid-90s film produced by Opa Williams made Samuel Ajibola popular in the 1990s as a child actor and stars Hilda Dokubo, Keppy Ekpenyong, Saint Obi, Gloria Young and Ayo Binta Mogaji. Nightmare, another mid-90s film produced by Zik Zulu Okafor, stars Onyeka Onwenu, Pete Edochie, Sandra Achums, Sadiq Daba and Charles Okafor. The film had a child actress whose name escapes me, but the child actress was said to have relocated to the US after featuring in a few other films.
It is actually Cindy’s Notes (2009) the third AMBO movie that shares some similarities with Lunch-Time Heroes, though each of the two films charts its own course. In both films, there is a corps member at the centre of it all; there are unruly students who must be taught and there are unhelpful school authorities the corps member must deal with. Save for these, both films are two separate stories with different premises and inferences. Cindy’s Notes is an Izu Ojukwu film; starring Clem Ohameze, Bhaira McWizu and Nonso Diobi.
Lunch-Time Heroes has a superlative script, one that is likely to win awards for best screenplay in several upcoming award ceremonies. Several of the film’s characters are three-dimensional: are intriguing, catch the audience’s attention and are, above all, believable.
Banke is not flawless; she is timid and subdued when she communicates with her colleagues, especially Mrs. Williams, the principal (Dakore Akande), but is lively when she talks with her housemates. The dialogue is witty and some of the mirror characters are not easily forgotten. Jeme (Ijeoma Aniebo) and Mr. Goke (Wale Macaulay) are quite funny. The strife and competition imminent in the workplace is demonstrated in an encounter between Ms. Uche and Mr. Ishola (Kenneth Okolie).
Irony is a dramatic element, which suitably finds a place in Lunch-Time Heroes. During Jeme’s exchange of notes with Banke, it is deduced that the former who is in a government school teaches more than the latter, who is in a private school. However, corps members in private schools are usually assigned more duties than their counterparts in government schools, but the circumstances under which Banke’s situation arises is understandable.
Secondly, isn’t it shocking that a rather prim and proper Mrs. Williams will be involved in the inducement of inspectors; the same money she claims is unavailable to do all the important things the school requires? Her true attitude is foreshadowed at the outset when she tastes the food Banke clumsily spills in her office.
The soundtrack by Capital FEMI is stimulating.
In spite of its numerous merits, Lunch-Time Heroes is not without inconsistencies. In a Junior Secondary School as prestigious as the Excelsior Academy, it is not possible to have just six academic staff because the students learn between 12 and 15 subjects. If the principal had asked that a meeting of the teachers involved in preparations for the competition be convened, one can understand why only 6 academic staff will turn up. That way, Banke would not have been invited, but when the principal asks for all academic staff to be summoned for the meeting, the viewer did not expect to see less than 20 teachers.
Banke should have dealt with the dean of studies in her bid to be assigned a class rather than always going back to the principal, but there was no dean. When Mr. Ishola asks the students not to disturb his sports practice, one wonders how the noise from a classroom can hinder an outdoor activity like sprinting. It would have been more appropriate if Ms. Uche or Mrs. Aduwo (Bikiya Graham-Douglas) had cautioned the students about their disturbance. More so, the noise in the classroom was not even audible enough.
The inscription on the shield was Governors Shield rather than Governor’s Shield. There were times Banke’s students did not sound preppy and very articulate. Even when students in private schools are poor in other subjects, their communication skills are usually enviable. So, why were the students not in their element at all times?
There are extraneous characters in the film. Two of Banke’s housemates would have been enough; Jeme and one other person would have sufficed. They were too many and there was no significance to many of the roles. Mr. Goke’s refusal to let go of the microphone after speaking to the media was awkward and silly rather than funny.
Having mentioned Champions of our Time, ZR-7 – The Red-House 7, Cindy’s Notes, Without Love and Nightmare, the producers of Lunch-Time Heroes now know that it is incorrect to say that this film is the first of its kind to be produced in Nigeria.
Much as the story of Lunch-Time Heroes is foreseeable, owing to the title of the film and the information on the promotional materials like the flyer, one nevertheless enjoys the journey that leads to the final destination.
Lunch-Time Heroes, an 87-minute motion picture, tells parents and teachers that a child may not be very brilliant academically; but may excel if his or her innate skills are given the chance to manifest. It is also a call on young people like Banke to look inward. Everyone needs to see this film.