Lotanna, the debut film by producer Ifeanyi Ifan Michael has been years in the making and has survived a troubled shoot that involved multiple rewrites plus a cast and crew upheaval. The finished product surprisingly, has a pretty straightforward narrative.
As a child, Lotanna (Chris Okagbue) witnesses his beloved dad die after a contentious visit from a neighbourhood loan shark, Don Cleff. He grows up inheriting his father’s love for his music, plus a taste for the melancholy. Lotanna is sufficiently talented but the world has moved beyond his style of music, one that seems stuck in the past and consequently, he seems doomed to follow his father’s footsteps into musical obscurity.
The plot of Lotanna is a bit of a clutter as the film isn’t quite sure which genre it wants to play in; drama, thriller or black comedy. The producer and his director, Toka McBaror (who made the atrocious Bloggers Wife earlier this year,) pay more attention to style over substance and as such Lotanna is easier to look at than to engage in on any cerebral level.
The film is set in the seventies and the film does a good job of invoking the drama of that era, especially with the interior scenes. Cluttered living rooms, light filled sets and brightly coloured costumes help bring realism to the screen.
The actors, especially the nubile leads look great and are photographed well but they cannot quite back it up with stellar acting. Chris Okagbue in the title role has about two facial expressions for every emotion under the sun that he is going through. This oscillates between a bored stare and a pained look. There is very little heat between Okagbue and Ama K. Abebrese who is supposed to be his love interest and the bulk of it comes from a scene where both are in the buff.
The neighbourhood terror, Don Cleff soon shows up to collect on a debt Lotanna inherited from his father (Bimbo Manuel) and the young man and his willing sidekicks find themselves in a race to rid themselves permanently of the old terror.
Lotanna goes through the motions quite well, with each scene leading to another in correct sequence. The plot is propelled forward at a reasonable pace but there is something cold, calculated and cynical about the entire set up. It begins with Kemi Adesoye’s clinical script and continues through the director’s unwillingness (or inability?),- to showcase characters that audiences can warm up to. The entire experience of Lotanna is mechanical, in service of a story and too much attention is put into not messing it up that everyone forgot to make believe.
The visual effects, especially with the nailed hands do not quite have the desired effects and moments that should be terrifying manage to come across as just silly. The cast is star studded (Liz Benson-Ameye, Jide Kosoko, and Victor Olaotan) and while they are all competent, not a hint of passion is manufactured between all the big names.
Sometimes, movies assume relevance because they are decent. Some are bad but memorably so. Lotanna is a different kettle of fish. Its biggest drawback isn’t that it is bad,- there have been worse films to hit theatres of recent,- it is that the experience is almost entirely forgettable.