Lasun Ray has made a career out of producing and directing Yoruba film titles such as Ejika and Asiri Owo.
As the son of iconic filmmaker, Adeyemi ‘Ade Love’ Afolayan, director, Kunle, comes from that same line of indigenous filmmakers. Before he made the ultimate crossover with The Figurine (Araromire)- shot in English and Yoruba-, Kunle Afolayan had cut his teeth in the Yoruba sector of the industry, acting and directing films like Irapada.
It makes sense that The Bridge is the project to bring both men together in 2017. Lasun Ray who conceptualized the story, probably imagined it as a high concept affair, beyond the modest means of his limitations, sticks to producing responsibilities. Afolayan on the other hand is presently in the director-for-hire stage of his career, having made four films of his own between 2009 and 2016.
Coming off a three picture deal with television giants Africa Magic that has had him swing wildly between comedy (Omugwo), and drama (Roti, The Tribunal), Afolayan rounded up 2017 with The Bridge.
It is easy to see why Afolayan would be attracted to this project.
At its heart, The Bridge is a love story, a sub-genre in which Afolayan clearly has had experience making. See his 2012 romantic comedy, Phone Swap, about a boy, a girl, and a phone swap. But beyond that, The Bridge is also a meditation on the ways that human beings create conflicts for themselves all in service to traditions that have pre-dated them.
This is a theme that has shown itself consistently in Afolayan’s work. Irapada was about one educated person’s struggles with an ancient custom. The Figurine tested the limits of credibility and swung a pendulum between fate and faith. October 1 subtly placed the blame for Africa’s stunted growth on the doorsteps of the colonialists. In the film’s jaundiced estimation, the motherland was a virginal landscape until the big bad colonialists came with a bag of sins containing homosexuality, rape and murder.
The Bridge presents a familiar challenge. A young, handsome pilot in training, Obadare (Demola Adedoyin) who happens to be the crown prince of Shapati, a Western village still steeped in ancient tradition despite the elements of modernity sprouting up around. Obadare is in love with Stella Maxwell, played by singer Chidinma who makes a convincing debut big screen appearance.
Stella is an Igbo medical doctor practicing in Ilorin, Kwara state, where she meets and falls in love with Obadare. Her father, Dominic (Zack Orji) is a domineering figure who has his own plans for how his only child should live out the rest of her life. Naturally, they do not include Obadare, or any person born of his tribe.
The lovers make several unsuccessful attempts to convince their parents to warm up to their romance. They then take matters into their hands and things quickly escalate, in ways no one foresaw, leading to tragic consequences for everyone concerned.
The Bridge isn’t peak Afolayan, so anyone holding out hope for a return to form for the director might as well perish them now. Having said that, the story carries a lot of promise and with more thorough input, could have been considered a worthy accompanying document to The Figurine. Instead, it falls into territory that isn’t so prestigious, perhaps an inferior knock off, containing elements that have decorated the director’s best work.
There is a sense of mystery that pervades the film but the director and his writer, Sola Dada, are not able to convincingly break down the film in such a way that it works as a thriller. Despite solid performances by the cast who do well enough with the material that is handed to them, The Bridge isn’t able to rise above Nollywood melodrama. The story fails to explore in detail the complicity of the supernatural in the affairs of man and the film suffers heavily for this cop out.
Technically, the film is sound and the name Afolayan should ideally attract a certain level of quality control to a project. However by the end, things get sloppy, especially with the scene where a coffin is being dug up from the grave. It gets worse with the unnecessary emoting and obvious dialogue that makes up the film’s final act.
This quest for some sort of audience pleasing ending is ill advised and makes it near impossible taking The Bridge seriously.
Read other reviews by Wilfred Okiche