In a video uploaded on Youtube that has since gone viral, singer Waje expressed her intentions of pulling her focus away from music to explore other money-making opportunities. From the discussions she had in the video, it was pretty clear that financial motivations were at the heart of this bold decision. As she lamented, her kid’s school fees must be paid and she is simply tired of pouring personal funds into a venture that is still not yielding adequate returns.
Financial concerns are a valid reason to create art- or life decisions for that matter- but when they are the fore front of every consideration, it becomes more difficult to rise above petty limitations or stray beyond the confines of what is considered safe or acceptable by the widest swathes of audiences.
Not that She Is, Waje’s film producing debut- a venture she’s made alongside her soul sister, Omawumi- can be considered art by any generous terms of reference. Okay, film regardless of form or genre is inevitably a construct of art simply because it exists but you get the idea. Unwieldy, clumsy and borrowing its central premise from every Nolly drama ever made, She Is commits the film crime of cloning the premise of the future classic rom com, Isoken– unmarried single lady who has approached a certain age- but leaving out the charm, thoughtfulness and vibrancy that made Jadesola Osiberu’s 2017 film so pleasurable.
Somkele Idhalama is Frances, a thirty something year old successful career woman whose biggest sin in the conservative society she has chosen to operate within is that she has yet to bring home a man to her serially married father (Ejike Asiegbu).
Frances spends all of her unofficial hours in church, heading the single committee while hoping the hot and eligible young pastor (Ray Emordi) would so much as glance her way. He sees her alright, but in the way that clergy men tend to see desperate people who flock to church hoping for one miracle or the other; as a means of filling one pressing need or the other in the church, all according to God’s plan. This one even has the nerve to ask her to plan his own wedding. What will a single youngish woman not suffer through? Cue the insensitive banter from friends and family and the crossing of personal space boundaries all in the name of genuinely worrying.
In a bid to give the plot some badly needed momentum, the screenplay, credited to Doris Ariole, introduces some dodgy gynecological set up that manifests as Frances, a seemingly put together women spotting menstrual blood in public. While the bold sight of menstrual blood placed unapologetically onscreen could have meant something subversive in a better film, She Is doesn’t know what to do with it beyond setting up some cheap laughs and having a doctor dispense advise shifty medical advice.
Because of this situation, Frances officially moves from single and happy to mingle, to single and desperately searching. No prizes for guessing that in the heat of this desperation, Frances is going to kiss many frogs before she finds her true love. Isn’t that the point of films like She Is? In any case, Frances auditions a series of hopefuls, among them, the philanderer, the physically abusive one who masks his ugliness behind a Bible, the polygamist who wants to add her to his harem, the Frank Donga type character played by Kunle Idowu, and the one with whom she is eventually required to settle down with.
To make the predictability of these characters worse, all of them are played by the usual Nollywood suspects, complete with compulsory catch phrases in one instance. Where last year’s Seven and a Half Dates was content in schmoozing in this territory, She Is’ main agenda goes a little further, advocating the concept of having it all for women, especially the upwardly mobile ones who have some means.
Men are scum and terribly overrated. The world is a changing so why wait for men to do stuff that you can get around to purchasing yourself. This message is welcoming enough but She Is fails to fleshen it out in any way that hints at rigorous thought. She Is also fails to dive deep into the realities of assisted reproduction, abandoning what would have made a richer film experience for boring jokes and cliched societal observations.
Obviously Waje and Omawumi are not coming into the film industry to change the game and no one expects that from them in their debut outing as producers. But one expects competency and at least some excitement. The beast of movie making is a different territory entirely. With music, both ladies have brought inventiveness and an uncompromising attitude to their work at various times. Omawumi’s last album, Timeless ditches the safety of pop and embraces Jazz standards. Waje’s latest Red Velvet isn’t exactly made for today’s Top 10 radio. Together they have shown courage and some unwillingness to compromise their vision. It is surprising that that for film, they turn around and do the one thing they have chosen not to do with their music, be dictated to by commercial instincts. But perhaps that is the point of Waje’s rant. A new and realistic way of doing business may have been birthed.
She Is may find its audience but Waje and Omawumi would never do the music equivalent of She Is.
Or at least they haven’t done so yet.