In 2018, allegations of sexual harassment by many men in high positions became rife in media reports and the year has been tagged the #MeToo year.
A lot of discussions centered on issues of sexual harassment and abuse of power. Since then, there has been more awareness around the world. Nigeria even had its #MeToo moment in the same year when an audio recording of a lecturer demanding sex for grades leaked on the Internet. The University Teacher, Professor Richard Akindele of the Obafemi Awolowo University was eventually tried and jailed for his impropriety.
A year after, Nigerian filmmaker, Kunle Afolayan joined the #MeToo trend through his art by returning to the same University to shoot a movie about sexual harassment in Universities.
The movie, Citation can be read as a tribute, as it bears a lot of resemblance with the story of Monica Osagie and it is noted as ‘based on real events.’ Even though the event it is based on is unknown, sexual harassment is ubiquitous. This brings to mind in some way, the case of Monica Osagie.
The movie tells the story of Professor Lucien N’Dyare, a popular whiz kid who has taught in several universities across the world. He is in the University on an exchange program and he meets Moremi, a young graduate student he tries to trick into a sexual relationship. Professor Akindele in real life was also a respected pastor and his relationship with Monica began when she helped him edit his book, just like Moremi’s relationship with Lucien began when she taught him how to drive manual transmission.
Perhaps, the most striking similarity in the 2 cases is the use of Professor Akindele’s actual Faculty in the movie. The University most likely used the movie to redeem its image and emphasise its zero tolerance for sexual harassment. The deliberate attempt at showing the beauty of the University makes this obvious. Every part of the University was shown and there are attempts at reality with the use of the University’s actual adjudication room and other facilities.
The movie gives a glimpse into Monica’s life and shows what she must have gone through in that period being the face of anti-sexual harassment campaigns everywhere. The role of NGOs and other feminist institutions in fighting sexual harassment is also x-rayed in the movie and Moremi became uncomfortable with the publicity. There is also the role of the woman who does not ally with her fellow woman, played by Ini Edo. Allyship is problematized and degendered with the support of the men around the victim.
With a star studded cast, Kunle Afolayan outdid himself and showed again that he has the access to put many internationally acclaimed actors together on a project. The lead role is played by Temi Otedola, who delivered in her acting debut. Ibukun Awosika, Nigerian Businesswoman and Board Chairman of First Bank also makes her acting debut in the movie and she is perfect for the role she is given.
Professor N’Dyare is played by Jimmy Jean-Louis and there are minor roles by popular actors like Sadiq Daba, Joke Silva, Ropo Ewenla, and Yomi Fash-Lanso; A-list actors themselves. Also, fast rising star and graduate of the University, Bukunmi Oluwashina is featured in the movie, a role that she acted perfectly.
A bit of town and gown is shown with the casting of Dr. Toyin Bifarin-Ogundeji, a Professor of Dramatic Arts. Afolayan himself makes a cameo as a brother to his real life brother, Gabriel Afolayan, an impressive technique.
The crew is also perfect and noteworthy is the inclusion of Pat Nebo as Art Director. Nebo is perhaps Nollywood’s most important but unsung legend as he has been in the industry for decades. Also notable is Tunde Babalola who wrote the screenplay. This movie’s excellent screenplay has now proven that Afolayan and Babalola are screen soul mates. Afolayan’s attention to details is shown in the masterful use of flashback. The events are well chronicled and they re plausible despite the risky use of flashbacks. The colour grading of the movie is also indelible and the dialogue is perfect.
The movie also follows an increasingly popular trend of making global movies with its use of many locations. There are scenes shot in Cape Verde and Senegal to tell the story better. The use of 3 languages also makes it appeal to both Anglophone and Francophone countries. Perhaps this signals the future of Nollywood, globalisation and cross cultural conversations within Africa and the African Diaspora.
However, the movie could have been shorter than that. The 151 minutes is too long for the story as a lot of it could was unneeded. Only thing that rescued the unnecessary length is Kunle Afolayan’s ability to hold people’s attention for long.
Also, Moremi’s trip to Dakar opened the story’s denouement and further proves why activism requires money. Without the ability to travel to Senegal on her own to meet Mr. Cardosa, Lucien might have won the case. This shows the need for more structured platforms for fighting sexual harassment.
The ultimate #MeToo moment came when many women reached out to Moremi’s counsel from multiple countries. Lucien’s academic qualities could not save him and this signifies that the time of reckoning will come for every abuser.
“Ayọ̀délé Ìbíyẹmí is a lifetime student of Literature. He is also a reader who writes occasionally. For him, words are what makes the intractable world livable. Ayo tweets at @Ayo_eagles. He was a Wawa Book Review Young Literary Critics Fellow and won the 2019 Ken Saro-Wiwa Prize for Book Review.”