Review: ’76’ First Nollywood Film to Premiere at Both Toronto and London Film Festivals

The year is 1976 and Nigeria is on the brink of civil war. Some soldiers have decided to join the Dimka’s coup, inciting internal violence and unrest, leading to the eventual assassination of General Murtala Ramat Muhammed. After the coup is toppled and defeated, the accused are arrested and subjected to torture.
But when a soldier is wrongfully charged with being part of this rebel group, it becomes a race against time
to prove his innocence before he is inevitably brought to justice in brutal fashion.

76 uses this real historical tragedy as the backdrop to its main story, which focuses on the loving relationship between husband (Dewa) and his wife (Suzy), both eagerly looking forward to the birth of their first child. Dewa played by Ramsey Nouah is an officer in the Nigerian army, but when he meets up with his best friend and army compatriot Major Gomos played by Chidi Mokeme – Gomos tries to instigate Dewa’s recruitment into the rebel group. Emotionally divided by his moral values and dedication to his pregnant wife, Dewa becomes at odds with what he believes is right, and his friend’s strong influence over him.

The movie’s direction, however, seems to gravitate towards Dewa’s wife Suzy played by Rita Dominic whose naturalistic performance, embodies the plight of the Soldiers’ wives. Her worries, seem to magnify on a day to day basis whilst Dewa is away at the barracks, as she visibly struggles to deal with his absence.
This all comes to a head, when he is placed under arrest, and her fight to get her husband released, becomes a frantic and desperate affair.

With her family also disapproving of Dewa and their marriage she finds herself emotionally embroiled in a melting pot, that enhances her insecurities. This especially becomes prominent after the manipulative captain of the military police played by Adonijah Owiriwah, shines a torch on Dewa’s dark secretive past, implanting niggling doubts in Suzy’s mind, to force her hand in implicating her husband.

Filmed in Ibadan, Nigeria, 76 manages to capture the seventies decade, and all the themes associated with that era, with great aplomb. Everything is authentically presented, from the clothing style which was influenced by seventies American culture, to the army uniforms and weapons, even down to the vintage cars and music. It has an undeniable retro feel, and the frequent flicker of screen grain helps enhance its believability.

What’s extremely impressive though, is how the producers have managed to effectively produce such a coherent piece of work, at such a tight budget. Shot entirely with the Super 16 Arriflex, it took seven years to complete in total, but tonally, still manages to keep the atmosphere and feel consistently spot on, which is an impressive feat.

Overall this is a Nollywood Romantic Love Story, set during the socio-political backdrop of the Nigerian Civil war, that manages to show the purity and power of the love between two souls, tackling adversity at all costs – even in the face of death.

76 screened at the London Film Festival Saturday 15 October


Review by @JayWillBeMe