Many of the films made in Nigeria at the moment, are not available to their audiences. Many of the films people watch in Nigeria at the moment, were made years ago. That is why some critics still see Nollywood films as nothing to write home about. However, the critics are wrong. Some of these critics haven’t seen films like A Mile from Home, directed by Eric Aghimien. It is that break-away movie that transcends beauty, art and tranquility in understanding of perfection. It is a perfect work of art, from a perspective that one can argue on. It’s that film that tries to bore you, but never really bores you.
In this film, Lala, a young university student (played by the charismatic Tope Tedela) doesn’t know where he belongs, longs for acceptance from people around and loves his sister very much. On campus, he joins a gang, which Nigerians refer to as cultists and there is bloodshed. That bloodshed you think it’s happening around, you feel it is real. But my favourite character is not Lala. It is Suku, played by Chiedozie Nzeribe. It’s actually Suku’s character that drives the plot of the film. Just like City of God, A Mile from Home is a violent tapestry of life, painted with different colours. There are characters you would wish never existed in the film, but as you watch through this long lush narrative, you figure that every character is there for a reason. There is no one single moment of boredom in the film, even when it will appear so. For some reason, the language of the film is true to the characterisation and the entire body of the art work.
The only character one meets and feels a bit finicky about in the beginning, is the character of Deba, played by Eric Nwanso. But with time, slowly, you will begin to get used to him. At first, he is a bit annoying. Not because the actor didn’t play his role well, but because during the conversations between Deba and Lala, it looks like they are the only ones who exist in the university campus. Their dialogue is usually not really. Sometimes, it looks there is no chemistry between the two actors. It looks like they are scared of themselves. The viewer will get away feeling like Deba is scared of talking to Lala, even though we know he’s supposed to be younger; he is younger brother to Lala’s friend, but a little bit of tough rehearsal would have helped and offset, Eric Nwanso and Tope Tedela should have bonded to become real friends and then there will be some kind of connection in the film. For as long as I watched it, there was a distance. That somehow, took something away from the film. The fear which exists between Suku and Lala (because of the hate and betrayal already inside of them) is even forgivable.
Shot in University of Lagos, partly, the scenes where Deba and Lala talk are mostly irritating. They are alone. There are no birds, no goats. Even the statue in the background, somehow, appears out of shot sometimes. It looks like they are the only ones who are on campus. Even in sci-fi, there are still extras, people who make up the vibrancy of a setting; they are completely not the dream of this filmmaker. He is not interested in such. It’s very possible that he was in a hurry to make those scenes and that he didn’t want people to distract him, but it partly takes away the beauty of the film. In other films and works of art, we can see people walking around and if there is a reason for not having people around, in that scene, the film should explain. Was that a dream scene? Even so, we should know. This, we don’t know, hence the weakness of the directing, which is amply regrettable.
There are so many reasons to fall in love with the film. Sex is appealing to every one of us. We unconsciously love violence. Every scene in A Mile from Home adds to the story and is chronicled with something exciting. As the film stretches, we begin to meet new characters, more gunshots, more bloodshed and more rippling facts about humanity. As usual, the love story must tower around people who are in love with a particular girl and a brutal war must start because of that. There is also the perceived betrayal, which the writer tries so hard to justify, but that character of Suku is so lovable and endearing even when he decides to kill the entire universe. When Suku is killed, I died. When Suku weeps for the deaths of his men, I weep. There is something about that character that keeps the film going. On the other hand, Lala is the character who leads your heart back to emotions. The actor, Tope Tedela has done incredibly well and has shown that a popular face doesn’t really mean a great actor. Infact, the entire production is a suave piece of art that thrills you, amuses you and gets you caged.
A Mile from Home is a great film in every sense and can compete with films from different parts of the world, but the question remains, how many people have seen this beautiful work of art? Did you connect with it? At some point, you’d think there would be continuity issues and you figure that even the flashbacks are well-placed; the special effects awesomely done and then, we go back to our favourite character, Suku.
Suku’s character will remain in your head. When he shoots Don Lukas, after taking his supplies, you begin to admire him the more. There is a very vindictive Machiavellian attitude this character drives with to pull in empathy. There is an emotional connection between the viewer and the character. You will try to hate him, but his facial expression, his accent and the way he speaks, in that calmness and complete elegance. There are many like Suku in cults across Nigerian universities and every cultist who is tough like him, can always relate with him. His character is very believable. It is filled with action, the dialogue is taut and the storyline, even though it staggers at a point, gives you that chilling in the veins that something refreshingly new is happening in Nollywood.
If A Mile from Home doesn’t build a cult following just like City of God and Viva Riva!, it is because no one else saw the film. It’s that breezy, beautiful long film that you watch and then look at the watch and say, Did I just spend more than an hour now? It’s that beautiful, except that the director is one who is scared of using popular faces, but ends up doing something tangibly applaudable.
Onyeka Nwelue is award-winning author of The Abyssinian Boy (DADA Books, 2009) and Burnt (Hattus, 2014). He’s currently Professor of African Studies and Literature at Instituto d’Amicis, Puebla in Mexico.
The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author.