The following films are screening as part of the Fantasia Film Festival, on through Aug. 4.
There are more films made in Nigeria than anywhere else in the world save for India. The Nigerian film industry (also known as Nollywood) generates about $10-billion in revenue every year, and yet I had seen precisely zero Nigerian films before C.J. ‘Fiery’ Obasi’s Ojuju. It’s hard to fathom exactly why the films made in Nigeria have been deemed so unexportable, especially when you consider that Ojuju gives the majority of North American low-budget horror films a real run for their money. This is pretty far from the gonzo, over-the-top DIY action that Fantasia has programmed with the Wakaliwood event; Obasi’s Ojuju combines Apatowian puerility and stoner hijinx with the tight genre structures of John Carpenter’s best films.
Romero (Gabriel Afolayan) lives a run-down slum area of Lagos, Nigeria — the neighbourhood only has one entrance, one exit and one (contaminated) water source. Romero plans to settle down with his pregnant girlfriend and stop messing around with his stoner pals Emmy (Kelechi Udegbe) and Peju (Omowunmi Dada), but things take a turn for the fucked when a local drug dealer is attacked by what originally appears to be a drunk guy but soon proves to be ojuju, a state of highly contagious rabies contracted by drinking the contaminated water.
What’s most impressive about Ojuju is the way Obasi’s authorial voice is clear from the get-go. Damn near anyone can make a low budget zombie movie (and scrolling all the way down the horror section on Netflix proves that way too many do), but few are making zombie movies (the word ‘zombie’ is actually never pronounced in the entirety of Ojuju) that feel like more than just reverent genre exercises. Sure, Obasi tips the hat here and there (the main character isn’t called Romero for nothing), but there’s also something fresh and exciting about the setting and the film’s surprisingly vulgar sense of humour (you’re not going to see a scene in which a woman tokes up while taking a loud shit in any of the Nigerian movies programmed at the MWFF, I think).
There’s more to Ojuju than just the rapid-fire pidgin English dialogue and discussions of the finer points of quality booty; it’s also an intense and well-made genre film. Apart from a flabby middle section that feels overly padded (a pretty common feature of low-budget horror), Ojuju is consistently engaging even when it treads familiar territory. (Alex Rose)
Ojuju is screening at the J.A. de Sève Theatre (1400 de Maisonneuve W.) tonight, Tuesday, July 21, 5:30 p.m.
When I heard that Mamoru Oshii’s Nowhere Girl was screening at Fantasia, I couldn’t help but feel a bit overexcited. The fanboy in me that fell in love with his cyberpunk masterpiece Ghost in the Shell at an early age was ready to relive the same experience of discovery and wonderment. As I put my critic’s cap on, I realize that I might have set the bar a tad too high.
Ai (Nana Seino) is a talented but timid young woman who attends an all-girl art school. Her skills are so important to the school principal that she is pretty much allowed to do as she pleases. She skips class, sleeps in the auditorium next to her secret objet d’art and throws temper tantrums. This obviously makes her unpopular with the other students who bully her as the school nurse and her sleazy teacher watch helplessly.
There’s clearly something wrong with Ai and her school. Some unknown past traumatic experience seems to trigger PTSD episodes in her, but it doesn’t explain her innate martial art skills, nor her hallucinations. There’s also the mysterious and constant earthquakes in the area that appear to be connected with her mood.
While Nowhere Girl’s imagery is pleasant enough, it is also surprisingly slow-paced. This is not the first time that Oshii has set long moments of introspection in his work, often giving into philosophical questioning — I will publicly admit that I’ve never been able to finish his very meta Talking Head. However, Nowhere Girl does feel gimmicky by the time the ending rolls around. It finishes with a huge, clumsy plot twist and there are 15 minutes of excellent action sequences sprinkled in there, but the payoff is disappointing.
If you arm yourself with patience and curiosity, you might enjoy Nowhere Girl. In itself, it’s far from being a terrible movie and it’s constructed quite similarly to any good episode of The Twilight Zone, but nothing more. (Emmanuel Delacour)
Nowhere Girl is screening at the Hall Theatre (1455 de Maisonneuve W.) tonight, Tuesday, July 21, 7:30 p.m.
The Master Plan
The Master Plan
The Swedish title of The Master Plan includes Jönssonligan, literally the Jönsson League in English, which refers to a popular series of goofy Swedish crime films that spawned eight titles from the ’80s to 2000. English-speaking audiences have probably never seen any of these, but it won’t lessen your enjoyment of this slick, sharp reboot directed by young Swede Alain Darborg.
Charles Ingvar Jönsson (Simon J. Berger) is a razor-smart criminal who’s always got a plan for stealing shiny, expensive cars with his old-school uncle Ralf. When they accidentally steal a laptop from Wallentin (Andrea Edwards), the CEO of some kind of mega-corporation, she sends her dirty cop henchman after them. After they kill his uncle, Jönsson swears revenge and begins his master plan, gathering a rag-tag bunch of criminals, from a loony alcoholic dynamite expert to a smooth-talking conman, to help him.
While there are still some quirky elements (mainly a visual gag involving a toilet), Darborg scales the oddball factor from the original series way down. This is a heist film of our time: fast-paced, stylishly filmed and with a plot development that really reminded me of Ocean’s Eleven (you think you know the plan, but actually…!). I was hoping for a bit more of that dark Scandinavian humour peppered throughout (like last year’s In Order of Disappearance), but I guess sometimes Swedes can also just have a light-hearted good time. This won’t break the mould for original storytelling, but it’s still hella fun. (Roxane Hudon)
The Master Plan is screening at the J.A. de Sève Theatre (1400 de Maisonneuve W.) tomorrow, Wednesday, July 22, 9:45 p.m.
Fantasia tickets can be purchased at Concordia’s Hall building (1455 de Maisonneuve W.) for $10 each, or online ($11 each), here.