“In a few years, people won’t be talking about Hollywood or Bollywood or Nollywood; people will be talking about Sollywood in Sierra Leone,” said Jimmy Bangura (aka Jimmy B), director and writer of the highly-anticipated film, Aminata.
On the maiden preview of the movie Aminata, copies of the movie were auctioned off for a grand total of Le 11.4m.
The movie which is a Paradise Films production was launched at the Miatta conference hall on Saturday, where musical guests The Jungle Leaders and Breeze also performed.
It is the first Sierra Leonean rural-urban movie to have a combination of Sierra Leone’s greatest dramatists in the likes of: Dennis Streeter, Bobson Kamara (Deputy Mayor of Freetown), Miatta French, T.J. Cole, Dr. Julius Spencer, and Ernest Brewah.
Secretary to the President, Sampha Koroma bought the very first copies of the movie during the auctioning at 4million Leones.
Like a rough diamond, Jimmy B’s production of Aminata, while raw and not yet polished, shows plenty of potential and gives people something to be excited about for the future of the Sierra Leonean movie industry.
Broken up into two parts, the first half of the film is much like the slow, ascending climb of a roller coaster; the plot progresses calmly while developing the many intriguing characters: The laid-back, downright goofy father, Pa Kelfala (played by Deputy Mayor Bobson Kamara), the diligent and passionate mother (Miatta French), the seditious and ever-controlling chief of the village – Chief Adikali Momoh III (TJ Cole), the young, hopeless romantic, Philip, and, of course, the curious and vibrant Aminata (played by newcomers James Sesay and Aissatou Bah).
Aminata, a young girl from a poor village and even poorer family, yearns to go to school and pursue a more ambitious future, but is constantly told by her parents and teachers that, as a woman in their society, she will never be able to do so. The only one who believes in her is Philip, a young, educated boy from the city, whom Aminata meets one day by chance on her way back to her village.
Philip and Aminata quickly fall in love, but all the while, the manipulative chief of the village forces Aminata’s parents to allow him to marry their young daughter, bribing them and eventually threatening to banish them from the village if they refused to.
Aminata had no choice but to become the chief’s nineteenth wife, while Philip is forcibly separated from her. Unwilling to obey her new husband, Aminata is tragically raped by the chief. Thereafter, she manages to escape with some quick – albeit a bit silly – wittiness and Part I of the movie concludes.
While the first half of the film progresses fairly well, seemingly reaching the top of the roller coaster, the latter half proceeds much faster but without much excitement.
In fact, the storyline is rather crammed together and relies heavily on “convenience.”
Aminata becomes pregnant with the chief’s child (who was actually prophesized in a drunken dream earlier in the movie by one of the village elders), and goes into labor on the side of the street when two strangers “conveniently” drive by and kindly transport her to a hospital.
Afterward, the two generous strangers turn out to be saint-like and “conveniently” decide to adopt Aminata and her newborn boy to give them both a brighter future.
Meanwhile, Philip had been beaten by the chief’s guards so badly that he loses his memory and is taken in by a new character in the plot, a benevolent herbalist who, in his own way, adopts Philip and decides to take care of him until he regains his memory.
But then, without addressing Philip’s status or the whereabouts of Aminata’s exiled parents, the movie suddenly flashes forward a whopping 21 years. Aminata is now a lawyer in Freetown, her 21 year-old son is apparently preparing to assume his rightful chief-status in Aminata’s home village, her parents are (again) “conveniently” safe in the city all of a sudden, and Philip is nowhere to be seen – although Aminata claims to still think about him all the time.
After Aminata is able to prosecute the chief for his wrongdoings and send him to jail, her son becomes the new chief, promising his mother to give boys and girls equal opportunities to succeed.
Philip (played by Jimmy B as a special guest appearance) “conveniently” reemerges with his memory regained, as he and Aminata “conveniently” still recognize each other after not having seen each other for 21 years and embrace at the conclusion of the film.
This is why such a large flash-forward is difficult to successfully pull off in films: There are too many question marks as to what exactly happened in between and it can’t be realistically guaranteed that the characters emotionally pick up right where they left off.
In terms of production and cinematography, Aminata leaves something to be desired. The film remains a great first step for the Sierra Leonean movie industry, but many improvements can be made, including lighting, background music selection and camera angles.
And while the plot is frankly a bit shaky and particular crammed towards the end, the actors – especially young and budding stars, Aissatou Bah and James Sesay – deliver highly promising and convincing performances.
Ms Bah exhibits an innocence that can’t be duplicated and a strong presence that is hardly one of a first-time actress. Young Mr Sesay compliments her nicely with charm and confidence well beyond his years. The Deputy Mayor is a pleasant viewer-favorite, providing the plot with much needed comic relief. Mrs French exerts the outspokenness and simplicity that is needed of her character. And while few people will have a favorable view of the ruthless chief, Mr Cole plays the role of a villain to near-perfection.
The talent is there. The production, with more funding and experience, will only get better. So while there is room for much more improvement, the future of “Sollywood,” indeed, looks bright and something which Sierra Leoneans should be looking forward to.
By Ophaniel Gooding and Yu Nakayama