Following his Netflix debut, Mókálìk, Kunle Afolayan can boast of a new movie on the streaming platform, titled Citation. I looked forward to this one for a couple of reasons. One reason being Temi Otedola’s debut as an actress. Also, I anticipated a more thrilling movie from a known filmmaker who has delivered such in the past.
Citation closely follows a young overachieving masters student, Moremi (Temi Otedola), who has to defend her dignity against a charismatic and well-loved visiting lecturer, professor Lucien N’Dyare (Jimmy Jean-Louis), after an ordeal of attempted rape, preceded by unrequited sexual advances. The movie details the manipulative circumstance in which female students are often forced into in Nigerian universities. Affected ladies do not always find the courage to speak out on their experiences due to fear and Citation depicts this never-ending nightmare of stigma and backlash that follows during the panel that investigates such accusations. As a result of speaking out, it turns into a trial of her vs. the ‘world’ rather than a trial against her two-faced assaulter.
The movie is told both in present time and cuts to flashbacks when the two parties tell their sides of the events during the panel. However, most of the flashback sequences come from the perspective of Moremi, who is forced to question the world she has ever known on this campus. This world includes her professor-student relationship with Prof. Lucien N’Dyare, her two course mates (Ini Edo and Adjetey Anang), her boyfriend played by Gabriel Afolayan and tutorial peers who make up the rest of the witnesses. They all have different recollections and stories to tell concerning their account of events on what truly took place. While some of these accounts are merely judgements based on what they noticed as outsiders, some also carry malicious intent. How many witnesses would see beyond this veil that covers the visiting professor and how many would not see beyond his highly intellectual and quick-witted public facade?
Citation is a drama which according to the film’s description is based on true events. No particular real life scenarios are mentioned, neither does context give it away. Even if not based on a disclosed individual, it is surely based on numerous cases that have been swept under the carpet in Nigerian universities. This has happened in the past. A few have been called out and it unfortunately still remains the bitter reality of many ladies. So, it is based on true events. However, this movie does not rank up there as one of Kunle Afolayan’s best thriller movies. It would comfortably find a place behind Irapada (Redemption), The Figurine, October 1 and The CEO when it comes to Afolayan’s history with this genre.
Citation does not try to be more than itself. It is a very straightforward movie that optically arranges the puzzle pieces for viewers, and leaves nothing to subtext. It does a large part of the thinking for you, and I understand to an extent. The movie is not here to pull mind bending surprises. It is just here to tell the story as it really happens on Nigerian campuses. Given the situation of things at the moment with the subject matter of sexual exploitation, it would’ve been insensitive to pull an interesting plot twist that questions the psychological state of the victim the entire period or to offer more statements that counter the truth. Nigerian Men Twitter would have had a field day and as a result it diminishes the seriousness of the themes. So, this made it crystal clear where the story would be going and you’re only there to wonder, “how did we get here?” Citation is a beautiful movie to watch and more of an eye opener and educating than brain wrecking. The facts are there and it is only a question of how the victim prevails, while also keeping an eye out for slight changes in narration.
Watching the events being partly retold from the perspectives of those around the two main subjects offers fascinating insights to how people actually view such professor-student relationships These nosy people do not want to ask questions (which they actually should if they are that interested), they rather make their own conclusions based on feelings and personal beliefs. They all merely witness events unfold from outside the bubble, but can’t exactly put together the scattered pieces. Until the time comes when their account might just be the needed eye witness story to save the day, and they’d just innocently recount based on belief or malice, which luckily might be as it happened or unluckily not as it happened.
Aesthetically, it felt like a love letter to Obafemi Awolowo University. The cinematographer can boast of a few stunning shots which captures the beauty of this institute of learning. I expect to see beautiful stills from this movie being distributed and hailed as majestic on social media in the near future. Tunde Babalola also paid special attention to his screenplay which proved to be on point. It gave me joy seeing connected plot points in another Nollywood movie, which might cause tears of joy for some others cos it does not happen too often. Crucial details are planted in the first act of the movie which happens to pay off as the movie proceeds. Also, as a credit to the script, metaphors are effectively utilized. I expect that keen watchers noticed this and smiled in awe of the artistry. The main plot of the movie sees a lady going to war to prove that her assaulter is guilty amidst numerous third parties with differing opinions. Before this point in the movie comes, conflicts between nations are discussed during her lectures headed by the same professor N’Dyare who playfully had an intellectual back and forth with the victim concerning this topic in class. Questions such as, how does a third party (a panel) deliver a fair verdict between two warring nations were discussed during lectures. This helps to create a mental comparison between the two distinct situations with striking similarities. Prof. N’Dyare and Moremi would end up being the two warring nations and the panel plays the role of Switzerland. Their peculiar discussion in class gives viewers an idea of what the future holds for both parties.
Moremi, a young post grad student who is reminded of her age every minute like she has amnesia, is played by newcomer, Temi Otedola. As harsh as it might seem, she wasn’t anywhere near the level of playing a lead character. Although, as the movie goes on, she grows into the role or maybe I just accepted fate. Most especially towards the climax, when all roads seem blocked, she found the necessary tools to play this character who is in serious need of a breakthrough. When compared to her robotic personality (acting) during the flashback scenes, it is a slight but noticeable improvement. In the flashback scenes, she is a student starting a post graduate programme, meeting a love interest, experiencing Nigerian uni life and innocently teaching her professor how to drive ‘stick’. All of these threads with distinct emotions attached might have been difficult for her to translate as it requires a mix of emotions from the uncertainty of settling into an unfamiliar university setting, the ‘hard guy’ face of being wooed and finally the elation of ending up in a relationship. But coming into fighting for her dignity in the present day, she excels in ways I did not expect. Her anger,rage and desperation during the investigation prove to be her best execution. All of these together caused an inconsistent performance, which could still be praised for the moments in which she shone. Another first time performer in the movie is Ibukun Awosika (chairman of First Bank Nigeria), who does not have much to do as she heads the panel in charge of the investigation. Nevertheless, in her brief moments on screen, she felt like a seasoned pro who is just making a prolonged cameo. Gabriel Afolayan did his thing as always. Although Ini Edo’s character held more potential, she did what she could, trying hard not to overshadow the lead which was inevitable. It felt great seeing Adjetey Anang on campus once again. Other minor characters were also a good fit and Jesus intervened where he could. Normally, such bit parts would have gone to IG celebs as they were often humour based roles. We thank God for genuine casting.
This blend of experience and newcomers makes me respect what Kunle Afolayan has done here. Such gamble is what Netflix offers as he does not need to rely on box office figures in order to prove success. As stories with critical societal themes are rarely touched in Nollywood, this would be a movie to stay with us for a long time and one to always refer to for such subject matter.
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That being said, let me know your thoughts in the comments section below. Is Citation a hit or miss or somewhere right in the middle? Citation is available to stream on Netflix worldwide.
- God bless the geeky twins. Whoever casted them should keep doing the Lord’s work. They were this close to overdoing it. But again, Jesus intervened. For curious minds, their names are Sam and Cas Okan.
- Kunle Afolayan is the master of nostalgic cultural montages. He would make you want to book a one-way ticket to your village (hometown) after seeing his movies. Sentimental.
- Partly cringe and partly satisfying moment when Gabriel Afolayan calls Kunle Afolayan his brother in the movie, same as it is in real life. That scene could have been edited better though. It was awkward af with the sudden cut to Kunle’s face. A little bit subtle next time, maybe?
- The movie delivered one of the best, if not the best opening scenes of any Nollywood movie that I’ve seen. One that comes to my mind at the moment is King Of Boys party opening scene where Sola Sobowale played a two-faced python.
- One perfect scene: When men are stripped of what they have gained through this patriarchal society, they’ve very little to offer as a human. During the panel when Ibukun Awosika tore into our favorite visiting professor.
- Great seeing Gabriel Afolayan in a Kunle Afolayan movie. Finally!!! What I need now is Gabriel as a leading man in a true thriller movie.
- Please, stop calling Temi’s performance ‘outstanding’ for the sake of retweets. We are setting the bar too low for future newcomers.
- For what it’s worth, i don’t see the Moremi-Koyejo relationship lasting. He is too controlling. They had not started dating sef, he was already having problems seeing Moremi around the professor. His controlling type might find a perfect fit elsewhere, but not with Moremi who I believe would not take a subordinate role in a relationship. It will end in tears abeg.
- How many statues do we have in OAU? Has anyone ever done the counting? Do we have an official number?
- Jesus will intervene in my blog.