D.O.D, Day of Destiny, or DUD for short, is a 2021 movie touted as the first sci-fi/time travel Nollywood flick. When one is confronted by the idea of a living breathing sentence housing the words “sci-fi”, “time travel”, and Nollywood, what comes to mind, forgivably, is that it will arrive as a dud, or, in other words, Day of Destiny. Here is a movie that ticks all the boxes for most quintessential Nollywood movies:
- An aerial shot of a road in Lagos.
- Instagram/Internet superstars that cannot act.
- Sloppily placed ads.
- Crass comedy.
- A handful of standout actors.
- A sprinkle of old Nollywood actors.
- A novel idea ruined by poor execution.
Our movie opens with the narration of a love story. Man meets a woman at a bar in a party and they fall in love over a drink and what looks like a chapman ad is complete. The fairy-tale of the narrative is cut short by an uncomfortable reality. That couple is now married with three children and they are moving out of their middle class apartment in Lagos to return to the “village”. The first son, Chidi (Olumide Oworu), ambitious and belligerent, falls into an argument with his father (Noble Young) which almost causes an auto accident. The car breaks down in a secluded location prompting the boys (Chidi and Rotimi) to go find a mechanic while their father tries what he can to resuscitate the vehicle. Chidi and Rotimi (Denola Grey) wander off and find a building in the middle of nowhere. Certain that a mechanic must live in an abandoned mansion in the middle of nowhere, they head into the building. Inside the building, they find Babayaro (Samuel A. Perry a.k.a Broda Shaggi), an eccentric, precarious character who is a physical manifestation of the plot. Babayaro has a functional time machine in this abandoned building. He proposes a “change of destiny” for the boys. They agree. Then the movie begins.
The principal grudge to be held against this movie is its inability to fulfil what it attempts to sell itself as: a time travel/sci-fi Nigerian movie. One amongst the very few, complex but golden rules of time travel is that attention must be paid to details. Day of Destiny feels like the writers, Akay Mason and Abosi Ogba, who also doubled as its directors, either had a novel idea and lost control of it or had no patience to execute the idea properly. The plot appears as an inchoate stack of Lego assembled by a toddler; there are flashes of stability but an overarching absence of vision crumbles it all. Yet, where there is chaos, there is also the possibility of order.
This segues us into the movie’s acting. In many ways, Toyin Abraham embodies what contemporary Nollywood comedy largely represents—crass, boisterous overacting with sparring, usually unfulfilled moments of ingenuity. This too, is the state of Day of Destiny’s humour. The deployment of humour serves nothing but cheap, forgettable laughs to proceed narrative from one point to another. Its attempt at wit fails because the lead actors fail. Olumide Oworu cannot discern when to tone down his brazen performance. Denola Grey is an amateur at best. Brother Shaggi is an Instagram comedic populist and all artistic artilleries known to man must be deployed to make sure he remains nothing more. Og Tega, although with minimal screen time, fails in every single requirement to convince as a younger Babayaro. Is this the fault of the budding directors or the consequence of a deteriorating Nollywood trope?
The situation we have found ourselves is a tad complex. The older generation of actors in Nollywood all played stock characters in the industry’s heydays and they were brilliant at it. These familiar, stereotyped characters are what they deliver whenever they are called upon—what we expect to see whenever we watch them. It is one of the elements that made Wedding Party and King of Boys so successful. The marriage of nostalgia, novelty, and at least two other elements from the list of quintessential elements found in the contemporary Nollywood movie. So when Jide Kosoko, Ireti Doyle, and Nobert (not so) Young were called upon, they delivered effectively in their various offices. However, one cannot help but feel that there is a lack of proper transition between Old Nollywood and Neo-Nollywood. And this, especially for a movie that sells itself as a sci-fi, time travel movie, and an advancement to the age tenets of the movie industry, is a problem.
The arts of filmmaking (acting, directing, scriptwriting, cinematography) all had proper transitioning phases in the western movie industries. But here, we have merely attempted a rehash, partly due to the preceding generation’s staunch refusal to relinquish influence and partly due to an overt, capitalistic focus on commercialising the industry.
Within this time travel movie as well, transitioning was ridiculous. Things happened without being established: Rotimi’s sudden asthma, a powered off TV suddenly coming on to deliver a plot-advancing news; a plethoric indifference to details: 500 naira note wasn’t released until 2001; a superficial, failed attempt at a 2face rendition that would have been perfect if it had been planned better; and a rather pedestrian concept of time travel. And while in stride, one might take a swing at the other problems: an insufferable pair of lead actors that recall the titular characters from the animated series, Pinky and the Brain to mind; a time travel movie that paradoxically acknowledges yet disregards the Grandfather Paradox; costuming marred by a lack of attention to details; a forgettable soundtrack; questionable blocking choices by the directors; and an eventual failure of the movie to recognize and achieve its goal—to teach Chidi the value of integrity.
Day of Destiny has its shining moments. Perhaps the movie would have shone more if its leads were the female pair, Ini Dima-Okojie and Gbemi Akinlade, who played young Mrs Oluremi and Helen respectively. The movie picks up towards its end and two scenes at this point purport why it failed and how it could have succeeded. Day of Destiny is unable to balance its comedy with emotional resonance. The movie sees both as interchangeable and goes as far as placing farce beside an emotionally attentive scene. This also displays the failure of Olumide Oworu as lead and the quiet brilliance of Gbemi Akinlade and Ini Dima-Okojie as surrogates. In this scene, Chidi is in a car with his father in 2000, about to learn an important lesson, the whole point of the movie, in fact, and elsewhere, Helen, the youngest daughter, has found herself with her mother (Ini Dima-Okojie) in 2000, both discussing what to do to the man who has just harassed the mother. Both scenes basically contain the same thing, only differently expressed. While Olumide Oworu opts for a loud rendition, Gbemi Akinlade and Ini Dima-Okojie proceed into a sublime, nuanced performance, an exchange that displays the quality of two actors who completely listen to their surroundings and respond accordingly.
There is a joke, unarguably the most brilliant, in Day of Destiny. It stays with the audience because of how multi-layered it is. So, the boys have travelled back in time to the year 2000. They hire a driver who proceeds to praise the incumbent Olusegun Obasanjo government. At some point, the driver says, and this is paraphrased, “Our president has a ‘Vision 2020’. By 2020, Nigeria will be like America. Light will be available 24/7. No more generators. One dollar will be one naira too.” The boys laugh and the audience will laugh as well because it is a moment of comedic ingenuity. It is difficult not to laugh. What humours most of us is how ridiculously far off from reality ‘Vision 2020’ has now become. The year is 2021 and somewhere along the way, somehow, we have lost the plot. Day of Destiny feels exactly this way as well. But one wonders, was there ever a genuine vision?
- Gbemi Akinlade and Ini Dina-Okojie are brilliant actors who diligently handled their responsibilities. Particular attention must be paid to Gbemi Akinlade because she played two roles that required her to maintain the essence of her character yet portray it through different prisms. She did this effectively. When both actors finally shared a scene, it was excellence waiting to happen.
- In this movie where anything could happen, where 500 naira notes were in circulation in 2000, and a character is costumed head-to-toe in the same clothing as her wikipedia page, these two were welcomed respites.
Day of Destiny premiered on 1st of January and is currently showing in cinemas.