Shooting on celluloid has over the years been a bridge too far for Nigerian moviemakers. When the ace filmmaker Mahmood Ali-Balogun courageously made public his bid to break the trend in Nollywood by shooting his movie, Tango With Me, on celluloid there were many doubters. Mahmood refused to be deterred, and his resolve was enough to earn a feature story in the esteemed Nigeria Monthly magazine of April 2009. The four-page magazine feature aptly introduced Mahmood Ali-Balogun as “A New Face for Nollywood.”
It is a mark of the belief in Mahmood’s clout as a director that Nollywood’s leading actress, Genevieve Nnaji, embraced the project from the very beginning, and without much ado. Genevieve’s leading man in the film, the relatively fresh Joseph Benjamin, became a marvel to behold. Genevieve and Joseph worked up such an enchanting chemistry that had been brewed in the many days and nights spent in rehearsals.
Film director Mahmood Ali-Balogun was painstaking, starting with the film-script which took more than two years to write. It was indeed a monumental effort in writing and rewriting.
The auditioning of the actors and actresses ensured that there were no stereotypes in the casting, as has been the bane of most Nollywood movies.
The lead actor Joseph Benjamin fittingly depicts the psychological import of Tango With Me.
Genevieve Nnaji emotes the gripping burden of a couple whose greatest dream somewhat turns into a damning nightmare.
As Uzo and Lola, Joseph Benjamin and Genevieve Nnaji offer virtuoso performances of what it takes to see that love outlasts all tribulations.
The brooding sweep of the film owes a lot to the deep psychological drama inherent in the balancing act of faith against the trauma of rape.
The end product is a film that bears testimony to the long years of conception, the attention to details of the script, the rehearsals, and of course the solid direction of Mahmood Ali-Balogun.
The cameraman had to be brought in from abroad because of the lack of the requisite expertise in Nigeria.
The absence of a workable studio for moviemaking in Nigeria led to the using of people’s homes for the shooting of the different scenes. Special care was taken in all the heat to ensure that there was no sweating under the armpits of the actors and actresses as is the drawback in other Nollywood movies.
Tango With Me showcases an original soundtrack unlike what is obtainable before in Nigerian moviemaking.
Director Ali-Balogun had to make travels to Dubai to put the necessary finishing touches to Tango With Me. The director equally travelled to Sofia, Bulgaria for the mastering of the soundtrack.
No effort was spared in putting the lighting in proper perspectives. The shades of light shine forth as each scene demands.
The total ambience makes possible the complementary performances of the film stars on parade.
Genevieve as the raped Lola carries her unwanted pregnancy with persuasive aplomb. The distraught husband, played to the hilt by Joseph Benjamin, lends to the film an elegiac majesty that is quite poetic in its rendition.
The inter-tribal marriage that would have in the hands of unsophisticated directors degenerated to parody ends up adding greater grist to the film through Mahmood Ali-Balogun’s portrayal of the parents-in-law. Ahmed Yerima and Joke Silva are so ennobling even against the background of the sorrows of their daughter.
Tina Mba as the boss of the almost distracted leading man plays with panache the role of a tigress on the loose.
Enveloping the absorbing movie are the arresting utterances of the unseen psychoanalyst and marriage counselor.
In all, Tango With Me holds lofty the light that the movie was shot to make a difference in Nollywood. Filmmaking in Nigeria has been offered a new grand niche with the global appeal of Tango with Me.
The irresistible feature directed and produced by Mahmood Ali-Balogun under his Brickwall Communications production company has scored a first by becoming the first Nollywood movie to secure international release through Talking Drum Entertinment, a UK-based distibution company specialising in black film.
The multiple award-winning romantic drama Tango with Me, starring Genevieve Nnaji and Benjamin Joseph, opened across all the major UK and Ireland cinema chains in the first phase before proceeding on to other European countries.
Incidentally, Tango with Me holds the record of the highest-grossing film in Nigeria in 2011. In the maiden Nollywood Movies Awards, Tango with Me dominated literally in all the categories by taking six awards, notably Best Director (Mahmood Ali-Balogun, Best Film, Best Cinematography, Best Sound Design, Best Actor (Joseph Benjamin) and Best Viewers Female Choice (Genevieve Nnaji).
It is quite understandable why Tango with Me has such a universal pull in that it deals with a timeless issue. The rape of a virgin bride on her wedding night in the presence of her brand new husband is a psychological wrench. The tension heightens because the flagitious rape leads to a pregnancy that the devout Catholic wife would not abort. The pro-life and pro-choice divide becomes writ large. A film with such an enthralling message cannot but engage the attention of all, from peasants to intellectuals.
Tango with Me thus becomes a philosophical and psychological quest into the eternal questions of mankind. The disembodied psychologist in the film lends to it an artistic anchor that bestirs the soul.
Tango With Me bears all the imprints of the making of a classic. As husband meets with wife heavy with pregnancy at the very end of the film the good old message prevails: “Love conquers all.”