Director: Seyi Babatope
Year of release: January 2021
Lead cast: Blossom Chukwujekwu, Elozonam Ogbolu, Charles Inojie, Tobi Bakre, and Nse Ikpe-Etim
Seyi Babatope may not have achieved the many things he possibly had in mind while he was filming ‘Sanitation Day’.
This reporter spent close to two hours trying to understand the many aspects of this film. The only thing this film was able to accomplish has been reserved till the last paragraphs of this review.
You would wonder what Mr Babatope, who wrote the story himself, and shares screenplay credits with Temitope Bolade and Eche Enuwa, was thinking.
Certainly not a chaotic film with disjointed themes and a complicated storyline.
It’s the last Saturday of the month, a day for communal cleaning, in the ‘face-me-I-slap-you’ house of Baba Risi, portrayed by the veteran Adebayo Salami, who, by the way, is fast becoming a stock character.
However, beyond the cleaning, a body has just been found and nobody seems to know the dead young man.
Men of the ‘Police Department’ – a fictional police force – Inspector Hassan and Inspector Stanley played by the dependable Blossom Chukwujekwu and newcomer, Elozonam Ogbolu, had to be called upon to find the murderer.
Hence, the movie swings from one character to the other with the gaze of the two police officers who were seemingly trying to find out who committed the murder.
Until the last twenty minutes of the film, the screenplay drags you along with itself, only to inject a new twist at the least expected moment.
Apparently, there was no murder. It’s also not a ‘whodunnit’. It’s a heist and almost all the characters were roleplaying.
However, everything else after that is designed to pull a fast one on you.
The story moves from identifying the murderer to revealing a grand plot to cart away cash from a contractor’s – Elvina Ibru – apartment.
The amount was said to be enough to win a Nigerian election.
A hitch-free plan was hatched a year before the heist was to hold. As a story, it sounds enticing but the director, Mr Babatope, failed to visualise the intrigues of this complicated story. He grapples with it and it falls out of his hands.
‘Sanitation Day’ wastes an impressive lineup of the cast with its complicated storyline. There wasn’t so much they could do with a non-linear narrative, which leaves the audience with a distasteful memory after 105 minutes.
Blossom Chukwujekwu as Senior Inspector Hassan did his best with his silent gazes and dialogues. He is crafty and it’s easy to think he has something up his sleeves.
The character, however, betrays the authority expected of his office.
Meanwhile, the screenplay gives him little to no depth, enough to explain this laxity.
It even took him a long while to voice out the statement, “your insubordination is becoming annoying” to his junior officer, Stanley, whose grandstanding in solving the supposed ‘murder case’ at hand, started off as annoying but ended up as amusing.
Stanley, played by Elozonam, is young, smart, and suave. He’s also hot-headed, opinionated, and impulsive.
He would slap life out of a certain character rather than offer CPR. When Mr Babatope’s story gets messy and chaotic, he would fire his gun to reset the atmosphere.
According to him, that’s his way of restoring some ‘semblance of sanity’. He is also quite tribalistic and prejudiced.
He thinks that a Suya-selling Mallam found at the crime scene with the object of murder is enough to make him culpable.
At a point, uncomfortable with the sight of the Mallam, he yelled, “take this one away before I do something stupid”.
However, Stanley is unarguably the best-written character of the film. And there’s something about Elozonam that makes it easy for him to embody the role.
Worthy of mention is Nse Ikpe-Etim, whose role as a ‘Madam’ and owner of a beer joint might seem ordinary. However, delivering her dialogues in Efik language was a delight to watch. It elevated her character, which would have been hitherto unimpressive.
It’s tough to imagine the brief Mr Babatope gave the Director of Photography, Solomon Essang.
Every scene of the film, save for a couple towards the end, was covered with ‘heavy patches of darkness’.
It is understandable that Mr Essang was trying to portray the claustrophobic nature of ‘Baba Risi’s apartment but this was taken too far.
It would make you cringe.
At the scene of the planning of the heist, you could barely make out the faces of the characters.
This takes away whatever pleasure is left of the film after its complex narration, thereby altering the entire viewing experience the movie could offer.
Mr Babatope fondled with the whodunnit subgenre for the most part of the film.
Whodunnits usually revolve around a murder in which the identity of the murderer is not revealed until the end.
In Nollywood, murder mystery movies are not common, neither are they the easiest to tell or rather, shoot.
However, this story does not have the power to shoulder this confusing or rather complicated screenplay. The film crumbles under its weight, therefore, ruining the cinematic experience.
‘Sanitation Day’ drags on for too long.
You barely feel the urgency to solve the murder case for which Inspector Hassan and Inspector Stanley had been invited to resolve.
As they run around in circles at the murder scene, the ‘sluggishness’ of the story hits you.
Nonetheless, just as soon as you try to make peace with the pace of the film, the writers puncture your trip with silly twists.
It’s that complicated.
When Ajala, played by the enigmatic ‘Abounce’ Fawole says Tobi Bakre’s character, ‘‘likes it complicated’, it feels like a jab at the director of the film.
In an interview, in the run-up to the film’s release, the director said he had been accused of making pretty looking films that do not connect with regular people.
‘‘I was like cool, that was honest criticism. So, Sanitation Day checks this box and I can’t wait for people to see it and give me their feedback,” he said.
Now that he has ticked this off his bucket list, we hope that Mr Babatunde goes back to making relatable and less complicated movies because ‘Sanitation Day’ leaves no lasting impression. It’s forgettable, at best.
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