A reenactment of a traumatic history of ALUU 4 in the movie produced by Linda Ikeji titled ‘Dark October’ has triggered sad memories and torrents of backlash that becloud the sound judgement in exposing the dangers of extra-judicial killings and a failed criminal justice system, writes Yinka Olatunbosun

Linda Ikeji’s debut movie ‘Dark October’ hit the popular video streaming site with a resounding slap: first on the faces of those who had been numb to the pains of the gruesome murder of their children, friends and colleagues and then on the complacent authorities in the nation’s criminal justice system.

Over 12 years ago, in a crime-ridden community of Aluu, Port-Harcourt, Rivers state, the actual story played out when four undergraduate students of the University of Port-Harcourt were lynched in broad daylight. Mistaken for armed robbers, the young, promising students were reportedly on a mission to recover debt from a defaulter in the early hours of the day- a Friday. 

Stripped of a means of identification, clothes and dignity, their frantic cry fell on deaf ears of an outraged community. Jungle justice prevailed and even the police couldn’t stop them.

In this 1h 49m movie directed by Toka McBaror, fictitious names of the characters were used as a clever way to avoid retraumatising their loved ones. Still, the graphic portrayal of the final moments of the four boys was sanguinary and nauseating. The prolonged slow-mo shot in the opening and closing scenes of the movie was deliberate- leaving an image that would torment both the evil doers and innocent bystanders in the annals of history.

If the argument was on whether Linda shouldn’t have retold this story, then one can say someone has to. Since October 5, 2012 when these killings took place, extra-judicial killings have continued with more reported among the police. The build up to the EndSARS protest was as a result of this cycle of human right violation and if there is no action plan to end this culture of impunity, then human life is more than fragile in Nigeria. 

Also, reporting crime at police stations in Nigeria has been largely commercialised. From police extortion of crime victims to refusal to bring criminals to book, the only way a terrorised community can seek justice has been and still is to take the law into their own hands.

Sadly, these bitter truths were lost on some who were angered by the fact that Linda dared to do a bold story on a matter of national conscience with imperfections. In the onset of the movie, some of the lead characters were self-conscious, sometimes looking directly into the camera. While a few scenes could have been better with more retakes, the strength of the acting lies in the supporting roles: the boli (roasted plantain) seller, the head of the vigilante group and a handful of villagers.

Again, the treatment of the story was singular. A multi-plot filming technique might have helped to show the two accounts of the story of the final hours of the boys. Called the “Rashomon effect,” the technique presents the same event through multiple perspectives, leaving the audience to decide who’s speaking the truth in this cinematic experience. Demanding an advanced technique of narration from a young filmmaker is a tall order. Sentiments aside, the punchlines from the rap soundtrack are far more appealing to the audience than the weak dialogue.

Perhaps Linda missed a few shots. One of them was to use the movie to immortalise the boys by releasing it around the anniversary of their deaths with parental consent.

Another shot was to have donated the proceeds from the movie- in part or as a whole- to a non-governmental organisation that has been advocating for human rights and justice. Even better still, she could have donated the proceeds to a foundation in the names of the slain students.

Linda could have made a noble cause out of this movie project but she emerged as an opportunist in the face of her critics who thought she wanted to profit from the pains of others. 

At the moment, the economy is in limbo; food prices have soared while some businesses are plummeting in profits. Anger is the only probable reaction a billionaire gets when  attempting to make money now on the platter of a traumatic experience.

That said, ‘Dark October’ marks an end to skirting around burning socio-political realities in Nigerian cinema. The cinema should reflect social ills- which is one of the primary roles of the media, anyway.


Poster for ‘Dark October’ movie

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