In seeing the film Kpali, the viewer ought to go expecting a holiday movie.
Put differently, don’t go into the cinema hall expecting philosophical truths about the human condition. Go in expecting some chemistry between Ini Dima-Okojie and one of her co-stars and you won’t be disappointed.
As Amaka, Dima-Okojie lives in the UK where she works in an investment firm. Unfortunately, business isn’t very good and the company is laying off staff. Amaka’s head is on the chopping block until the company demands from her a miracle that would lead to her survival. But the miracle must be delivered within a 30-day period.
If at the end of those 30 days, water hasn’t turned to wine, Amaka would be out of a job and kicked out of the UK since she doesn’t exactly have the papers, the kpali of the title, which would ensure her continued stay in the abroad. To fix the first problem, she needs a trip to the land of her birth, Nigeria, to seal a deal. She would need to do that in company of one of her superiors, a white man who is at first taken for a suitor by her parents (an expectedly witty Nkem Owoh and a wonderful Gloria Anozie-Young).
By now, the viewer knows that this is romantic comedy territory because, as everyone knows, in life and in the movies, an attractive woman who is also single and obsessed with work is in need of a man to shag her into appreciating life. Or, at the minimum, such a woman needs a man to marry her.
The latter, one assumes, is what Amaka’s father would prefer. (To be fair, he doesn’t seem like he would mind the former either.) Maybe so that people won’t say he has done nothing to help his daughter find a spouse, her father organises a few men to come see Amaka. If that action is outmoded, Amaka is aware. But when she complains that her parents’ behaviour belong to an earlier century, her father gets a line Owoh clearly relishes.
“That is why we do not want you to enter the 22nd century still single,” he says.
Amaka has to juggle these expectations while trying to work out a miracle and be prepared for her sister’s wedding. And she has to do these in Nigeria, a country she doesn’t really like, probably because “Nigeria’s setback are legendary”.
The film, too, has to juggle its romantic comedy credentials with its higher aspirations, including patriotism and romantic open-mindedness. Does it succeed? Yes, to some extent, even if the cinematography could be better and, there are a few themes unexplored.
The romantic aspect of this film has been pursued in several Nollywood films. Some succeed; a lot more are deplorable. In terms of quality, Kpali ends up somewhat in the middle of recent films featuring a single woman being courted: it is not as good as Isoken but it’s certainly better than Seven and a Half Dates and Makate Must Sell.
Kpali opens in selected cinemas nationwide on 20 December