Art in all its various forms could become a portal for revisiting the past. In every form of art – painting, music, singing, writing, and film – we relive or revisit a forgotten or hidden history about ourselves, our friends, and our communities. Films, due to their ability to embrace another art form into their orbit, become an important art form to revisit the past. Thus, as I watched the Tabo Mcbaror-directed Dark October, the layers of stories it unearths made me revisit a personal and national history.
I school at Olabisi Onabanjo University, and months ago, I had a casual disagreement with a residential indigene of Ago-Iwoye. This short-lived disagreement made me question what my presence, as an outsider, meant to Ago-Iwoye indigenes. In acting on my journalistic and curiosity instincts, I attempted to write a story about the relationship that exists between university students and members of the host community. Other activities made it impossible to pursue the story.
- Advertisement -
But minutes into Dark October, Tizzy (Chuks Joseph) visits Wisdom (Boman Bognet) and as he moves deeper into the Aku community, the search party and menace on the indigene of this community made me regret why I didn’t pursue that story to the end. Though different situations lead to hatred for strangers — in this case, university students, in the Aku community, it is easier to detect the malice in their countenance.I have a relation to this story. During one of my nocturnal walks in Ajegunle, I was about to board a bike when the bike man casually gave this information; “dem dan burn one thief for that junction o.” It was the vigilante commander who set four students ablaze. The gory image of these unrecognizable humans, becoming ashes, came to mind. Trapped tears left my eye.
Dark October is a familiar history for many Nigerians. After the killing of four Nigerian students in University of Portharcout, the word “Aluu 4” and the day, October 5, 2012, became a totem for revisiting a tragic past. Chiadika Biringa, Lloyd Toku Mike, Tekena Elkanah, and Ugonna Obuzor are the actual names of the students that torrent of fire ended their ambitious life. In the filmmaking debut of Linda Ikeji, the boys have new names: Tizzy (Chuks Joseph), Big L (Munachi Okpara), Tamunor (Kelechukwu Oriaku), and Chibuzor (Chibie Jonny).
Google provides minimal information about the Aluu 4: course of study, trauma-inducing videos, and pictures of their living and burnt bodies. But in the Linda-Ikeji-inspired story written by Odega Shawa, the feature film presents details the internet won’t reveal. Though the different activities, ambition, joy, and personal history of the boys could be doubted, the doubt won’t reduce the trauma that these were highly ambitious Nigerian youth.
Decadence in the Nigeria Police Force isn’t a recent identity of the force. Their negligence in curbing the exposure of the Aku community informed the decision to form a vigilante group. In recent times, different communities in Lagos had to employ similar defenses in forming community vigilantes when the menace of the One Million Boys was in the loop. The inability of the police in addressing the people’s concerns in the Aku community means the jungle becomes the spot for justice. The police station isn’t addressing their plight. For these people, the street becomes the courtroom. Trial and judgment are passed on the street.
- Advertisement -
During the mob action, a keen observer will catch a glimpse of some members of the mob laughing while they throw stones and sticks at the alleged thieves. Controlling the gestures of a rented cast, who are students, can be challenging for a director or director of photography on set. But it becomes infuriating during the post-production stage, the editor loses sight of those smiling faces. An entire paragraph dedicated to students portends to nit-picking, but for a film with the potential of inducing Post Traumatic Stress Depression (PTSD) and trauma, a paragraph is deserving of addressing it.
During the mob sequence, one of the about-to-be-lynched students, Tamumor, his sister (Uju Anikwe) was minutes away from the sight. She is apathetic to the situation going on. And when her interest was piqued, she saw her brother covered in blood. An often-retread axiom: “there is only a second between life and death” comes to the fore of my mind followed by these questions: could the death have been prevented if she hadn’t been apathetic to the growing voices around her? Could her prompt recognition of her brother and his friends dwindle the meaning in the mob heart? Could they have believed her? But as one of the cast says, “sometimes the madness isn’t rehearsed.” Meaning, death doesn’t inform its guest it’s visiting.
- Advertisement -
For a country prone to amnesia, it’s encouraging to see that filmmakers are documenting their creative output at national events. Though this re-enactment of events of national tragedy is traumatic for known reasons, it’s important in curbing the potential for amnesia. The South African industry has a list of films/series that pay lip service and serious homage to the country’s past such as Silverton Siege, Kalushi: The Story of Solomon Mahlanguand Queen Sono. The Joey Bada-led Two Distant Strangers pay homage to the history of the racial killing of black people. Linda Ikeji’s Dark October, like all the listed films and series, is dark and dirge-filled, and their presence is encouraging. But if this film or series provides a better insight into this gradually-receding traumatic past is another thing. At least, this film exist. Further conversation can be held.
Written By: Odega Shawa
Directed By: Tabo Mcbaror
Lead Cast: Chuks Joseph, Munachi Okpara, Kelechukwu Oriaku, and Chibie Jonny