Tope Adebayo-Salami’s new film, Inside Life, joins the league of Nollywood‘s attempt to serve as a cataclysm of contextual reality. Over time, the industry seeks to court relatability and awaken consciousness amongst its audience and the teeming community of film buffs. This is why the best movies are those which the audience can perfectly relate to; ones they could find their stories portrayed, even if they are scattered in bits.
However, movies portraying daily Nigerian life, which varies according to the persona involved, permeate the Nigerian film industry. This is why it takes a lot of ingenuity and creativity for a new movie to register itself as a new narrative in its audiences’ consciousness.
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The perfect execution of these is what Inside Life has set out to achieve. Portraying the systemic irregularities in Nigeria’s prison and justice system, the thriller features industry delights, Wole Ojo. He plays Larry, a victim of circumstances caught up in an abysmal and tragic series of events. He was arrested and wrongfully remanded in prison, just a few days before his wedding.Inside Life is the debut release of a new Nigerian film production house, Sillo Studios. It’s produced by Chuks Enete. The movie is an apt portrayal of the Nigerian correctional system, the overburdened judicial mechanism, and how these directly ruin lives caught up in the aftereffects of the failures of these mechanisms.
The movie has an impressive cast including Wole Ojo, Tina Mba, Nedu of Wazobia FM, Funsho Adeolu, Belinda Effa, Okey Uzoeshi, Hafiz Oyetoro, Romeo WJ, and Broda Shaggi. Despite the seriousness of the themes addressed, the movies leans heavily on humour – perhaps fuelled by the presence of Broda Shaggi, Romeo WJ and Nedu of Wazobia FM. Nonetheless, they all executed their roles with an almost-perfect precision. This move also testifies to the increasing collaboration between Nigeria’s film and comedy scene, towards endearing audiences to movies addressing hardcore themes through a blend of both worlds.
The thriller addresses a couple of themes – wrongful incarceration, the reality of the prison situation, systemic corruption, set up (possibly) and judicial incompetence. The movie also addresses subtle subjects – spirituality (portrayed in the daily morning devotion and prayers by adherents of both the Christian and Muslim faiths), hierarchical imbalances amongst prisoners and their supervising officials, trade of illegal products and police brutality (jungle justice meted out by SARS officials on alleged accomplices of Broda Shaggi without fair trial). At the same time, it explores the theme of survival in undesirable circumstances, of how the protagonist, Larry, courts the favour of his cellmates to make his stay bearable.
The movie deserves its flowers in many respects. Prime is its pictorial and visual accuracy in representing the realities it seeks to address. This is testament to a work well done by the movie’s Director of Photography, Idowu Adedapo; its effective representation of the realities of the Nigerian prison system and its ability to infuse humour to portray the prisoner situation – the real ‘inside life’. The film is trying to say a lot at the same time. However, Director, Tope Adebayo-Salami whose last theatrical release is the phenomenal epic, ‘Agesinkole’, wins by clinically addressing all of these without overloading the seriousness of the situation. He carried on all the visions of the film with finesse and prevented it from spilling into colossal ridiculousness.
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Inside Life elicits sympathy and concern, bringing to the fore the often reported – but ignored – situation of wrongfully incarcerated individuals. This is often a fault of prosecutorial incompetence, corruption and faulty investigations conducted by Nigeria’s justice officials.
The movie also incurs its own pitfalls. The pedestrian wit and sarcasm exuded by Romeo WJ appears to be over the bar, considering his role as the president of the cell, who is expected to comport himself in a mock aloofness expected of his position. It strips him of any split of grandeur.For Broda Shaggi, such sarcastic exhibitionism may be tolerated, since he acts the cell’s information officer, whose braggadocio is expected to instil fear and respect for the cell’s informal hierarchy. Meanwhile, the portrayal of the courtroom sitting, where the judge and the representing counsels share the same desk is out of touch with truism. As a lawyer in the making, I can tell you for free that this singular act slightly distances the movie from its ambitious reflection of its contextual realistic stance.
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Inside Life says that the system is always rigged against the poor and the less-privileged. The sad reality of prison inmates awaiting trial or wrongfully incarcerated abounds in Nigeria’s prisons, whilst the correctional service is a haven of resurrected and trained breed of criminals. It is hoped that the movie inspires a new wave of conversation around the topic, whilst eliciting effective solutions and policies implemented to extinguish the menace. As a Director, Tope Adebayo-Salami wins on this again after his co-directorial work on ‘King of Thieves’. We hope he makes this winning run a trifecta.
Inside Life is screening in a cinema near you.
Written By: Chuks Enete and Lanre Olorunshola
Directed By: Tope Adebayo Salami
Lead Cast: Wole Ojo, Tina Mba, Nedu, Funsho Adeolu, Belinda Effa, Broda Shaggi