In a country where the conversation around fake drugs is rife, a first look at Editi Effiong’s short film, ‘Fishbone’ is a worthwhile adventure. In fact, the first 28 minutes of the 33-minutes long short film is a delight to watch. It x-rays the dark, callous and filthy ecosystem of drug proliferation where profiteering wins at the expense of the low-income, browbeaten folks that resides at the base of the social stratum. Fishbone is one of those filmmaking endeavors that justifies art as a reflection of life particularly its immediate environment. However, the short film stumbles just as it was about reiterating its message like a sailor who lost his compass.Here’s the story. A notorious drug lord known as Mama T aptly played by Shaffy Bello leads a drug counterfeiting network. Expectedly, she’s elusive and thrives in double standards. A law enforcement agent simply identified as Inspector (Daniel Etim Effiong) has been tailing her albeit unsuccessfully until fate decides to smile on him and his law enforcement efforts through a swipe of karma.
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Mama T is vicious and kind, brutal and caring yet the rogue in her is unmistakably feeble at the same time. She’ll advise you to not smoke yet she puffs from the same cigarette herself. She’ll rub her hands off counterfeit drugs only to spend the proceeds from the same shady business philanthropically on the same people she preys on. Nevertheless, all of that came crashing when her own granddaughter was administered with the same counterfeit drugs.
One of the things that strike you about Fishbone is the choice of its filming. It was shot in the slums of Makoko area of Lagos state. Though looked at through rose-colored glasses, the film opening on a chase sequence around the creeks of Makoko sets the tone on which the film eventually cheats towards its conclusion. It canonically portrays the lifestyle of the people who are worst hit by the menace of drug counterfeiting.The cinematography of Fishbone is laudable. It, when coupled with the less-euphonious soundtrack captures the body language of the film across the range of its various scenes. Cinematographer, Femi Awojide, with his close-up shots amplifies the tenderness of Shaffy Bello as a grandmother while playing with her granddaughter and the viciousness of an unrepentant drug baron when confronted by Inspector in the climax shot in a toilet. However, the same cannot be said of the Inspector, Etim Effiong, who grapples with projecting the frustration of a law enforcement agent who understands the ineffectiveness of the justice system he operates in to have said, “I’m not a fool to think that you will spend one day in jail”, yet you struggle to feel that dejection in action as he delivers his 150 seconds monologue.
Make no mistake. Fishbone is an interesting commentary on drug counterfeiting mixed with a bountiful element of karma so as to reach its climax. It offers no solution to the problem but even that will be fine if it had ended at the 28th minute. While you try to savor the essence of the ecstasy that you get watching the short film, an additional 5 minutes of a public service announcement declutters that feeling.
As the film reaches its anchor after an instructive weeping scene of Mama T as well as her victims, a barrage of filmmakers and government officials popped up on your screen with each decrying the familiar problem of piracy particularly in the creative industry. It feels like Director Editi Effiong was so hit by the piracy of his films that he decided to shoot a short film to express his grief. The end credit had all of them ranting about the downsides of piracy.
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Watch Fishbone because of Shaffy Bello’s stellar performance, Etim Effiong’s forthrightness, and Moshood Fattah’s depiction of rascality but you can skip after the 28th minutes for the rest of the short film makes little or no difference.