Citation is more than just the average Nollywood film.
Citation thrives as a nearly successful work of social commentary because there are signs that the makers paid enough attention to the changing tides of how we talk about sexual assault and the culture sex for grades in Nigeria. This is a sexual assault story where the assault is the focus, and the focus is objective and sufficiently informed, instead of being merely an inciting incident to separate overdramatised storyline and this is where citation shines the most.
Said to have been inspired by real life events, Citation sees Moremi in the process of convincing her university’s senate tribunal of the truth of her story. It also takes a deep and necessary bite at Nigeria’s longstanding culture of illicit sexual relations encouraged and facilitated by university lecturers. It also takes a critical look at systems of accountability and what it would mean for survivors of sexual assault, if they spoke up against the act.
In my opinion, Citation is a common story we’ve heard so many times, yet, it is in the ordinariness of the story that it find its strength. It is a story told without filters and enriched with brilliant acting from both established and other first time actors who make up the cast. The film score is enthralling with impressive rhythmic sounds that propel the story. The cinematography was on point.
There is a pan-africanist feel to the movie as it displayed the aesthetics of the countries it is set in. The tourism shots of Senegal and Carpe Verde and the gorgeous shots of Obafemi Awolowo University are endearing for some and nostalgic for most (it just gave all these OAU students automatic shoulder pad). All of these add strength to the story.
However, this is not to say that Citation is bereft of flaws. First on the list of flaws is the scene where Professor Osagie was in the classroom. All the students were focused on him. Not one student was talking to their friends, looking disinterested or pressing their phones. Impossible! And everyone laughed at Lucien’s joke??
Secondly, the scene where Moremi meets Samba for the first time. She followed a complete stranger to an unknown place in a foreign land. I find that hard to believe because Nigerians don’t trust that easily. Maybe if the boy had whispered something to her, we may have guessed he told her something compelling to follow him. Also, why did he choose her? There should have been a propelling action.
Also, when Kwesi told Moremi that he shouldn’t have left her on the night of the Easter party, one would think that they had a fight during the party or that she stayed behind against his advice. It would have been more logical if Kwesi blamed himself because he had searched for her, didn’t find her, and then assumed she had gone.
“But I believe Jesus will intervene.” This is a catchy line but using it twice was an overkill. It seemed forced and unconnected to the issue on ground. The fighting scene with Koyejo and the other guy was just woof. Maybe they could have reshot it? The way they were falling down was just depressing to watch.
Finally, many have criticized Temi Otedola’s interpretation of her role. For a debut, she didn’t do badly and I salute Kunle Afolayan for taking the risk of giving a new actress the lead role, not many producers would do that.
Temi is a good actress but she flopped with her expressions. How could someone disrespect you with such audacity, yet the intensity of anger and pain is not registered on your face? The scenes of the senate panel had the required energy because of the other characters, and not because of Moremi. Those scenes were Moremi’s opportunity as the protagonist, to show the agony that comes with being a victim of abuse, intimidation, betrayal and the fear of losing everything she had worked for.
Unfortunately, the film does sag; it’s two hours thirty minutes length is slightly unnecessary to drive home the point. It could have been shorter and still pass the message across.
Ultimately, it is a good film. Could it be better? Definitely, there is always room for improvement. Nevertheless, Citation is good way to address one of the country’s pressing problems and it would be nice if other Nollywood movies begin to follow suit, or even dare to take it up a notch.