AKA: Green White Green (And All the Beautiful Colors In My Mosaic of Madness)
Genre: Coming of Age/Comedy/Meta-Fiction
Year Released: 2016
Distributor: Project Act Nollywood/Osiris (streaming on Netflix)
Running Time: 80 minutes
Rating/Recommended Audience: TV-MA
Related Films/Series: N/A
For Fans Of: Who’s Camus Anyway? OT: Our Town, 8 1/2, The Piano in a Factory
-The title of this film refers to the color of Nigeria’s flag.
-Actor Samuel Robinson who played Segun was also in the show Desperate Housewives Africa. Yes, they did a Nigerian remake in that country.
-This is the directorial debut of Abba Makama who was an actor on the show Heaven and would also work on a short film called Shaitan.
-Culture Bonus: That little subtitle during the finale of how there’s no “goodluck” may or may not be a potshot against former president Goodluck Jonathan.
You may have noticed that I’ve been covering a lot more examples of African cinema on Iridium Eye. Hey, I want some representation from that continent since I was negligent for over a year and I do apologize. Hopefully, I’ve been making up for it with numerous shorts and full-length films. For this example, I’m going back to the Nollywood scene to review a story involving some characters who want to make a movie and want to progress in life in their own ways.
Let’s see how beautiful these colors are in this so-called mosaic of madness.
Green White Green revolves around the lives of three high school senior boys in Lagos, Nigeria. There’s Uzoma AKA Uzzie who is an artist that wants to do something meaningful with his work. There’s Baba Yusuf who is an aspiring filmmaker who has the nickname of James Cameron, but he wants to do everything to make his father proud of him. Finally, there’s Segun who has a huge obsession to Western media (especially Hollywood movies and American rap music) and is willing to do everything to leave his home country to go to New York City where his big brother is. The three of them have their own goals for graduation and want to go to university, but there’s one project the three of them agree to work on: making a movie with their friends while also tying into Nigerian culture in a unique way. Despite some of the situations that country has been in the past to present (corrupt leaders, the Biafra war, Boko Haram, etc), the boys want to do something positive with this film.
This is only my second experience in Nollywood after checking out Lunch Time Heroes, but Green White Green certainly threw me a curveball. There were some original things going on especially in the meta-fiction genre with how the movie doesn’t just revolve around the film project, but there’s a running commentary (overt and subtle) about Nigeria that’s been going on. The most obvious one involves Segun’s distaste of anything from his home country such as the music, Nollywood films, and even traditional fashion as he boats that The Avengers is the best movie mainly because of how much money it made, has a poster of Jay-Z’s Blueprint III album cover in his room, and he even wears a freaking Donald Duck shirt at one point of the movie (because nothing says hardcore and rebellious like wearing a Disney character on a T-shirt [obvious sarcasm is obvious]). It’s a representation of some cultural self-loathing that happens with some people. Not only that, but the three teens meet a flim-flam filmmaker who is making a movie called Destroyer that looks like a no-budget sci-fi film that would make the episode of Flight of the Conchords where the band makes their “The Humans Are Dead” music video look dignified. I won’t spoil the punchline, but once the movie-maker explains the plot, you will instantly know which movie is being shamelessly ripped off as part of the joke. With Uzzie, he’s desperate to get accepted with his art even to the point where he sleeps in the local gallery to get his work featured. His character development was certainly fascinating as he tries to be effective with his creativity. Baba was relatable to me, too. Even though I’m not as much of a slacker by not sending multiple college applications, I do appreciate his desire to finish something that he started. Trust me, as a creative individual myself, it can be tough. I also thought the narrator was funny with his prim and proper, yet deadpan comedy. He speaks in a refined British accent and makes a running commentary about the lives of the characters such as Segun being influenced by Chris Breezy [Brown] and the Kardashian “with the sumptuous bottom”, or the unequal economy while showing scenes of mansions right next door to slums. Those were all great things going on.
The production of Green White Green also succeeds, too. While it certainly was an indie film, the cinematography works with the aesthetics of the film. Things are shot competently with nothing too flashy, but I also liked how it intentionally lowers in quality once it gets to the scenes where Baba films their movie with a basic camcorder. That was a nice touch of reality without resorting to neorealism every single second. The sound design was interesting with some of the effects and background music highlighting each scene whether it’s music of different genres or some dramatic music played for humor. I definitely give props to Abba Makama for directing this film.
Green White Green is a wonderful film, but some parts miss the mark. For example, some of the cultural aspects could be lost in translation for viewers not from Nigeria. Some of them were references I’ve looked up after the fact. Granted, I’ve watched and reviewed several foreign films, so I have no issue with this, but for someone new to Nollywood or not too familiar with African cultures could be confused. Speaking of which some of the humor does push the lines. Much like Atomic Falafel, some jokes can get uncomfortable like one example where a couple of guys ask another character to make something hi-tech inside an RC car. Those guys happen to be Boko Haram members, so you can see how this could be awkward to watch. I also found most of the characters outside of the main three boys to be underdeveloped. Sure, you have some family members, the gang, and the teacher who wears no trousers under his dashiki, but they don’t get as much personality development more often than not.
This Nigerian film does need to be checked out though. Green White Green is an insightful and even hilarious look into the culture and I wanted to see the three main characters to succeed. They were quite relatable and it was fun seeing how everything played out. The meta-fiction concepts weren’t overbearing and were quite creative. There was good production in this film and the sound design certainly delivered. Some of the humor did push it and many secondary characters didn’t shine as much though. Green White Green is something you should check out though if you want to check out Nollywood let alone African cinema.
Adjustable Point System:
Add 1 point if you like meta-fiction movies.
Subtract 1-2 points if you like your humor to be more overt.
-Excellent social/cultural commentary
-Well-developed lead characters
-Great realistic production styles
-Underdeveloped secondary characters
-Some of the cultural aspects could be lost on most viewers
-Humor can get too controversial
Final Score: 9/10 points
Content Warning: Green White Green would be better for older teens and up for this movie. The language alone would give it an R-rating since it gets very strong. There’s also drug and alcohol usage that goes on. Not to mention one character’s family member (spoilers avoided) got busted trafficking and engaging in illegal substances off-camera. One running gag involves some bumbling Boko Haram members can raise eyebrows even if it’s obviously making fun of that terrorist group.
All photos used under US “Fair Use” laws. Green White Green is property of Abba Makama, . The movie poster is from Lights Camera Africa and is property of Project Act Nollywood and Osiris