Because Men in Silk Shirts on Lagos Nights Review

AKA: N/A
Genre: Experimental
Year Released: 2018
Distributor: The Criterion Collection
Origin: Nigeria/USA
Running Time: 3 minutes
Rating/Recommended Audience: PG
Related Films/Series: N/A
For Fans Of: This short film is quite unique and I can’t put my finger on any short films that are like it. However, I can see fans of the fashion scene and Afrofuturism would be into this.
Notes:
-Silk Shirts is one of the extras in the DVD and Blu-Ray release of Eyimofe.

-This short can also be seen on YouTube.
Fun Facts:
-Silk Shirts was commissioned for the Nigerian fashion brand Maki Oh. This fashion company was founded by Amaka Osakwe in 2010 and the name is basically her real name in short (Side note: I thought this was a Japanese company at first until I did my research). Some people who have worn her clothing include Rihanna, both Knowles sisters (Beyonce and Solange), Lady Gaga, and Michelle Obama to name a few.

-Arie Esiri directed this film while his twin brother Chuko was a producer for this project. They actually filmed the whole thing on celluloid instead of regular or digital cameras.

-Nigerian-British singer Boj was featured acting in this short film. He has toured with the likes of Burna Boy, Skepta, and Tory Lanez in different countries.

We’re back to see more of the filmography involving the Esiri brothers. Eyimofe was the first film and only full-length project I’ve seen of them, but my DVD copy contains their earlier short films on a separate disc. That’s what happens when you buy Criterion DVDs, you tend to get bonus films as part of the set. Maybe more companies should give this a try besides them, Film Movement (at least with short films as extras), and ArtMattan.

The Esiri Brothers partnered up with Nigerian fashionista Amaka Osakwe. Let’s see how their short film holds up.

Because Men in Silk Shirts on Lagos Nights
is an experimental silent film that deals exactly with what the title says, but that’s an understatement. There are men in different spots of the city wearing extravagant silk clothing while doing various activities such as watching TV outside, driving mini-taxis around, going to the club, or playing mancala blindfolded. The experiences converge in the dark across Nigeria’s largest city.

Comparing this to Eyimofe would be unfair, but I can tell that there’s a radically different style of filming compared to the real drama the Esiri Brothers would make in 2020. There’s an arthouse and Afrofuturist vibe which catches your attention immediately. The camera work involves the film being a bit off-center like a constant 8mm film jittering while still feeling stationary. The nightscape really works with the cool color correction before getting brighter during the indoor club scenes. There’s also a sense of an unknown dread despite the fashionable wear or how there aren’t many people around despite being in a massive African metropolis. Keep in mind, this was filmed before COVID existed, so there wouldn’t have been an excuse for social distancing back then. It adds fridge horror despite the night-clad opulence on display. The sound design is impressive with the Afropop playing in the background or random computer noises that pop up at different junctures. They put a ton of effort into the costume design and cinematography which I do have to applaud. The imagery of the two blindfolded men playing mancala was iconic in its own right. The blindfolds even looked fancy with one with an intricate design and another one just saying “oh oh oh” over and over for its pattern. I can interpret this as people playing mindlessly while not looking at potential danger around them. The ending felt creative in its own right even though I wouldn’t recommend anyone try what happened at home.

This short film could make some tweaks in its attire before getting on the runway. The title is cumbersome and just weird. Don’t get it twisted, I’m guilty of using the Internet way of shortening sentences or phrases with the word “because” like “because anime” or “because kitties” both online and in real life as a joke (a famous example of someone using it would be Childish Gambino’s “Because the Internet” album), but this was cumbersome and I don’t know why it was worded like that. This short does look awesome, but I wondered about how much substance there is beyond a commissioned project with Maki Oh. I’m not saying this is some Afrofuturist/Avant-Garde version of Zoolander (at least the actors have more than one look), but it feels like fancy multi-colored frosting more than cake if that makes sense. One could argue that some of the images could have symbolism like the mancala scene or how the sparse amount of people shown in a metropolis that makes New York City and London look like podunk rural villages by comparison from a population standpoint could imply a low-key post-apocalyptic setting, but I think it could’ve used a different angle. Instead of spelling everything out which I applaud, this can be too obtuse.

Because Men in Silk Shirts on Lagos Nights (this is such an awkward title to type) was a decent diversion that didn’t take long, but it could’ve had more of an essence instead of being a glorified fashion ad. The cinematography is impressive and the imagery is innovative, but I don’t think the substance matches the visuals at every point. I’d be lying if I said there wasn’t any effort and it’s a good entry into the Esiri portfolio, but I wouldn’t call this masterful. Maybe I should look into Maki Oh’s menswear for some new drip.

Adjustable Point System:
Add 1-2 points if you like Afrofuturism elements in your films.
Add 1 point if you’re a fan of fashion.
Subtract 1-2 points if you prefer your short films to have a clear story.
Subtract 1-2 points if you aren’t a fan of silent films.

Pros:
-Creative cinematography and effects
-Snazzy fashion/costume design
-Intriguing symbolism in some of the scenes

Cons:
-The bizarre title
-Gets too obtuse in its narrative
-Can come off like an avant-garde commercial

Final Score: 6/10 points

Content Warning: There’s nothing really offensive about Silk Shirts. The only mildly objectionable thing is the ending scene where three drivers in mini-taxis try to play bumper cars which get cut off before they crash.

-Curtis Monroe

All photos and videos are property of their respective owners and are used under US “Fair Use” laws. Because Men in Silk Shirts on Lagos Knights is property of The Criterion Collection. The screenshot is from YouTube and is property of Arie Esiri, Maki Oh, and A Whitespace Creative Agency.

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