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Gideon Chukwuemeka Ogbonna: Lionheart – More than Your Average Nigerian Film

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To tell a story is to give a gift. In whatever form it comes (music, film, or book), storytelling gives us the chance to sit and view life—what it was, what it is, what it can be—from a big screen, or from words laced within pages. With Lionheart, Genevieve Nnaji tells a Nigerian story in pure form, transporting us to the hilly clime of Enugu where a young lady, Adaeze, together with her uncle, Godswill, team up to rescue her father’s transport company from bankruptcy.

The many reviews on social media about this movie makes it almost hackneyed to still say that Lionheart is a good one. Ms. Nnaji scored a lot of points with the directing and overall production of this film. It was refreshing watching scenes that were relatable, true, and typical depictions of the Nigerian life; scenes set neither in Lagos nor Abuja, but in Enugu, a place I am sentimentally attached to.

Lionheart was packed with legendary actors who didn’t force anything, who took up their roles effortlessly, making it seem as if there was a hidden camera, and no director to bawl, “Cut!” “Action!”

We must give kudos to Ms. Nnaji for trusting our wits and understanding, for trusting us to see intricate details like the signpost bearing “Ministry of Transport” as Adaeze hurried into the building instead of telling us that the meeting for the BRT contract was held in the state secretariat; for telling us, in the early scenes of the movie, that Enugu to Shagamu was running low on passengers, and showing us later why that was so in the scene at Peace Park.

She trusted us with the beauty and power of language at the Obiagu’s lunch table where they teased themselves, sharing meals and laughter, dishing out jokes in rich, exhilarating Igbo, one so exhilarating that a non-Igbo wouldn’t feel the need to demand an interpretation.

She trusted us in the scene where the sing-song dialect of Hausa calmed the palpable tension of ethnic sentiments that hung in the room as Chief Obiagu and Alhaji Maikano sat sharing drink and kolanut.

Also, in a time where the issue of gender equality is one met with misconceptions and criticisms, where many have made the words “feminism” and “misandry” synonyms, there is need to applaud the feministic undertone in Lionheart. It passes the important message that assistance or teamwork doesn’t downplay a woman’s strength, that it doesn’t matter who gets the job done (man or woman) so long as the job is done, that we can recognize and respect the choices of people as much as we respect our culture.

Lionheart gifts us a quintessential character in Chief Obiagu, a titled, wealthy Igbo man who allowed his daughter take full charge of his empire while his son took up a “trivial” career path—music.

However, despite the many positives of Lionheart, it is difficult to sideline its flaws. A story is important, but how it is told is more important. Lionheart was a weak and predictable story devoid of twists and turns, and filled with typical Nollywood tropes and clichés. I had expected that a movie such as this would be fast and furious, a crescendo to a beautiful climax. We saw Ms. Nnaji do this with the movie, Road To Yesterday. Sadly, what we saw with Lionheart was a film that had its story rushed, robbing the audience an opportunity to savor the beauty of it, the beauty that could have been birthed out of it.

There was the needless need to make it so thematic and didactic that the pace of the movie was slowed down so as to accommodate—overburden—the movie with themes such as love, family, mentorship, discouragement, and renewed vigor. Themes passed only by the protagonist in a way that downplays the strength of the villain. I believe that if the villainous characters of Igwe Pascal and Samuel had been fleshed out better, it would have provided more richness to the story.

Furthermore, Nollywood movies haven’t gotten it right yet with hemming themes with scenes. This is why we keep having apparent plot holes: because writers always fall into the trap of creating extra, most times, implausible scenes just to pass a particular message. We see this in the scene where Adaeze and her uncle went to meet Arinze for assistance. That was a forced, implausible scene. Why would her uncle just opt and go into a part of a house he was visiting for the first time? Say there was a background where the Godswill character was depicted as troublesome (such as we have seen many times with Nkem Owoh’s characters), then it would have made some sense.

Also, how did Adaeze suddenly know where her uncle was? A man she told to wait outside because she wouldn’t take a minute? The whole scene waters down the quality of the story, and I think it was just a ploy to get Peter Okoye featured in it. It should have been scrapped, a better way found to pass the message of “Not All Igbos Are Swindlers.”

But overall, Lionheart is more than an average film. One that, once again, puts Nigeria in the map. And we are thankful for the gift of Ms. Nnaji. A beauty in all ramifications, except for her voice though. Her “Wetin you go do your best friend” line was a hilarious throwback to her “hit” single, “No More.”

Gideon writes because the pen is not shy, nervous, and does not stutter. He spends his days and nights crafting stories in his mind that, most times, never make it to the laptop screen. And he wonders if his interest in "short" stories has anything to do with his 5ft frame.

21 Comments

  1. Cyn

    January 8, 2019 at 2:40 pm

    I legit looked up her song “no more” after I watched that scene.

  2. Ms S

    January 8, 2019 at 5:11 pm

    Lol @ your last statement. I’m always excited to read reviews to see whether or not I agree with them, being that I enjoy critiquing myself. i respect your opinion but however do not agree with parts of your critique, and find it slightly contradictory, (having showered so much praise in your beginning paragraphs). This statement in particular, “Lionheart was a weak and predictable story devoid of twists and turns, and filled with typical Nollywood tropes and clichés”, did not make sense to me. Not all movies have to be fast-paced and filled with “twists and turns”, some stories can be simple and still beautiful. And if you’ve watched Nollywood movies for long, which I’m sure you have, and particularly those of the Igbo genre, there was little cliche here, and that was actually one of my favourite aspects. Ms Nnaji made sure she went against the norm, told a simple story in a different, heartwarming way.
    The Arinze scene I believe, simply aimed to humanize her a bit more (Peter CANNOT act though lol), and I like the fact that a lot was said with little said in a lot of the scenes. I also don’t think it would’ve been that hard to find her uncle in Arinze’s house, that seemed to be filled with people. Also, his wandering off seemed well within character, plus he appeared to have gone after one of the ladies. All in all though, great writeup on your part, cheers!

    • Suugar

      January 8, 2019 at 9:35 pm

      You are awesome, thank you….

    • Gideon Chukwuemeka Ogbonna

      January 8, 2019 at 11:02 pm

      Thank you Ms S. Your views are excellent. But when I talked about it being cliche, I meant that you could easily guess what will happen. You could tell the end from the beginning. From the point her uncle showed her the newspaper, you’d know that it would have to come up somewhere. It is a normal story line. Everything starts fine, then a conflict, then discouragement, then hope, then resolution.

      For a story that gives deadlines to resolution, I would expect that the whole story would have been built on efforts and hurdles that were made and faced till there was a climax. The antagonists should have been fleshed out more. That’s why they are antagonists. They just gave deadlines and went to bed. I would have love to see them thinking they’ve gotten it right, then failing. The story was rushed.

      The Arinze was unnecessary for me. If you could look deeper into it, the aims of that scene were to create a meeting point for Maikano’s son and to break down a stereotype stamped on the igbo race. These two things would have been achieved without that scene. It was forced and was a disjoint from the whole movie. I think a little flashback would have worked there.

    • Gee

      January 9, 2019 at 3:30 pm

      Your write up is indeed the TRUTH. I admire the point and movie aimed to prove one of which was NOT ALL IGBOS ARE SWINDLERS…..That part where Adaeze came to look for her uncle…i also wondered how she found him (remember he walked down a stairs and into basement-looking room?…Lolz), they should have paid more attention to details there. Also, i am not sure what Peter was doing in that movie, they did not even use his money anymore, why was he shirtless? why the cap? lolz… (those were my husbands questions …i just kept on laughing). One part i did like was that the Hamza and his dad spoke well…i am tired of the hausa people being portrayed as the people without the “F” factor in movies. My husband said, are you sure this Hamza guy is really hausa for real…i rolled my eyes and said YES naa, there are well educated hausa’s and they speak really good English. By and large, i expected more from the movie, but it was nice to see Onyeka, Pete and the likes in there….

    • Arianna

      January 9, 2019 at 8:25 pm

      “”Ummm, correct me if I am wrong but wasn’t it the other way round? Her uncle was running away from the men in the basement when he found her in the living room waiting for Arinze. I saw this movie a few months ago at a private screening before its release so my memory is foggy on that particular scene.

    • MsBlogist

      January 8, 2019 at 11:33 pm

      Ms S. Why are you jumping everywhere fighting everyone who doesn’t say Lionheart is Gods gift to humanity? Two foreign outlets already called the film a failure lacking direction. At no point do you root for anyone becayse you don’t know what the story is about! Everybody was so perfect. So sweet. Even Kanayo was not presented in any threatening manner. And how did the assistant get out lf jail? No paperwork? Just man and woman? Adaeze had no struggle. She was in no way a hero. Did you cry? Twist and turn does not mean screaming or action. It means connecting. Rooting for, feeling for. Suspense.
      That dining table scene you guys keep referring to is so childish. Because they spoke Igbo? Or proverbs.? Stop fighting and let Genny learn and grow.

  3. Chiege Immanuel Phos

    January 8, 2019 at 5:29 pm

    Apt!

  4. Oluwatosin Oludare

    January 8, 2019 at 5:46 pm

    I agree with the writer. Lion Heart scored 7/10 in my books.

  5. Californiabawlar

    January 8, 2019 at 8:43 pm

    Are you people reviewing Genny or the movie? ???????

    • Gee

      January 9, 2019 at 3:31 pm

      Both, after all she was the director/producer, wasn’t she?

    • Ruth

      January 12, 2019 at 2:03 pm

      Both. How can Igwe Pascal preside a meeting in another man’s office? How can??

  6. Enny

    January 8, 2019 at 9:23 pm

    A good review Gideon Chukwuemeka Ogbonna”! ….. I can relate to some of your views on Lionheart . The best part of the move was the view of the cities and parts shown. Over all, it was an entertaining way to pass time.

  7. chika

    January 9, 2019 at 9:21 am

    Beautiful write up, I wish i could express myself this good. Well done to the writer,However i enjoyed the movie Lion heart. I will rate it a 10/10.

  8. Hrh

    January 9, 2019 at 4:14 pm

    This is the best review i have read so far. Very objective critique. Well done

  9. o

    January 10, 2019 at 1:31 am

    Lionheart was very weak. Forgettable. How are your company auditors behaving like they are bankers you’re indebted to? It’s not then you got loan from what the harassment? The attempt at humor fell flat there. They were saying 950 million but subtitle wrote nine fifteen 915m. Also like others have mentioned how did she know where her uncle was? I’m glad I didn’t go watch it in cinema. It was also very predictable towards the end. It’s a 6/10 for me. How can someone working for you bring your arch enemy and competitor to your office into the board room for a meeting? It’s like Dangote going into BUA group office and holding a meeting there. It can never happen. Such meeting will ordinarily be done secretly somewhere else

    • Ruth

      January 12, 2019 at 2:07 pm

      This was exactly my thoughts while watching it. So so plot holes. I rate it 6/10

  10. Marsala

    January 10, 2019 at 4:17 am

    “She trusted us with the beauty and power of language at the Obiagu’s lunch table where they teased themselves, sharing meals and laughter, dishing out jokes in rich, exhilarating Igbo, one so exhilarating that a non-Igbo wouldn’t feel the need to demand an interpretation.

    She trusted us in the scene where the sing-song dialect of Hausa calmed the palpable tension of ethnic sentiments that hung in the room as Chief Obiagu and Alhaji Maikano sat sharing drink and kolanut.“

    Two of my favorite scenes in the movie! Loved it! I give it an 8/10

  11. Awesome

    January 11, 2019 at 11:52 am

    @MsBlogist… Is your IQ that low that you expect them to show you how her PA left the prison, before you catch up ? How will such unnecessary scene move the plot of the movie {Coz the movie na prison break! – How else will they leave the prison if not through Bail. You heard the police man correctly in the movie when he stated that his Boss who was to grant the bail does not know the identity of the persons arrested, that all that was just needed was to have one man and one woman in the cell pending his return to grant bail}
    You are the one that has been on all LIONHEART post exposing your malice, hate, ignorance and low IQ… Because the movie didn’t turn out to be your regular Nollywood movie where KOK will be a horrible villain etc Honestly why do you choose to be this unfortunate? NO FOREIGN OUTLET EVER said the movie is a failure, your hatred for the Director can make you live in self deceit about the movie but just know that your hate or opinion doesn’t change the fact that the movie is a Big Hit, First Netflix Original and the Director has become the first Nollywood Billionaire. Deal with it!! Genny knows exactly where to get objective criticisms from, so keep your hateful criticism to your self.

  12. Estee

    January 12, 2019 at 1:24 pm

    The scene of the Obiagu’w family lunch was everything to me!
    @MsBlogist, your review is filled with so much hate and you certainly cannot give an honest review about the movie, so stop trying pls!
    The movie is certainly not a blockbuster, but like someone said its ‘a feel-good’ movie and I agree absolutely! Generally the movie is an 8 for me

  13. Oga Emma

    October 12, 2019 at 6:27 am

    l have read many comments about the film Lionheart. Those who ill feelings for the director and producer.You are free likewise those that have good feelings. but this I believe in the film is that there’s a great change from what are obtainable in Africa films in Lionheart. let’s give our support and encourage her to improve more.it is only God that gives perfect outputs. kudos to everything and everyone in Lionheart film

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