On Screen: The Movie “FIFTY”
Illustration by Seun Ajibola
Once in a while I come across a movie that I was previously unaware of and on this particular day, I came across the movie Fifty. Whenever I hear about a movie I want to know the financials behind the project. From my research, typical Nollywood films generate a return on investment of N30M, but Fifty was able to generate N400M in return on investment. This is unprecedented in the industry and it is attributed to the private screenings, sold out shows and the streaming subscription agreement with Netflix. The extraordinary return on investment peaked my interest and led me to watch the film to determine exactly why it performed so well.
One of my strongest points against Nollywood and the Nigerian Film Industry is the lack of visually displaying everyday struggles in the movies that are made. Over the past 20 years of observing the film industry in the country, there is a weak story telling ability that has left the industry stagnant. I still come across films that reduce the Nigerian to a caricature that is only interested in becoming rich. I believe there is a place for films with this plot, but the focus should be on better story telling on love, family and culture. Fifty represented another film that dealt with relevant issues as it affects the people of the country.
Fifty is a movie following the life of four women in the middle of their careers living in Lagos City, Nigeria. It is produced by the EbonyLifeTV and directed by the Biyi Bankole, the director of Half of a Yellow Sun. The movie follows the life of four women by the names of Tola, Elizabeth, Maria and Kate. Tola is a reality TV star who is married but has a deep dark secret about sexual abuse as a young child. Sexual abuse of children happens in the country but it is a topic that is too easily swept away by families to maintain a façade about stability. This movie tackles that issue and Nollywood needs to follow suit in dealing with such serious topics. There is also Elizabeth, the aging spinster, who is 50 and has an interest in dating younger men. The cougar phenomenon is something I often associate with North American culture and found the scenes quite hilarious while watching the interaction between Elizabeth and the young man. The movie also delves into the issue of pregnancy and fertility as well as religion through the characters of Maria and Kate. Fifty, is a coming of age story for feminism and its application to the Nigerian culture..
The film incorporates music from the culture with appearances by King Sunny Ade, Femi Kuti, and Tiwa Savage. Moreover, I found the unexpected Yoruba lines in the dialogue enriched the authenticity of the film. The running theme of the movie is that life is full of paradoxes and the movie itself can be considered a paradox because it is unlike any movie out of Nollywood and represents a blueprint for fictional storytelling.