Oga John is a short tense film drawn from our present-day encounter, narrating the subject matter of “mental health” and colliding two worlds apart. It explores the use of cinematic storytelling, which is rarely employed in Nollywood movies.
In his little cramped shop, Oga John attends to a customer; a middle-aged woman in a native attire who complains about how expensive his goods were becoming. Apparently, he doesn’t care about whatever she thinks, either she buys or not. She finally buys and leaves. The football commentary in Pidgin blares loudly from a radio as the shop owner crouches to pen down his sales. Not long before a suicidal young and sophisticated woman comes to buy rat poison.
Sceptical Oga John asks if she wants anything else, Alero (Ade Laoye) is silent. In that strained silence she waits as he fumbles in his cupboard to find her balance. Then arranges the pen and calculator laying lopsidedly on the table and leaves. This detail shows us how she suffers from Compulsive Disorder without involving any verbosity. Purposeful use of the ‘show don’t tell ‘technique that evokes emotions in the viewer without a word of dialogue.
The story progresses with Alero in her car, overwhelmed with emotions and on the verge of committing suicide. The film further portrays millennials’ obsession with social media and religion as society’s solution to everything even mental health. This is subtly highlighted when she scrolls briefly on twitter and listens to her mom’s messages where she pleads that they can resolve what is bothering her “I will speak to my pastor and we will pray about it,” she says.
With so minimal dialogue, Oga John written by Oje Ojeaga, directed and produced by Tolu Ajayi and Bolanle Akintomide outlines the connection between film technique and good storytelling. This is an unforgettable movie, and a property of Mentally Aware Nigeria Initiative, an NGO in the forefront of raising mental awareness and prevention of suicide. I believe the filmmaking process is important as well a good story, and both shouldn’t be disassociated in giving movie enthusiasts a remarkable cinema experience. Oga John immensely shows us both and serves as an inspiration in the exploration of cinema.