CHIRINGO: A Review of Ovunda Ihunwo’s new Short Film

Don Kester Oshioreame, Port Harcourt

From a sociological perspective, the 22:46 minute short film by Ovunda Ihunwo (DGN), titled Chiringo (My God doesn’t take bribe) is a revisit of Marx’s theory of Class Struggle which basically thrives on the principle of social stratification that creates a marked delineation in fiscal, political, social, etc terms amongst people in society. The Honourable, Nyemenuka Kpakota (Ovunda Ihunwo) effectively represented the bourgeoisie (political elite, put in specific terms) in society while Chiringo (Juliet Urenna) and her mother (Joy Success) were the proletariat; the plebs, oppressed, depraved and disadvantaged in society.

The story set in Rivers State (Ikwerre) is a simple plot woven around the apparent abuse of power and the advantages that come with it. The honourable ran for office to represent his people and attract development, but would rather deprive an indigent constituent of a scholarship opportunity to medical school and chose to offer his biological son the opportunity at the expense of a brilliant but indigent Chiringo who incidentally, came out tops at the entrance examination. All pleas to do the honourable thing by awarding the scholarship meant for the indigent, fell on deaf ears. In the characteristic manner of many a political elite, they would rather sacrifice merit and excellence on the altar of political party patronage and loyalty. However, in a twist of fortune, replete with Morality Plays, Chiringo eventually qualified as a medical doctor by the sheer resilience and sacrifice of her widowed mother. Then the Karmic law of retributive justice caused the path of honourable Nyemenuka Kpakota and Chiringo to cross again. As the leveler; COVID-19 would not permit many elites to embark on Medical Tourism as usual, honourable was rushed to middle class clinic after a dramatic fainting episode whilst called to give an account of his stewardship in office. Incidentally, Chiringo was the doctor on duty, and the revelation ensues.

As a well-researched and scripted piece of satire, Chiringo probed the very fabric of our social structures; massive acts of corruption, hypocrisy of the elites, maladministration, dysfunctional institutions, religious hypocrisy, perversion of justice, etc.

Scenes from Chiringo

In terms of dramaturgy, Ovunda managed his cast for this short movie very well, cutting out irrelevant scenes and characters which helped to focus on the basic thematic thrust of the story which is justice. Again, it is relevant to underscore the use of apposite registers (which aided fluidity in language and dialogue) for the characters, that in no little way made the script interesting, cerebral and professional. The character of the medical doctor stands out in this regard. It answers the question of research which is mostly missing in many a script in Nollywood. The blend of vernacular and English language coupled with a near perfect subtitling made comprehension engaging and effective.

Histrionics was near flawless by both major and supporting actors. Acting reeked of professionalism. The manner characters seamlessly walked in and out of different moods and emotions as the story progressed should be applauded. The chemistry was real and authentic which again calls to question one of the weakness that has dog tailed some movies over time; the evidence of lack of depth in characterization and believability in role interpretation owing to lack of rehearsal or the absence of an artistic director. This was not an issue in my view in Chiringo. Kudos must go to Ovunda who himself is not just a distinguished thespian but a multi-talented lecturer in the University of Port Harcourt, Nigeria.
Visually, the locations though not much, rightly so, were on point; carefully chosen and managed effectively, as it enhanced the story telling technique employed by the director, which to my mind is the Latin Media Res (in the midst of things). It is an avant-gardist approach to filmic narrative as it defies traditional persuasions. At the risk of sounding critical, many Nollywood enthusiasts have always pointed to the exotic and synthetic locale and scenic designs employed by many producers and directors alike which makes our visual interpretation somewhat unreal, if not fake. Our location must be in sync with our story. Our production elements must not stir conflict. This was another positive for Chiringo.

In terms of shots, we had a variety of them fitting for the mood of the situations in the scenes. Amazingly, the shots were not repetitive thus becoming boring. The use of flashback was not cliché, i.e. zoom into the face of the subject (narrator) then dissolve into the past event or use the predictable line of transition “This is my story” and at the end; “That was how it happened” the story telling technique used by the director was fresh and innovative, if not radical.

The flavor of the local music added verve to the entire ambience. That was commendable.

I wasn’t too sure the costume beneath the doctor’s coat worn by Dr. Chirongo. The pants looked rather too lengthy thus clumsy but the character managed it well by her brisk movement when she had to move around.

However, a major discrepancy in the entire production was a point of medical research especially within precinct of the COVID-19 health protocol for health workers; it is required of medical personnel attending to patients in the Covid-19 season, to be properly kitted with face masks, hand gloves, also, washing of hands and use of sanitizers should have been prioritized.
Otherwise, Chiringo is an apt chronicle by a committed film maker who makes a serious effort at capturing for posterity an important epoch in national history; a time where public servants would rather faint when called to give account of their stewardship, a time when public officers falsify documents to their own advantage just to renege their responsibility and subvert justice, a time where the elite think ill-gotten wealth can fetch them whatever they desire.

I recommend this flick to everyone. It’s a master piece.

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