Bauchi is the most unlikely location for a Nigerian movie given the terrorism attacks in the recent past. Anakle Films collaborates with Inkblot Production for its first feature film, “Up North,” and take a bold step by shooting “Up North” largely in Bauchi, and they show that it is not all doom and gloom “Up North.”
After seeing this teaser, we knew that “Up North” was a must-see, and we were not wrong.
“Up North” is a coming of age story. Banky Wellington plays lead character Bassey Otuekong. Bassey’s father, Chief Otuekong (Kanayo O. Kanayo), owns Odeon Construction. Lotus Construction, owned by Otunba Adetola (Akin Lewis), and Odeon are in merger talks. As such, Bassey’s marriage to the Adetola’s daughter is the deal-breaker. But Bassey is a layabout who believes his sister Idara (Michelle Dede) is best suited to run the company. So, he declines the arranged marriage.
Coincidentally, Bassey is due to attend the mandatory National Youth Service Corps (NYSC). As punishment for Bassey’s rebellion, his dad refuses to file for a redeployment. As a result, Bassey finds himself “Up North” in Bauchi. At the NYSC camp, Bassey and opportunist Sadiq (Ibrahim Suleiman) get off on a wrong foot. However, they soon resolve their differences and become best buddies. While in Bauchi, Bassey’s passion for fitness takes him on a journey of self discovery.
Although not the type of movie Nigerians would throng to the cinema to see, “Up North” is a refreshing Nigerian story. It is a great tourism campaign for Bauchi state. It showcases the beautiful Bauchi scenery, wildlife and culture. And Bauchi state governor, Barrister Mohammed Abubakar, makes a cameo appearance. “Up North” also sends a very strong message that “knowledge is power.”
First of, Bassey helps to debunk the myth that Asthma patients cannot participate in sport. Aisha’s dad had dissuaded her from running because he believed she would die. With the right care Aisha, who is living with asthma, leads her school team to lift the trophy in the “She Runs Bauchi” athletics competition. Then, the Grand Khadi (Sani Muazu) reinforces the message when he says ‘Too many of our southern brothers don’t know our way of life…’
The film brilliantly depicts life as a youth corper. And Banky is a delight to watch. Initially, you think Banky might be a bit too old to play youth corper but it makes when he says, he is 32. And so should be exempt from NYSC. He is not playing a 25-year old corp member. Director, Tope Oshin relied on his star-power. Banky is bankable and it works. Let us face it, not many Nigerians would be open to a movie shot in the north without the mansions, fripperies or luxurious cars. In fact, some cinemagoers will tell you the movie is a bit slow. And by slow, they do not necessarily mean pacing but setting – taking us back to the Grand Khadi’s statement. So Banky, 37, playing a 32-year old Bassey is not such a bad idea.
Still on the cast, Suleiman is even more delightful. He puts up a very animated performance. He wears a grin even when extorting Bassey. As for Adesua Wellington, she would easily pass for a Hausa girl. Versatility makes a great actor. It is pleasing to see her switch from the fiesty Kemi Salami in “King of Boys” to the shy and unassuming Hausa girl, Zainab, in “Up North.” Rahama Sadu (Aminat) is Nollywood’s go-to girl for the role of young and educated Hausa woman. But we would like to see her breakaway from that stereotype. We also would have liked to see the development of the love story between Bassey and Aminat. But it caught us by surprise. That is the love story we ought to have rooted for but the script was lacking. So we root for Sadiq and Zainab instead.
Director Tope Oshin-Ogun is always good at incorporating digital culture into her movies. As with “New Money” she did that with “Up North.” Bassey is notorious for documenting his experience on social media. Notwithstanding, “Up North” was a bit lacking production-wise. The visual enhancement done to the exterior of Odeon Construction is wishy-washy.
The soundtrack for “Up North” is another plus for the movie. Sound Sultan’s “Motherland” aka “Ajo dabi ile,” Dinachi’s “Fresh Love” and “Bahd, Baddo, Baddest” by Falz, Olamide and Davido are featured. Every song including the traditional Hausa tunes, set the mood. Yet, the sound in the movie was a bit problematic.
“Up North” is however a departure from the norm and we like that. It is a reminder that there are so many themes for Nollywood producers to explore. We look forward to more of such movies in 2019.
“Up North” was released in cinemas on 28 December and is showing around the country.
Director: Tope Oshin
Cast includes: Bany Wellington, Adesua Etomi-Wellington, Kanayo O. Kanayo, Michelle Dede, Akin Lewis, Rahama Sadau, Ibrahim Onimisi Suleiman and Tokunbo “TBoss” Idowu.