“God Calling” has been touted as a movie of an under-served genre but Nigerians are not new to the faith-based genre.
The most popular producers of faith-based movies in Nigeria is perhaps Mount Zion Films with a catalogue of over 100 films. If Mount Zion Films does not ring a bell, perhaps the 90’s movie, “Agbara Nla” would.
Its founder, evangelist Mike Bamiloye and his wife played lead in most Mount Zion Films. They were low budget productions. And quality was nothing to write home about. However, Mount Zion Films told relatable stories about life and the hereafter. “God Calling” is pretty much the same; unapologetically Christian. It is written and directed by Bodurin “BB” Sasore creator of the drama series, “Before 30.”
Sasore released “Before 30” in 2015. The drama series was both visually enticing and performance-driven. For reasons unknown, and although well received, it did not go past the first season of just seven episodes. In 2017, Sasore abandoned drama and delved into the paranormal genre. He teamed-up with Biola Alabi to release a feature film, “Banana Island Ghost.” He continues to explore the genre with his recent release “God Calling.”
Although Sasore has been praised for his vision to explore this genre further, the cinematographer, Ola Cardoso, and visual effects artists, Gbenro Odugbemi and Jerry Ossai make “God Calling” more than what it is. They deserve the loudest accolades.
The story is about Sade (Zainab Balogun), who much like her father, Richard Mofe-Damijo (RMD), is having a crisis of faith. Meanwhile, it seems that the role of “rich dad” in Nollywood is now reserved for RMD, such that are we beginning to forget why he became such a big star in the first place.
Anyway, Sade is happily married to Francis (Karibi Fubara) who’s estranged from his parents. Nkem Owoh and Onyeka Onwenu play Francis’s parents. After a tragic fire incident, Sade has an encounter with God (Ademola Adedoyin). He speaks to her not through dreams or a small voice. But through her mobile phone. God has a mission for Sade. And she must answer his call.
Sade is a dynamic character and well played by Balogun. The screenplay explores different stages of grief including; shock, anger, denial and depression. And Balogun puts up a commendable performance. Onwenu also shone bright. She delivered her lines with grace. Onwenu does not have the longest filmography in Nollywood but her performances remind you of why certain actors are called “veterans.”
On the one hand, it seems like the plot is based on depression – a growing mental health concern. Depression causes Shade to attempt suicide. That is a relatable story given the suicide cases recorded in Lagos this year. Contrarily, “God Calling” is not a movie about depression. Because Sade makes a quick recovery due to a supernatural encounter. And she needs to spread the Gospel.
Sasore missed an opportunity here. Sade’s recovery process could have been better explored. Depression is an issue too big to gloss over. We had hoped that the movie would not end like classic faith-based movies in which hearing from God is only akin to becoming a missionary. Sade’s ministry could have been to help the broken heal. A modern prophet to whom, God spoke to using a mobile could have been sent on a modern-day mission.
Notwithstanding, the explosion at Sade’s home and underwater visual effect are very impressive. But there were a few but notable blunders. First off, as Sade contemplates jumping into the lagoon, her white SUV is parked in the background. By the time she eventually takes the plunge, the car is missing. Furthermore, she is wet when left in the canoe. When she gets home, she is dry even if her husband Francis says, ‘Baby you are wet.’ Had Francis not said that – the audience could have assumed her dress had dried up. It is also surprising that the incident did not make the news.
Similarly, Francis called his mother from his office to inform her of his tragic loss. It implies that he had received the news. That is highly unlikely – except someone tactless broke the news. But there’s no action in the movie to make us draw that conclusion.
The most disturbing aspect of “God Calling” was the the sound. Each time the phone rang when “God called Shade,” it was deafening. There were echoes a couple of scenes too. For instance, when Sade asked her mum (Tina Mba – another fine actress who the script didn’t demand much of) why she still believed in God. Again we hear the echoes when Francis returned the church drawings to his father-in-law. In some other scenes, the background music drowned out the voices so viewers could hardly hear.
Be that as it may, we salute Sasore and his crew for making a faith-based film good enough to be screened in cinemas. But for the plot, “God Calling” would have been the faith-based movie that changed the game. Unfortunately, while the film largely delivered on technicality, the plot is nothing we haven’t seen before.
“God Calling” opened in cinemas on 21 December.
Directed and written by: Bodurin “BB” Sasore
Executive Producers: Ibukun Awosika and Derin Adeyokunnu
Cast also includes; Patrick Diabuah, Ademola Adedoyin, Bikiya Graham Douglas, Eku Edewor, Diana Egwuatu, Seun Ajayi, Chidinma Okebalama (Chee), Abiola Segun Williams and Shawn Faqua