Inside Story, an advocacy movie on HIV premieres in Lagos. Happily, it doesn't lose its artistic essence, writes Laurence Ani
The challenge for directors of commissioned film projects with a strong social message has always been how to convey such message to the audience without sounding pedantic. It's usually an overwhelming challenge as art, in most cases, tends to be swamped by the social cause the executive producers are seeking to highlight.
But in Inside Story, a movie that premiered in Lagos on World AIDS Day (Dec 2), the inherent message did not obscure the aesthetic considerations that make the art form what it is, essentially.
Directed by Rolie Nikiwe with funding support from Access Bank, Chevron, Discovery Communications, FHI, World AIDS Campaign and a few other charities, Inside Story is a triumph of conviction, the courage to confront an unpleasant reality than live in denial - or simply sink into a pit of despair.
"On a dusty soccer pitch in Malindi, Kenya," the producers wrote in the movie's synopsis, "young Kalu (Kevin Ndege Mamboleo) is an aggressive striker of the Malindi Sharks, who dreams of playing professional soccer. He's a selfish player and a clear stand out on his team and knows he's destined for glory. Then one day his life dramatically changes. Kalu gets an offer to play soccer on a second tier team in South Africa on the same day his father is killed in an accident and he unknowingly is exposed to the HIV virus. He makes the decision to go play soccer and send part of his salary back home to his mother (Regina-Re) and sister."
Kalu's promising career suffers after he was banished from his club apparently for his blossoming friendship with Ify (Kendra Etufunwa) for whom the club owner equally has a crush. But a bigger challenge lay ahead - Kalu learns of his HIV status through Ify to whom he had transmitted the virus. The understandable sadness felt by Ify drives both friends apart. Depressed by the pain of losing his place in the club and the ravaging effect of his failing immunity, Kalu succumbs to self pity and loses his once ebullient demeanour.
However, he soon comes to terms with the fact of his status and in doing so regains his enthusiasm for life and for the game he loves dearly. The plot unfolds realistically - Kalu is not miraculously cured; rather, he gains new insight about living with the virus as he declares that "knowledge is power".
But for all its brilliance, the producers may have inadvertently created the impression that HIV/AIDS is more or less an African problem. Given that Inside Story was also shot in South Africa with an ample white population, it's curious the cast was largely black.
That feature by no means dulled the movie's incisive social message or its riveting plot.