Movie title: ‘76
Release date: 11th September, 2016.
Released on Netflix: August, 2021
Runtime: 1 hour 58 minutes
Produced by: Adonijah Owiriwa
Director: Izu Ojukwu
Cast: Ramsey Nouah, Rita Dominic, Chidi Mokeme, Ibinabo Fiberesima, Pat Nebo, Adonijah Owiriwa, Nelly Ekwereogu, Debo Oguns, Shuaibu Ebenesi Adams, Nancy Eke.
The movie ’76 is so different from what I expected. I initially thought it would be a movie that would center around suspense and action since it is in relation to the infamous Nigerian coup of 1976 but even though it featured these things, I realized it has a lot more to offer. It is a movie about love, complete sacrifice and trust. At that moment, I became excited and looked forward to the story unfolding. Trust me when I say I wasn’t disappointed, I genuinely enjoyed my viewing experience with ‘76. I was completely immersed into the story till the very end. Izu Ojukwu outdid himself here and I must commend him for a job well done.
The movie ‘76 is based on the true events that follow the failed Nigerian military coup of 1976, which led to the assassination of General Murtala Mohammed. It centers on the love story of a couple Joseph (Ramsey Nouah) and Suzy (Rita Dominic) although one would expect the movie to be all about the coup, but it is a story expressed in a remarkable way because we see them withstand situations that test their love and faith in each other. First, Suzy’s family makes it very clear they aren’t in support of their union due to tribal differences. Then, Joseph never introduces Suzy to any of his family members even after getting her pregnant which frustrates her and arouses her suspicion. Joseph is a captain in the army whose life is now threatened because he is against the planning of a coup that would overtake the current regime. He tries to fulfill his duty to report the mutiny but his numerous attempts to do so were hindered by some members of the battalion in support of the coup. Sadly, his close friend, Gambos (Chidi Mokeme), who is among the coup plotters betrays him and tries to set him up as one of the supporting plotters of the coup, why? In the aftermath, the coup fails and Joseph is indicted and arrested for suspicion as an accomplice to the failed coup right as Suzy goes into labour— such a horrible timing. It is known in the military system of Nigeria, that when a coup is planned, the coup plotters submit their identification cards and sign documents to prove their allegiance. If the coup is successful, they automatically hold high positions when the new military regime begins but, if it fails and they are caught they are guaranteed a stand on the gallows. The movie wraps up as we watch Joseph and Suzy fight their battles, even as they are threatened with the probability of it all ending in a gruesome death.
PERFORMANCE AND CASTING
The opening scene features a clock that moves in reverse to indicate the use of flashback for the purpose of storytelling; it starts the countdown from Saturday the 14th to Wednesday the 11th. This subtly informs the viewers that they are about to go on a trip back in time, which I would say is a brilliant idea. This technique is smooth and clearly defines its purpose unlike in most Nollywood movies, where we see the character make a downcast facial expression with both hands hoisted at the hips, as they look towards the sky as if to remember an event then whoosh! we are suddenly in their memories. The opening scenes continue as the characters begin to introduce their roles in the movie— the rambunctious neighbors that have the habit to play loud music at odd hours, the jolly boisterous friend who follows up with not so jolly activities and so on. There is a subtle insight to the roles these characters would play in the movie.
The major characters play out their roles exceptionally well. Such as, Ramsey Nouah who played Joseph Dewa in ‘76. He brings something spectacular with every scene he’s in, he helps play a major role in suspense building throughout the movie especially in scenes where he is constantly looking over his shoulders. Ramsey connects with Joseph Dewa in a way that made me forget he isn’t actually military personnel but just playing a character. He professionally creates a balance between the roles as he blends the lover boy character with the undercover expert spy that exposes a coup.
Rita Dominic brought her ‘A’ game to ‘76. She manages to completely convince me that she’s heavily pregnant as she wears the pregnancy toga like it had always been a part of her— except she was actually pregnant and the whole country wasn’t aware. She conveys her emotions with a beautiful balance as well. She neither under-expresses nor over-expresses them, it was just right. Rita’s performance had a way of drawing my emotional sympathy so much so I caught myself tearing up. It takes a really good performance to make me cry, but I could feel her struggle and frustration coupled with loneliness and fear even without the use of dialogue to express these feelings.
From my viewing perspective, Rita had the best performance. She delivered her roles with so much finesse and most importantly she professionally conveyed these emotions to her audience.
The movie is set in the early 70s, specifically 1976. The crew managed to perfectly pull this herculean task off as everything looked like it ought to be from the 70s. I could see a vintage touch from the house decorations to the vehicles to naira notes and even objects as minute as the beer bottles, and it made me wonder how they found all these after so much time had passed? The soundtracks were a combination of blues, afrobeat and some jazz— the typical music buzz of that time. But I couldn’t help but notice the sloppy mixing of the music with dialogue. I saw some scenes where the music is supposed to be in the background but I struggled to hear the dialogue. Regardless, I was greatly impressed by the consistency of attention to details throughout the movie. Clearly, the producers did a thorough research before embarking on its production because it all blended amazingly well considering the era for which the movie is set. The filming took place mainly at Mokola Army Barracks in Ibadan, Oyo state. Apparently, the cast and crew spent a great deal of time in the military barracks to acclimatize with the lifestyle of the military. This is also the first Nollywood movie to gain support with resources and access to original footages of past events from the military archives. Footages which were included and blended into the movie. This is another proof of how much effort was put into the production of the movie ‘76.
In an interview, Ojukwu says that ’76 “is a story told from a dual point of view. From the soldier’s patriotic perspective accused of being involved in the 1976 military coup and assassination of General Murtala Muhammed, and from that of the officer’s wife.” He noted that as far as he was concerned, the wives are the real soldiers, “…they are the ones who suffer from whatever decisions their husbands make, whether on the battlefield or off it.”
In comparison with Amina a movie which he directed in 2021, it’s very clear that a better job was done in the making of ’76. Ojukwu was able to craftily control the film’s artistic contents and visually relay it to the audience better than he did in Amina. In the beginning scenes, he made use of a lot of choker shots which help intensify the ongoing suspense. He was also able to categorically project the message of ’76 through the cast, so I can confidently say he understood the assignment. I’m yet to see more of his works but so far, the movie ‘76 has my highest recommendation.
In conclusion, I will now give my final ratings and I have decided that this movie deserves an 8 out of 10 especially because of the consistent and conscious attention to details, indeed it is remarkable.