New Signposts: The Language of Love

Richard Ali reviews The Seamstress, a short film written by Tee Jay Dan and directed by Paul Frank. A photo from the set of The Seamstress as directed by Paul Frank

  • Film:                               The Seamstress
  • Director:                         Paul Frank
  • Screenplay:                    Tee Jay Dan
  • Executive Producer:     Princess Pat Akpabio
  • Run Time:                      14 minutes 45 secs
  • Reviewer:                        Richard Ali

I was delighted to read on the Facebook page of my good friend and collaborator, Tee Jay Dan, a few weeks ago that his Etisalat Short Fiction Prize entry had been adapted into a short film. I promptly followed the link to YouTube where I watched the movie directed by Paul Frank. Then I shared the video on Twitter and elsewhere, and participated in the ensuing conversation. I believe that cooperation and collaborations, like the one heralded by The Seamstress, are signposts marking out the exciting new direction Nigerian arts, particularly the Creative Economy, is going.

The movie starts with a nice sunset with lines voiced over by a female character and this quickly segues into the first scene which, interestingly, is the arrival of chaos in the form of a beautiful woman, Edima [Bernadette O Wills-Obong]. Her arrival discombobulates three young men sitting outdoors shooting air, stunning them into an admiring silence. When the spell she casts is broken, desire having been kindled, the contest for her attention and affection becomes one between two of the friends – Ifiok and Uwem. Ifiok [Raymond Asuquo] is a dolt with genteel pretensions who fancies himself a poet and as a “master of analogy”, believes he will “analyse her, break her down and cajole her to be my girl”. Uwem [Etoro Akpan] is no less a dolt, but he comes from the opposite end of the spectrum, declaring divine blessings upon his personal desire and believing the match is destined. In the manner of young men everywhere, a bet is made between these two and they prepare, as it were, for conquest. Unknown to both lover boys, there is a third force on the field for Edima’s affections – the third friend and visual artist Nduke [Kenneth Ekanem], who is gradually revealed to have a speech impairment; yet described as being able to “hear from his soul”. The story revolves around which of these three wins the girl, and why.

This short film, in which an excellent screenplay is matched by a director who clearly does not believe in wasted film, is a signpost of things to come. The four actors deliver their lines with that well done ease of artists serious about their craft though the performance of Etoro Akpan [Uwem] is a much stronger one.

The most strident criticism of the Nigerian film industry, aka Nollywood, is its rampant confusion over whether it is a movie making industry or one set up to churn out drama that’s not quite for TV, with some burlesque thrown in. Second to this is the excessive sentimentalist angle to just about everything. In this short film, The Seamstress, the partnership of Paul Frank and Tee Jay Dan shows that there is a lot to look out for in the evolution of Nollywood, an industry that is only just turning out truly great films like Kunle Afolayan’s October 1. The marriage between writers and filmmakers, long argued for, is also a thing to be celebrated.

The Seamstress is a simple story, shot on a small budget. However, it is both a story and an achievement that will travel.

Watch the short film below:

Richard Ali writes from Abuja, Nigeria.
New Signposts: The Language of Love.

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