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The kidnapper next door

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Hollywood loves movies about kidnapping. They make them in every genre. Ron Howard-directed crime thriller, Ransom (1996), stars Mel Gibson as a multimillionaire whose son is kidnapped. He cooperates with the police at first but then turns the tables on the kidnappers when he uses the ransom money as a reward for the capture of the kidnappers.

Comedy, Excess Baggage (1997). A spoiled young woman, desperate for attention from her millionaire father fakes her own abduction to shift his focus her way. The so-called kidnapping turns real, however, when auto thief makes off with a car

Proof of Life (2000): an American engineer in a Latin American country is captured by anti-government forces. When the rebels learn his identity they demand $6 million for his safe return. However, his US employer is on the verge of insolvency and will not provide the ransom. Peter’s wife Alice is forced to deal with the matter on her own. She retains the services of freelance professional hostage negotiator Terry Thorne.

For many Nigerian families, kidnapping is not a comedy, romantic or an action movie where a former Black Ops agent saves the day singled handed. The reality of a multi-millionaire, rich from the proceeds of kidnapping and living in a middle class neighbourhood in Lagos is still fresh our memories.

Imagine being that neighbour who had him in their home. Shared a school route with his kids or shared details of their lives and security with him. That can shake up your world in a significant way.

Pre-cinema era Nollywood had films about kidnapping; an Alhaji’s daughter, Chief’s daughter, a President’s daughter (a lot of daughters) but not much since we started theatrically exhibiting our films. This is where a film like “Nigerian Trade” comes in.

Inspired by true events and based on extensive research into one of the most lucrative forms of illegal trade in Nigeria – Kidnap for Ransom, the story follows Edward Uzor aka Ed, a notorious genius billionaire kidnapper who has evaded arrest for two decades, and a high-stake investigation into his activities is led by fast rising police officer and head of the Intelligence Response Team (IRT) – Superintendent Khalid Abubakar, referred to in the force as ‘Nigeria’s Jack Bauer.’

There was a call out for auditions in late July on the Instagram account of Jadesola Osiberu, director of Isoken, and TV series Gidi Up. Produced by Foresight Global Films, it’s a tonal and genre shift from her debut feature, which was a breezy romance film, easy on the eyes and feel good – Isoken (2017). This new movie is a bold move as it’s not quite the tempo of the fans that made her debut a massive hit. It seems like it’s for a completely different target market. In an industry currently churning out certain genres like widgets, it’s refreshing to see a project like this.

It’s also an interesting sophomore choice by Osiberu, as most female producer/directors stick with female lead films in the romance or comedy genre, the films, which are supposedly the most lucrative. Genre films are generally discouraged and exhibitors have been said to turn away any film, which isn’t a comedy or romance. With the performance of Isoken as one of 2017’s highest grossing films, that status may soon be reconsidered.

Along with Kemi Adetiba’s (The Wedding Party) upcoming sophomore outing, King of the Boys and Ema Edosio’s (The Governor – TV series) Kasala; young female directors are shattering the box of what is expected of female directors.

Movies and TV shows about criminals have been made since the earliest days of cinema, from Musketeers of Pig Alley (1912) to Scarface (1988) to Blow (2001) to American Gangster (2007) to Netflix-hit Narcos (2015), there’s something about human nature which makes us enjoy watching characters who we’d never like to meet in real life. The sense of danger and rule breaking; the disregard for law; all these we find fascinating and vicariously experience via the screens.

Whether that’s in the rise of Walter White from a man bullied by everyone in his life, to Heat’s Neal McCauley and the professional approach (and 60 second rule) to his criminal career. Tony Montana from a penniless immigrant working a thankless jobs to a mogul who can buy anything regardless of price, with a long gestated sequel in the works, the third incarnation of the character; clearly there is hunger for this kind of content.

As asked on the release of The Wolf of Wallstreet: is making films about such people a glamorization of their lives and choices? Is it responsible? Valid question. Tone is what makes the difference. It would be interesting to see what happens when Nigerian Trade, hits the screens across Nigeria.


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