THE ARBITRATION

Directed by: Niyi Akinmolayan
 
Produced by: Chinuzu Onuzo, Zulu Oyibo

 
Starring: Ireti Doyle, OC Ukeje, Adesua Etomi, Sola Fosudo, Somkele Iyamah, Gregory Ojefua, Beverly Naya, Lota Chukwu.
 
Runtime: 107 minutes
 
 
 
There are Three Sides to Every Story. 
 
 
When I started Eze Nkiri, one thing I always wanted to do with this blog as well as review current Hollywood movies amongst many other things was to put a spotlight on the growing Nollywood industry. According to various sources Nollywood employs over 1 million people including actors, producers, directors, cameraman etc. It is also said to be worth $5.1 billion as of 2014. Nollywood also generates $600 million dollars for the Nigerian economy annually and it is the second largest employer after the Agriculture.
 
Adesua Etomi gives the crowd a great performance as Dara Olujobi

Adesua Etomi gives the crowd a great performance as Dara Olujobi

Despite all these amazing facts about Nollywood, I still find it astonishing that it doesn’t get enough coverage.  I believe that in order for the industry to improve and to catch up with the likes of Hollywood and Bollywood in terms of quality we must scrutinize the movies our country’s film makers give us and do our best to inspire them to take their movies to the next level. With that put on record let this piece take a look at the latest film causing waves in our industry.

OC Ukeje as Gbenga Sanni.

OC Ukeje as Gbenga Sanni.

The Arbitration follows Gbenga Sanni (OC Ukeje), a  billionaire who gets entangled in an affair with his employee Dara Olujobi (Adesua Etomi). After the affair is concluded, Dara leaves the company and  sues Gbenga for forcing her to give up her shares that are worth millions. She also accuses Gbenga of rape. As a result of this, an arbitration panel is set up with an arbitrator, Mr. Tomisin Bucknor (Sola Fosudo), who along with his paralegal (Lota Chukwu) seeks the truth. 
The film's story is told from two perspectives.

The film’s story is told from two perspectives.

Representing Dara and Gbenga respectively, we have lawyers Omawumi Horsfall (Somkele Iyamah) & Funlayo Johnson (Ireti Doyle) . Also thrown into the mix are witnesses in the guise of the geeky Chijioke (Gregory Ojefua) & Gbenga’s wife, Chiamaka Sanni (Beverley Naya) who are key components to the case at hand.
 
Sola Fosudo plays Mr. Bucknor , the arbitrator tasked with finding the truth.

Sola Fosudo plays Mr. Bucknor , the arbitrator tasked with finding the truth.

Written by Chinuzu Onuzo and directed by Niyi Akinmolayan of Falling fame, The Arbitration  hopes to provide the crowd with a gripping drama . With that in mind lets take a look at the pros and cons and give readers an award on whether they should watch this picture. 
 
 
 
PROS
 
  • The Cinematography of the film and the production values by prevailing standards are very impressive and definitely rivals a lot of films we witness in the indie scene. I really enjoyed the camera work considering the fact that a majority of the movie took place in a single room. Whilst good camera work is important we must remember that the cinematography is not the sole factor that determines whether a film is a classic or not.
  •  The film had great performances across the board. Let me start of with our main characters. OC Ukeje gives a great performance as Gbenga, a software designer who is billed as a visionary and genius. On top of his initially charming personality the crowd also gets to see the ugly side to his personality which makes Ukeje’s turn as Gbenga layered.
  • Adesua Etomi gives us a convincing show as the other half of the main duo, Dara Olujobi. She is intelligent, confident and extremely attractive and many times gets to outshine Gbenga in the intelligence department and also has some of the films best lines.  Another thing I must say is that her chemistry with Ukeje is also noteworthy as their performances together shows a relationship filled with passion, banter and conflict that we can all resonate with and it makes the movie better as a result.
  • I really enjoyed Ireti Doyle performance as Funlayo Johnson, an extremely respected and experienced lawyer. Her character was beaming with over-confidence, bravado and wasn’t afraid to mess with people to get her way and I really liked the amount of authority the character was able to show. I also appreciated the fact that this character was able to act as a foil to Somkele Iyamah’s turn as Omawumi Horsfall, a new wig. Somkele provided the character with confidence; bravery and a never-say die attitude even though the odds were not in her favour. As a whole the lawyers in the film were a great addition to the good individual performances.
  •   A film of this nature lives or dies on its dialogue and its script, fortunately the movie delivers on this front.  This sharpness is particularly shown through Gbenga and Dara simply making exchanges with each other.  The writing gives the characters opportunities to get engaged in intelligent conversations as the movie subtly raises the conundrum of when is ‘rape’ really ‘rape’? And whether one can get raped without using force?  The movie questions how far a Woman must go in a male dominated world to get far and the movie shows how real it gets. This theme is particularly highlighted in a scene where the arbitrator asks his paralegal “what she makes of it” and she gives a personal account of her own experiences. I appreciate the film’s take on these topics and it will keep you going till the end.  I must a give warning that a fair amount of concentration is required to follow the fragmented story telling.

 

Somkele Iyamah as Ms. Horsfall, an ambitious new wig representing Dara.

Somkele Iyamah as Ms. Horsfall, an ambitious new wig representing Dara. 

 
CONS
 
  • Speaking as a legal practitioner, I must commend the filmmaker’s representation of the Arbitration process from the privacy aspect to the speedy nature however that’s not to say  it’s perfect. In fact there is a huge flaw in this matter and it revolves around the topic of the grounds in which arbitration can actually be convened. To those who are not familiar, arbitration is the process where two or more people make an agreement that a dispute or potential dispute between them must be decided in a legally binding way by way of one or more impartial persons in a judicial manner on the basis of evidence put before him, her or them. While the film accurately portrays that aspect it makes a huge misinterpretation on matters that can be referred to arbitration. Generally speaking, contractual disputes and certain civil matters are arbitrable however actions of criminal nature cannot be referred to arbitration and must go to court instead.  Sexual assault, the grounds that Dara uses to refer the case to arbitration, is a matter that cannot and should not be referred to arbitration, as it’s a criminal offence.  With that in mind, I must recognise that movies are not realistic and we must go into these movies with a suspension of disbelief. A part of me feels that this movie wouldn’t have lost any of its’ impact if they moved the setting to a courtroom and changed its title. I feel that it is important to raise this point because of how much influence Nollywood has and how impressionable it is on moviegoers who are not familiar with arbitration.
  • I mentioned in the pros section of the review that the film was littered with great performances, however I simply cannot say that for everyone involved. To be honest, I found Sola Fasudo performance as the arbitrator a little underwhelming. For a guy that is supposed to effectively judge the case at hand, I couldn’t feel any authority or weight behind his words or actions.  Gregory Ojefua as Chijioke just didn’t do it for me. From what I observed the characters awkwardness and weird mannerisms were supposed to be tools for the comic relief in this film.  It falls flat in that regard and comes off as goofy and it doesn’t mesh well with the rest of the film.
  • This is a nit-pick but the sound quality between certain flashbacks and arbitration proceedings is inconsistent and took me out of the experience a few times. Although a lot of Nollywood films are improving on the cinematography front, I feel that sound quality tends to harm the films and it’s an area that needs greater improvements. 

 

Ireti Doyle kills it as experienced and overconfident lawyer,  Funlayo Johnson.

Ireti Doyle kills it as experienced and overconfident lawyer, Funlayo Johnson.

The arbitration is a solid drama that is just shy from reaching classic status due to an inaccuracy that simply can’t be ignored.  With that in mind, if you go into this movie with a suspension of disbelief you will discover that this picture is packaged with great individual performances, sharp dialogue, thought –provoking themes and a serious amount of suspense. You can’t go wrong with this.
 
 
RATING: – WORTH A WATCH 

Category: Nollywood, Reviews
Olisa Nwokedi
About The Author
- Olisa is an Aberystwyth University law graduate who was admitted into the Nigerian Bar in July 2016. He enjoys playing and watching rugby, writing , watching movies, playing video-games and Shark wrestling.......... that last part was fiction.