Citation tells a compelling story with a convincing performance from its lead.
Citation tells the story of a young student named Moremi Oluwa who takes on the academic establishment when she reports a popular professor who tried to sexually assault her.
The story in Citation is a poignant and heavy one as the conversation surrounding abuse of power and sex for grades in Nigeria is one that has been largely ignored until recently.
Citation is Temi Otedola’s acting debut and she delivers an easy performance. That is to say, that performance is seemingly effortless. Even in the scenes that are heavier in tone, she carries them with ease. Is her acting convincing 100% of the time? No, but those scenes are few and far between. Her character Moremi is likeable, warm and witty, while also being strong. You latch on to her likeability and willingly follow her throughout the challenges she faces. Temi also has effortless chemistry with her costars which makes everything feel more complete.
Jimmy Jean-Lewis definitely has the standout performance in this movie. His character, professor Lucien N’Dyare is the antagonist of the movie and he’s able to deliver a well-layered performance. Given the way the story is told, he has to transition from one side of the likeability spectrum to the other and the transition is a believable and realistic one as he goes from likeable to sinister. It’s a gradual change that occurs throughout the film and even though it’s a change we see coming, it is integrated into the story well. His chemistry with Temi Otedola is tangible and believable which makes the movie as a whole more interesting to watch.
The rest of the cast add for a well-rounded movie. They all work well together and add a lot of depth and range to the movie, especially Gabriel Afolayan and Adjetey Anang. Even though the side characters don’t have a lot of character development, I’ll allow it given the context and plot of the movie. The focus is Moremi and Lucien and focussing on other characters too much would detract from that.
The story is told non-linearly meaning we are told the story in bits and we jump between the past and present. I like this format because we see what is happening and how we got there at the same time. It also leans on the unreliable narrator method of storytelling as a character gives their account of what happened and then we actually get to see what happened.
The writer Tunde Babalola and director Kunle Afolayan crafted a story that focuses on the importance of abuse of power and power dynamics. The film is dramatic and at times intense without being overly so.
After watching Citation, I found out that it was based on true events which make me upset, but alas incidences like the one in this movie are not few and far between. Last year a BBC investigative documentary was released called Sex for Grades, where reporter Kiki Mordi and her team went undercover to expose sexual harassment in universities in Nigeria and Ghana. What breaks my heart is the fact that so many of these cases go unheard from so many people, and the movie even addresses this. Moremi begrudgingly becomes the poster child for speaking up about her experience and it does give others the courage to speak up as well.
A quote from Moremi really stuck out to me
Justice isn’t blind here. It has 20/20 vision, all in favour of the faculty.
And she is 100% right. A lot of time, when it comes to cases like this one, the victim rarely ever gets justice. In the case of this movie, Professor N’Dyare is respected in academic circles while also being incredibly popular so Moremi is fighting an uphill battle from the start. And sadly a lot of people go through this, the stories are picked apart and discredited from all angles.
My first comment about this movie was “The cinematography is really good.” and that is because it is. The colour-grading changes throughout the movie, allowing different hues and colours to depict different scenes and the changing tone of the movie. The cinematographer Jonathan Kovel uses spacial awareness to show not only how close characters become but also how they far they drift apart.
There are scenes that take place in Dakar and those are my favourite. They have their own distinct look while also fitting into the visual style of the movie. And the scenes on the beach are beautiful.
This is the one aspect of the film that I have no comment on. Like a lot of Nollywood movies, the score is fine. There are so sweeping, emotional pieces that add depth to the movie and that’s okay. The overall score ties into the tone set by the movie.
Movies like Citation show that Nollywood is headed in the right direction. The movies are better crafted and introspective and this is the first time a Nollywood movie has covered this topic with much care and detail. You have a well-written story, chemistry between the cast and good performances and like I stated, Temi Otedola gives a compelling debut performance.
Originally published at https://www.thecinematicaficionado.com on November 6, 2020.