Saving Mbango – The Movie Premier is arguably the biggest event from Cameroon this year. The event that took place on October 26th at the prestigious Canal Olympia, Bessengue Douala was filled with much glitz and glamour from the red carpet through the screening of the movie and after party.
One of Cameroon’s best writers, Kwoh B. Elonge, editor-in-chief at “Unfiltered” was present at the Premier and shared with his followers and lovers of Cameroon cinema an in debt review of the movie which he titles “Saving Mbango Hits Major Strides in Storytelling“. Check it out below;
By Kwoh B. Elonge
Saving Mbango tells a story of rejection, love, triumph, family and lasting pain. Set in a village in rural Cameroon, Mbango (played by Laura Onyama), is an orphan girl living with her aged grandmother. She grapples with many issues; a declining health caused by a painful tumour in her brain, abject poverty, societal rejection, stigmatization, loneliness and personal insecurities. That is until she piques the interest of John (played by Godisz Fongwa), an industrious son of a reckless drunk (Otia Vitalis). John is a misnomer in an increasingly dysfunctional and strident family, with siblings whose main distinction is their ability to stand in their own way. But the family, amidst its dysfunction, still basks in a tight knit of togetherness and love, although a rather tumultuous one.
Saving Mbango is a love story, in which the young lovers battle the world and themselves, rising through the ashes, tasting the sugary glimpse of hope before it fizzles against brick walls mounted by family, society, self doubt and just bad luck. When John makes the decision to buck his society and its stigmatization of Mbango, he also inherits her problems and the angst of a world that embarks on a vehement mission to put a stop to what it perceives as an unholy union, a defilement of family, as if John’s family itself is a not a hot porridge of all kinds of mess and messiness.
Directed by Nkanya Nkwai and written by Lynno Lovert, Saving Mbango is unapologetically Cameroonian in every breath. And this is a relief because it shuns all the itchy problems that have previously plagued our movies—the desperate attempt to make them ‘cool’ by making them look foreign, through elements of language, dialogue, costuming, casting and acting. It rises above that unsettling pretense, and takes pride in its originality in that sense. The movie is intensely character-driven, which means that characters drive the plot. It is a challenge, a question to Cameroon, one which basically asks, “Can you act?” Every character has depth and purpose to telling the story. Lynno Lovert, for his debut story, has proven to master the craft of building persuasive, three dimensional characters, and Nkanya provides excellent direction. Some of the shots are so well framed, they seem nearby.
But it is the acting that leaves lasting impact.
For the first time dysfunction is depicted in a Cameroonian movie without it ending with characters all becoming very vexing caricatures. John’s family, headed by a deadbeat father provides a balance of chaos and agreement, of greed and family unity, of that timeless annoying truth that the most hurt comes from family as well as the greatest relief. Otia and Libota MacDonald sell this story line with stunning performances, providing both absolute recklessness and timely introspection. Everywhere you look in the movie, whether it is in the crassness of Epie (depicted by Rapha Obi), the compassion of Malvis Ann’s character, or the crudeness of Solange Ojong and Stephanie Ntum, every performance is a statement, a testament of talent and craft.
But let’s be real, all this would have been pointless without the performances of Laura Onyama and Godisz Fongwa. They are raw, embodying their characters in every breath, such that it feels totally unscripted. Chemistry in a Cameroonian movie has never been this natural between two actors, especially given that this is their first time working together. Laura is persuasive as Mbango, delivering an award worthy interpretation of her struggles, contorting herself into this messy roller coaster of emotions—fear, pain, angst and love, with effortless ease.
And then there is Godisz, good lord, and then there is Godisz!!!! This is his first real acting role and boy does he come through. It would be daunting, I’ll imagine, starting your first lead role by acting alongside Laura Onyama. She is the standard to meet. Godisz goes there, crashes the wall, cuts the velvet rope and takes a royal stool next to her. He is the biggest revelation the Cameroon movie industry has this year; he is one to watch and quite frankly deserves more quality material like this.
For all its beauty the film itself has some issues with continuity, script structure and sequencing. For example, throughout the movie Mbango is clean-shaved and she interacts with John. However, in a weird twist, when Mbango is about revealing to John her ailment, she removes her headscarf and shows her head, as if it is a new haircut and he comments that he likes it. That just does not work. Also some scenes, such as the ones showing John’s family turmoil after he leaves home to live on his own seem to appear and disappear at sudden intervals leaving a rather disjointed flow to the film’s narrative. But all this do not blur the movie’s appeal.
Saving Mbango is Cameroon’s letter to the world announcing itself. It is an authentically Cameroonian story, a watershed moment in Cameroon film making, a well acted masterpiece and easily the best movie Cameroon has seen this year. Damn it, it is arguably the best movie made in Cameroon this far.
Movie Score: 4.5/5
Kwoh B. Elonge
So, there you go, amazing review from one of the very best out there. You can check out more reviews of the movie, Saving Mbango on their website www.savingmbango.com or you visit this link directly https://savingmbango.com/reviews/
After it’s Douala premier, Saving Mbango is moving to Yaounde for a grand screening this Saturday 30th November 2019. Fans and followers of the movie will have a taste of awesomeness, uniqueness and originality at the Canal Olympia Cinema hall. Secure your space today via Mobile Money, Orange money , EU Mobile or PayPal on http://e-tickets.cm/mbango