Last Saturday 11th January 2020, the Cameroon Film industry witnessed yet again another amazing experience with the premier of the movie “Virgin Blade” produced by Nkwah Kingsley and directed by Cosson Chinepoh,
This movie “Virgin Blade” by MKN Production is one of the first Cameroonian movies that focuses on a delicate situation of Genital Mutilation and stars actors and actresses such as Syndy Emade, Nchifor Valery, Epule Jeffery Che Syriete and the producer himself, Ngwah Kingsely.
Again, 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 “Virgin Blade Cuts Through Its Own Web!“. Check it out below;
By Kwoh B. Elonge
Its opening scene is pure gold—the screams of a girl breaking through the darkness of the room, hands and legs restraint by the solid hands of elderly women, as a woman cuts through her genitals, blood gushing out of her. She is being circumcised and it could not be gorier to watch.
Produced by Nkwah Kingsley and directed by Cosson Chinepoh, Virgin Blade is a movie that seeks to tell the horrors of female genital mutilation and breast ironing focusing on the Bayangi tribe. When Oneke (played by Syndy Emade) returns to her village as a nursing student, she is appalled by the continuing practice of female circumcision and breast ironing.
She falls in love with Arrey, played by Nchifor Valery – a rather level headed, progressive hunter and palm oil miller. When her childhood friend (Che Syriette) Bessem’s daughter is to be re-circumcised after a botched job a year before, that left her still enjoying sex with men, Oneke decides to step in. Unbeknownst to her, this child is fathered by a frivolous village drunk (Played by Jeffrey Epule), and head of what could best be described as a gang of village youth, who soon become enemies with Oneke after her rejection of his clumsy, violating advances. What ensued after she decides to get in the way of the tradition is a fatal war with tradition and its custodians, battling with enemies friends, family and in the process getting her love interest (Nchifor) wrapped in the mayhem.
It is obvious from the very start, that the movie, its theme and its attempt at dissecting the topic is award bait. An attempt to get into a class of outstanding cinema by going for even over worked topics like genital mutilation and breast ironing. It is the type of stuff I think appeals to those who want to especially define Africa’s reality as characterized mostly by bestial practices. But I guess, since it exists, we cannot talk about these practices enough.
Is there any fresh angle to the story? Very little. But even predictable plot lines could be saved by well written characters and great performances.
And here comes Nchifor Valery delivering the most natural, award worthy performance, free of gimmicks and the usual theatrics and over dramatizing that for example characterised the performance of Jeffrey Epule in this movie. Jeffrey is without a doubt a good actor but this was not his best work. The dramatics stole from the menace his character was to pose.
And then there is Che Syriette, who takes on a supporting role next to Syndy Emade as a friend-turned-foe-turned-friend. She delivers every line, every word masterfully. Her character is deeply layered, moving through a trajectory that shows great variations, pushing the plot and building into a strong climax. I personally think she could have pulled the female lead role better. But Syndy, even when her beauty is so toned down, is still good to watch. But her acting is not ‘A’ grade. Her expressions are like a singsong, her voice almost a monotone, repetitive and tired. We are lucky she doesn’t get completely tone deaf. Which to me is better that say her acting in “A Man for the Weekend”. Which is why sometimes awards can really look political.
I think part of her problem might come from some of the elements of scripting too. The worse moment of the movie, is the scene in which Oneke (Syndy) is brought before the traditional council. The sequence is a long, sermonized, hell trip—preachy like a parrot, a winding rigmarole that ends with an unsettling anticlimax. It is supposed to be that moment that shows her strength but all that is whittled by the long monologue.
Then there was the scoring. Loud drums after loud drums almost purposeless in some cases and mostly ill timed. I am still left wondering whether female circumcision and breast ironing are elements of matriarchy or patriarchy. Is it enforced by women or men? Is it old women who think sex should not be enjoyed or is it men? It is not quite clear.
But that’s the only plot hole in a movie that could easily go totally downhill. It is still a worthwhile film. The story coalesces quite well, in spite of the issues identified. It sometimes gets it so right that you might turn a blind eye to some of its shortcomings.
It is a strong start to the year, a promising addition to the bank of Cameroonian movies and a worthwhile attempt at shedding light on rather beastly practices enforced by some traditions.