Although All Na Vibes loses focus of its motive, it’s good to acknowledge its ability to fashion out its own identity…
By Seyi Lasisi
Let me begin with this anecdote which watching the Taiwo Egunjobi-directed All Na Vibes reminded me of. J.P Clark is the first traveling guide who intimates me with details of Ibadan. By reading the quatrain-structured descriptive poem of J.P. Clark’s Ibadan, I make my first visit to Ibadan. Years later, the visit became physical. By traveling, or temporarily visiting the ancient city, it was hard to lose sight of the “running splash of rust” Clark’s poem had hinted at.
The rusty and scattered landscape is one of the distinct landscape makers of Ibadan. Those visits, though numerous, haven’t afforded me the luxury of seeing the “gold-flung” environment of Ibadan Clark’s poem suggested. But, watching the young adult All Na Vibes, I was presented with an opportunity to visit Ibadan as a voyager, to observe the rust and gold in Ibadan. In this visit, Mobolaji Okpakunbi’s camera, Mayowa’s aerial shots, Isaac Ayodeji’s story, and the ensemble of the cast led by the trio of Tega Ethan, Tolu Osaile, and Molawa Davis are the new traveling guides. Egunjobi and his films are always domiciled in Ibadan. He directed the eponymously titled In Ibadan.
Lagos is New Nollywood’s official habitat. This fixation with Lagos, a notable area with affinity to wealth, possesses the potential of reducing the verisimilitude and credibility a story possesses. Redundancy also develops faster as the gaze of the audience is restricted, repeatedly, to a single location. The Ema-Esiodo-directed Kasala!, Esiri-brothers’ Eyimofe, and Udeka-Oyeka-directed Three Thieves were able to distance itself from this monotonous setting. Though the listed films were all shot in Lagos, it’s Lagos, the working class environment, we barely see represented in Nollywood. Setting reinforces the validity of a story. Egunjobi, in shooting in a different geography from Lagos and having a story a large chunk of Nigerian youth will relate with, subtly shifts the gaze of mainstream Nollywood from Lagos.
All Na Vibes begin with a reflective voiceover, paired with Mayowa’s (Drone Photography) aerial shots which presents three images: the elegant, semi luxurious, and rusty Ibadan. These successive images aside being visually appealing to behold, is a subtle premonition of the social strata which the film’s prominent cast belong. Sade’s (Tolu Osaile) is the elite, Abiola (Tega Ethan) is from a middle-class background, and Lamidi (Molawa Davis) or Lambo — as he preferred being called, is the working-class of the youthful trio. The film’s visual language shows the disparities between these casts whose stories interlope. The film’s setting(Ibadan) is a subtle advocacy for Nigerian filmmakers to explore different Nigerian landscapes.
Written by Isaac Ayodeji, All Na Vibes has a timespan of five days, and it follows the story of three teenagers: how they navigate life during the tense period of election and an ongoing strike. Sade, being the child of a politician, lives a life of ease. Abiola has a mother who dotes on him to follow his coding classes religiously, and Lamidi, aside from organising parties, has limited prospects. Set against the background of distractions and educational apathy which youths are prone to, All Na Vibes addresses the issues of unrequited love, drugs, and ambitions. In labouring itself with these social issues, which young Nigerians are open to experiencing at different times in their lives, the film loses focus of its original intention.
A good story will attract its audience. And although the acceptance of All Na Vibes is not prolific, possibly due to its reliance on an obscure ensemble of cast, and its low-budget, the film presents an opportunity for these unknown faces to create an identity for themselves. As a passionate viewer of Nollywood films, it’s comforting to see that, in one’s lifetime, there are films with political, cultural, and economic depths which aren’t anchored on A-list Nollywood actors. It’s a blessing. However, the ambitious depth which the film has intimated its audiences with begins to become shallow as the screen time progresses. Inexplicable actions that reduce the film’s effectiveness are introduced. The essence of Lamidi’s obsession for a party was clear. At least for Lamidi, it’s an opportunity to re-establish his crumbling prestige amongst his peers, and an opportunity to keep the boys busy since they are laid off from school activities. But why the kidnap? What was the point it?
Alhough All Na Vibes loses focus of its motive, it’s good to acknowledge its ability to fashion out its own identity. A look through Far from Home, and it becomes easier to detect the influences the South African Blood and Water, and Spaniard Elite have on it. Despite retaining fragments from these other young-adult series: a middle-class boy in love with an elite girl, All Na Vibes forges its originality. Ayodeji does this by setting the story against the background of the seemingly compulsory educational hiatus Nigerian students are compelled to endure yearly.
Yearly, students, out of governmental negligence, are forced to abandon their learning rooms for unspecified days, weeks, and months. For these hordes of students, different activities claim their attention. And as you watch All Na Vibes, these activities (organising parties and meeting at the basketball court) keep them hopeful as they await an end to the unending cycle of educational breaks. For Sade, as the countdown begins, her father (Jide Kosoko) has an exit plan for her. Abiola has music to fall back to. As stated earlier, Lamidi is the least prospective of the trio with no exit plan. For others like Lamidi, they will have to wait for the strike countdown to end.
All Na Vibes like the Ema–Edosio-directed Kasala had trod the festival route before its debut on Netflix. All Na Vibes opened the 2021 decade-old Nollywood Week Festival in Paris, the Hip Hop Film Festival, and the International African Film Festival in Argentina, and had its Nigerian premiere at the Screen Out Loud. The journey of All Na Vibes is an indication of the universality of human experiences and the possibility of a Nigerian film crossing borders. All Na Vibes’ non- devotedness to a Lagos setting, excessive glamour, and A-list Nollywood casts, signaled its indie disposition and low-budget nature. Its independent qualities also gives credence to the importance of filmmakers to tell Nigeria stories without reliance on popular faces to drive its acceptance rate up.
The ability of other cast with lesser years of experience in telegraphing their role makes it easier to see that the more-experienced Tope Tedela who plays Officer Jack’s acting seems forced. Tadela’ acting is bereft of the signature Nigerian police attitude which he represents: the laissez-faire attitude and passionate pursuit of crime. Tadela’s police partner’s uncouth attitude, though reminiscent of known attitudes ascribed to the Police Force, easily becomes boring and repulsive to watch. As the acting skills of certain characters irks you, like a fatigue runner, you continue watching All Na Vibes hoping to reach the finish line earlier than expected.
The economic divide between Sade, Abiola and Lamidi, which All Na Vibes was careful not to reveal, becomes glaring in the film’s ending sequence. In Nigeria, the lives, dreams, and ambitions of the working-class youth could easily be stopped by a gunshot. For the elite, they are privileged to rebirth their life, dream, and ambition anew when it flutters in Nigeria.
Egunjobi and Ayodeji, like Kayode Kasum and Dare Olaitan, have a long history together. The relationship which the duo has built over the years as filmmaking partners instill a level of expectations. But the strength which the story initially possesses gradually wanes as inexplicable actions, redundant metaphors, and boring acting creep into the film.
(All Na Vibes is streaming on Netflix.)
Seyi Lasisi is a Nigerian student with an obsessive interest in Nigerian and African films as an art form. His film criticism aspires to engage the subtle and obvious politics, sentiments, and opinions of the filmmaker to see how it aligns with reality. He tweets @SeyiVortex. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.