07/08/2017

Ninah's Dowry - Ownership

Quick Thoughts: Ninah's Dowry (2012)


Made by Victor Viyuoh, this is the Camaroonian film of the series.


Probably the best African I've yet seen, and a debut film at that, Ninah's Dowry is an intensely emotional story based on true events that follows a woman who attempts to escape her tyrannical and abusive husband, but is bound to him because of her dowry, and so is dragged back to her home every time she tries to escape. In such, Nina's Dowry confronts forced and monetised arranged marriages, but is also a direct condemnation of social groups that facilitate them, depicting some of the people within to be self-serving proverbial crabs that drag anyone who attempts to escape the bucket back into its miserable depths; moreover, loyal and compassionate only when it suites them or when it is too late.

The technicality of this script, written by director, Victor Viyuoh, who based this film on the trials his cousin once faced, is pretty strong as he clearly demonstrates a control over of his characters, structure and subtext. The lead performance that brings this script to life then further imbues a sense of structural harmony to this story through the projection a strong character arc as well as inner and physical conflict and pain. Stitching this all together is probably the most affecting element of this film: the editing. Often working well with the direction to provide momentum to scenes that could all too easily devolve into painful melodrama, the edit then secures the needed tension and energy of this story, allowing it to project its most poignant theme of ownership with nuance and complexity.

The only downfall of this film is the fine line it sometimes runs between professional competence and amateurish effort (that, though it is appreciated, would obviously sully its overall quality). For the vast majority of its run-time, Viyuoh retains high standards across all aspects of his film, not only delivering a solid story, but capturing all with clear prowess - a pretty immense achievement that would likely be overlooked by anyone who only consumes mainstream Hollywood films, but is very impressive to anyone who consumes a wide variety of films, or has even tried their own hand at making a film and discovered how hard it is to attain a professional, competent aesthetic.

So, all in all, Ninah's Dowry is a solid film made more than well; one that brings fourth a story worth experiencing. Highly recommended.


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