Confusion Na Wa (Nigeria, 2013)

Directed by young filmmaker Kenneth Gyang, Confusion Na Wa (which I think translates to something like “Holy shit! Confusion!”—if I’m wrong, let me know) begins with a mysterious narrator, whose identity is not revealed until the final scene, telling us that “some things don’t happen for a reason. Some things just happen.” Over the course of the film, each of its several subplots begin to collide. That’s where most of the intrigue—as well as the story’s darkly comic moments—come from. As the lives of the characters intertwine, the drama unfolds. Their lies and façades unravel, and in the end, not all of them escape alive.

Things Fall Apart

In the opening scene, we see Emeka, a wealthy light-skinned man from Abuja, receive a text from his mistress Isabella. Shortly thereafter, Emeka’s phone is stolen by two street hustlers, Charles and Chichi. In contrast with Emeka’s proper Nigerian—almost British—accent, Charles and Chichi speak Nigerian pidgin. Charles and Chichi are no simple pickpockets. For his part, Chichi is prone to philosophizing. He tells Charles: “Lion King is a neo colonial history of Zimbabwe from a European perspective. The whole film is a white conspiracy! Initially there is apparent order in the pride lands which are ruled by the light lion King with a minority of other light lions. But this is because he excludes the darkly colored hyenas, who he considers to be inferior and not worthy of any of the wealth generated by the land. This represents colonial Rhodesia, and the light Lion King is Sir Cecil Rhodes.” But even more horrifying, he says, it’s a vision of the European dream for the future of Africa: a restoration of power to the light-skinned lions. A very astute interpretation, it strikes me. Charles doesn’t really take Chichi’s interpretation seriously, though. Anyway, he’s more concerned about extorting money from Emeka in exchange for his cell phone—and in exchange for not informing his wife about his affair.

Isabella’s husband is a man named Bello, a conscientious but impotent office worker who believes that he “should” be promoted soon. “Should. Should?” Isabella asks incredulously. “Is that your favorite word? Should doesn’t mean shit.” “You’re a loser,” she continues. “I wonder if you even have enough balls to make children.” And it turns out that perhaps, in a way, she’s right. When Isabella tells Bello that she’s pregnant, he suspects that the baby is not his. His suspicions are confirmed when he reads a text that she received from Emeka (actually from Charles, pretending to be Emeka): “The nile is a very long river indeed can u imagine how good it wld feel flowing inside ur lush African valley? I want to fertilize ur plains. Luv from the lion king [sic].” Isabella tries to turn Bello into the bad guy, telling him that “now that I tell you that I actually am pregnant, you have the fucking barefaced shitbrain nerve to accuse me of adultery! Only you won’t actually say it because you don’t have the balls! Go to hell, Bello! Go straight to hell and rot there!”

Confusion Everywhere

Elsewhere in the city, a young man named Kola argues with his father, Babajide, who blames the moral corruption of Nigerian youth for the country’s rising crime rate. Kola forcefully disagrees, instead placing the onus on government corruption and its aftereffects. Babajide is virulently homophobic. He has a bumper sticker that says “I am an ideal citizen. What about you?” He tells Kola that criminal behavior correlates with homosexuality. Kola finds this assertion ridiculous, asking his father if he committed a crime now, would that make him gay? “I need the clarification on this father. I mean, your definition is so confusing. I don’t even know myself anymore. Am I gay? I don’t even know.”

This bombshell provokes Babajide to action. He takes Kola to be “cured” of homosexuality by having sex with a “nurse” (prostitute). Importantly, while the film is not exactly pro-gay, it’s anti-anti-gay; Babajide basically comes off looking like a jackass. We learn that, despite his denunciation of Nigeria’s moral degeneration, he drives a stolen car and is friends with Charles’s and Chichi’s weed-dealer—who is also apparently a pimp.

I highly recommend the film. Importantly, Gyang was educated in both Jos and Ouagadougou. Thus, Confusion Na Wa is an excellent piece that combines, as Gyang explains in this interview, elements of standard Nollywood fare with the heavy-hitting French-inflected style of Francophone African cinema. Before watching, though, be warned that the film contains a scene depicting the lead-up and aftermath of a rape. At least, however, it’s not graphic, and spares us from seeing the rape itself take place.

Up Next…

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