So… Hi everyone, it’s been a while. I could go on and on about why I haven’t written that much recently but “ain’t nobody got time for that”.
Today I am coming to you with a report on my experience watching the new movie from acclaimed Cameroonian movie director JEAN-PIERRE BEKOLO, titled “Miraculous Weapons”.
Miraculous Weapons is a movie about a death row prisoner in South Africa during the Apartheid and the women that are connected to him and to each other. It explores not only the psychological aspect of what people go through when on the death row, but also the emotional torment it plunges everyone related to the prisoner.
First. When I said I was to talk about the experience I meant it was the first time I was in a screening of a Cameroonian movie. It was a Thursday so not many people were there. Additionally, that was the second screening of the movie. During the entire movie I felt like I was in a different crowd, as if “Miraculous Weapons” being a Cameroonian film was asking a certain reverence from the audience. No unwelcomed outburst, but maybe it was just because the movie itself did not arbor many moments that would create such a reaction.
One other thing, it was funny to be watching a movie alongside a fellow cinephile and filmmaker, Eric Demtare, as I could see we were having very similar reactions to the good the bad and the ugly that was being presented to us. And maybe that was our problem… we came into the theater with our critic’s eyes, not as simple spectators. I however realized that most of the people that were in the room were people who already had a connection to the director Jean-Pierre Bekolo, in addition to the press and other filmmaking professionals. It was funny… but I told myself they just really liked the movie
So… inverted Pyramid be damned, let’s talk about the movie.
From the very first images, I had guessed that the Miraculous Weapons that were being showcased were going to be words (or the women?)… my guess was almost verified as soon as I was exposed to the poetry emanating from the first series of images. And there came my first thought bubble: this looks like a semi-pro movie. When a rough camera move can pull you out of a movie, Eric and I basically thought the same: how did he let that be in the final cut? And boy did that question came several times while watching the movie. But let’s try to stay focus.
There were a few minor technical errors throughout but nothing pulled me out as much. Mainly because I had just made up my mind to the fact that it might not be as good as I hoped. The intro was quite good and the final scene, albeit too long, was really powerful. But what about the middle?
In the story of the film, the 3 women are or fall in love with Djamal, the prisoner. A student (Maryne Bertieaux) volunteering as a French teacher, a European woman (Andrea Larsdotter) to whom he was a pen pal, and his wife (Xolile Tshabalala) who has been coming to see him for the 15 years he had been in jail already. The wife is the most solid character as she is the one whose pain and involvement we feel the most. The European woman was a realistic character who was threading carefully and the student was… a naïve white girl looking to get some big black cock. Her words… okay, I added the “naïve” part.
Emile Abosssolo, playing Djamal, had however a very spotty performance, at best. Between intense, crazy, horny, in pain, obsessed, happy and devastated, the actor had a lot to deliver. And although he excels in some areas, in others he is just very… inept. And compared to the performances of the women in front of him, his was just not up to par.
It is my personal (and requested by only one) opinion that the movie bites more than it can chew as it tries to juggle various themes with little to no depth. As the director told us himself, the main theme was the death penalty, but there is also racism, apartheid, Pan-Africanism, black revolution, intellectual revolution, the prison system, and a few more (polygamy). most of them are mentioned in throwaway lines, quoted from Cesaire and his peers, by the very poetic Djamal; but ultimately without much substance.
During the Q&A I asked him if he didn’t feel like a missed opportunity not to use time to situate us in the story and understand its flow, as well as use it as a way to build momentum throughout the movie. He answered that he did not adhere to the idea that people should just follow the rules of the art. He was going for a more unpredictable approach. Good for him. Tell me in the comment if you agree with the unpredictable part. Cause this movie was quite predictable; and maybe because it was, it felt like some moments were not earned, or jumped the shark (I like this expression too).
Some of you might think I’m too harsh on this movie because it is from my home country Cameroon. Naaan I’m harsh on all movies. But please don’t take my word for it, go see for yourself. Movie appreciation is very subjective, so it might be that you absolutely love the movie and think it genius (if that’s the case tell me why). And just so we’re clear: I am not saying the movie is bad. At all. It’s just not very good.