Ernest Kanjo / Tuesday, 12 March 2013 21:10

Neba Lawrence’s Troubled Kingdom, co-produced by Fred Kenyati and Mairo Sanda is a perfect representation of two things: one - the typical traditionalist mindset in the functioning of African indigenous societies and two – the new wave of Cameroonian film making which enjoys a huge consideration in the technical and artistic quality of productions.

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The movie’s opener, revealing the North West traditional regalia, the ‘toughe’, quickly situates the viewer and prepares them for a typical Cameroonian story showdown. This ‘toughe’ which fills up the scenes across the entire movie testifies the film maker’s fidelity in maintaining Troubled Kingdom as a pure Cameroonian story.

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However, the Cameroonianess of the costumes and perhaps certain popular ethnic exclamations such as ‘kwi fonetuh’ does not drown the story which respects a cinematographic chronology, absent in some African films. The ‘bushfallers’ (Cameroonian coinage for immigrants) return home, contract untraditional/anti-customary love relationships, commit abominable acts and face retributions at the end. For one thing, the story is no headache for viewer comprehension, yet the film maker makes sure he makes good use of suspense to keep the former in the usual movie-watching mood.

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Perhaps, one salient strength of the story embedded in Troubled Kingdom is the dialogue development. When Princess Diana (Solange Yijika) respectively warns her younger sister Princess Nora (Mairo Sanda) and Nixon (Jeffrey Epule) against their growing affection to each other, she doesn’t chicken in her words. However, the choice of words and manner in which she puts them across speak much wisdom which could easily be traced from the mature mind of the screenplay writer (Fred Kenyati). In another instance, the confrontation between Princess Diana and  Prince James over the latter’s supposedly disgusting outing with a ‘bitch’ (Elynne Fesse Basil) is a proof of an admirable maturity in dialoguing as noticed in Troubled Kingdom.

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When doing a critique of Troubled Kingdom, it is easy to be tempted time and again to return to costuming, even if it has been mentioned. Just like it is easy to notice the ‘toughe’, noticing the western and/or westernized attire is equally rife. But what makes this meaningful is the manner in which the film maker uses the jeans, ‘All Stars’ tennis shoes, mini gowns, etc. He dresses up his westernized cast with these items as he pits them against the traditional ‘toughe’ characters in the movie, a literally indication that a bold line is drawn between both environments/cultures prominent in the movie.

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If the hot costumes reflect the heat the westernized heroes and heroines inflict on community’s custodians, their make-up even adds more fire. Say ‘wild’ to describe the lip sticks on the Princess or eye-lid colours -  but the film maker has succeeded in using that bring out his West-inclined personalities in the movie. However, the typical Cameroonian viewer may wonder aloud why the palace maids would be made up to be easily mistaken for the ones commonly watched in Nollywood movies. Or, why would Princess Nora of Bamunka, Cameroon, would wear a conspicuous ‘Indian mark’. But for those who constantly watch actress Mairo Sanda, it is no big deal – she normally wears that mark and it is her artist look – no qualms!

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Technically, Troubled Kingdom is to a greater extent an achievement. Image quality, a common challenge in most home video films is not an issue here. Impeccable may be an exaggerated description, but Troubled Kingdom does not suffer inferiority in good images .Perhaps, it is thanks to the superb lighting that the movies went succeeding in its images. Just as the day scenes reflect daytime, so do night scenes that situate the viewer at that time. The lighting technician must just have been very careful to avoid those mistakes they are usually held bitterly responsible.

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Sound effects may be in short supply, but the entire sound generally does not suffer any irregularities. This aspect has rather stood tall with the use of original sound track, composed for the movie and telling Troubled Kingdom’s story. It may not really count to state that the author of sound track, Dog Star is a member of the Cameroonian movie family, but that fact that Troubled Kingdom did not benefit from strange musical composition remains strength to the movie.

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Meantime, camera angling did not fall short of expectation. The cinematographer made effective use of long shots to represent less relaxed moments, medium shots to indicate less tense scenes and closed-up shots to reflect tensions.

If a lay viewer talks of glamour in Troubled Kingdom, they should obviously be referring to the locations in the movie. True that the edifices are magnificent with immaculately clean lawns and luxurious cars driving in and out – but to the film maker, this is just a reflection of royalty which in his setting, comes with richess. Troubled Kingdom is therefore a success, location speaking.

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The big discourse in Troubled Kingdom however revolves around the cast and/or casting. Did it meet the needs of a typical Cameroonian movie addict? Yes! The choice of Solange Yijika, Jeffrey Epule, Mairo Sanda, Otia Vitalis, Solange Ojong, Magdaleine Agbor, Nchifor Valery, Elynn Fesse Basil is a cinematographically smart one. Just a marketing strategy? Not necessarily! For sure, these are some of the best selling actors the fast-growing Cameroonian film industry prides itself with. But, is their performance in the movie a reflection of these actors. Yes! A regular viewer of Solange Yijika’s movie, just to cite her case would even dare to mention that she performs in Troubled Kingdom with more maturity than some of her previous movies. But it is also hard to understand why the film maker opts to feature Ruth Nkwenti in fewer scenes. “Having her more in the movie would have made it more appealing,” said someone to this writer who had been used as a guinea pig in the lab to experiment viewer impact.

That the whole story was just a dream is equally well managed cinematographically. But the ending could be so abrupt for the understanding of the lay viewer. “A Part II is badly needed,” the guinea pig viewer sighed at the end. He had just started getting into the grey matter of the story.

However, Troubled Kingdom is a movie to watch. Grabbing a copy cannot be a regrettable option – it can only be a wise decision.

editors note: Apart from being a film reporter/communicator, the author of this write-up, Ernest Kanjo who doubles as Editor of TIPTOPSTARS is a film critic trainee. Before relocating to the United States of America, he ran a monthly film critique session in Yaounde under the banner of THE CRITICAL EYE FILM FORUM, CEFF, an outfit he created together with Elvis Tanwie and Tanko Francois (film technicians).

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