Every Nigerian can remember vividly the tension that arose in the country when the Ebola Disease found its way to our doorsteps with the caution it added upon many, the source of amusement it caused to a fair number, and the pain and loss it caused a few−the intense pain which most Nigerians did not know. Some even went as far as debating the fact that the disease actually made it to our borders: arguing that it was only a political gambit to help promote the campaign for second term of the then government.
The Director Steve Gukas (A Place in the Stars, Keeping Faith) was among the many who understood this pain and the urgency which birthed the idea to tell the story he told. Then he engaged Paul .S. Rowlston to carry out a proper research into the lives of both the living and fallen heroes of the virus and write a sophisticated screenplay to resonate the events that happened. The opening scene shows an aerial shot of Lagos; the complexities and congestion of this city. The artistic voice over of Somkhele Idlahama (Dr Ada Igonoh) playing like music in the background as she is taken to the Quarantine center. ‘Moments that can change your life forever’ closing the scene and ushering the audience into this emotionally gripping tale.
When Patrick Sawyer (Keppy Ekpeyong) a Liberian-American collapses at Muritala Muhammed International Airport, he is quickly rushed to the First Consultant Medical Centre Obalende. He is down with fever-like symptoms and in denial of contact with any Ebola Victim in his home country. Keppy reignited the distaste we had for Mr. Sawyer with good expressions and niceties−but inconsistency in a flawed accent bludgeoned the actor’s skill. Against his denial of contact with any living or dead Ebola victim, the team at First Consultants ably led by the impeccable Bimbo Akintola (Dr. Ameyo Adadevoh) who’s every gesture, expression and demeanor embodied this woman many Nigerians never knew−aside a picture or two from the internet. The story delves not only into her devoted life at work but the caring and mild-spoken mother and wife that she was at home. The vigilance of the First Consultants team, leads to an early detection that Mr. Sawyer indeed had the Ebola Virus Disease. Now it is a race against time to contain the disease from breaking out into a megacity with a population of over 21 million persons.
The movie starts off with a swift pace; drawing the audience in from the scene a troubled Mr. Sawyer is rushed into a car for the hospital. The minor introductions into the lives of the main cast did not distract the audience as it helped us start to sympathize with the characters; knowing the story and how the true events turned out, it was still impossible to lose focus from the big screen. The movie took a parabolic path from Act I, taking the audience through the journey with so many characters and overwhelming performances, from the second Act we are drawn into the full crisis. Seeing the entire human story behind this story we thought we truly knew. From Zara Udofia (Nurse Justina’s) fear and worry for her unborn child; to Francis Onwuchei (Dr. Abaniwo) steadfastly praying with his wife and reading his bible in another scene; to Gideon Okeke (Dr. Morris) going from the excited doctor relaxing with his brother to the troubled man begging his little nephew not to come close, though his performance was affected by the lack of consistency in his Igbo accent, the character still resonated. These scenes put the audience in a lachrymose mood just like the characters; no tears yet, just heavy eyes.
Then the projectile finally completed the parabolic course by Act III. The surprisingly humorous scene were a profusely bleeding Nurse Justina is brought to the hospital and the Driver (Kayode Olaiya) makes us forget the sorrows of the characters with the way he reacts to the fact that his passenger had the disease. After this scene, the third act fully delves the audience into the characters’ depression and dismay.
Danny Glover’s (Dr. Benjamin Ohiaeri) emblematic presence gave the movie its touch but his utterances usually felt labored and inaudible. Franca Brown (Dr. Igonoh’s mother) graced us with her presence in 3 scenes after such a long time been off screen with a performance devoid of words but only expressions, that will give the similarly short Oscar winning screen times of Judy Dench and Beatrice Straight a run for their money. In that Bimbo Akintola reminded us of her artistry, Somkhele Idhalama shined so bright with her performance that she deserves every best Supporting Actress nod and award for 2017. The third act was where the tears were allowed to roll−were all the tension and sorrow was allowed to flow. When eventually Dr Igonoh wailed in her death bed, the audience followed suit. The tension well developed and carried by the screenplay till the projectile completed its parabolic path. With the victory of the first survivor igniting the audience once more and the eulogy of the fallen heroes at the closing scene; taking the audience back and forth the joys and pains caused by this deadly virus leading seamlessly to a riveting and very conclusive finish.
A TRULY FANTASTIC MOVIE WHICH SHOWS NIGERIA'S STRUGGLE WITH THE DEADLY VIRUS AND THE FEAR IT BROUGHT ALONG
‘93 days’ explores a true story in the true Nigerianness of the story; depicting Nigerians as a people that can stand strong in times of crisis. Contrary to certain quarters, 93 days is not the ‘moralistic simplistic’ saga of Nigerians trying to portray themselves as saints and Liberia as the devil instead, it tells a factual tale that for once depicts the sentimental religiosity of Nigerians in a positive light; from Dr. Abaniwo and his wife praying like no tomorrow, to Dr. Igonoh placing her phone as it plays a gospel song to the dying nurse in her ward: all a breath of fresh air from what is lavishly obtainable these days from modern Nigerian literature.
This masterpiece has with no doubt created a spot for Steve Gukas’ name in the classical history books of Nigerian filmmaking−when eventually we have one.