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New Voices in Black Cinema Festival: Award-Winning ‘Ojuju’ (Impressive Subversion of Zombie Genre, Nigerian Style)

New Voices in Black Cinema Festival: Award-Winning 'Ojuju' (Impressive Subversion of Zombie Genre, Nigerian Style)

When the water supply in an isolated Nigerian slum becomes infected, the neighborhood quickly morphs into a minefield of flesh-eating undead. Expectant father Romero (a cheeky reference to Night of the Living Dead director George Romero) must weigh his instinct for survival against his anguish when his pregnant girlfriend begins displaying some strange symptoms. He joins forces with smart-aleck friend Peju and the pair attempt to escape the infested hood, dodging zombified drug dealers, ex-lovers, friends, and more along the way. Made on a shoestring budget, C.J. Obasi’s horrorfest proves an impressive, subversive take on the zombie genre. The movie makes its New York Premiere at the New Voices in Black Cinema Festival tonight, at 9:45pm, at BAMCinematek in Brooklyn, NYC. It’s absolutely perfect for an adult Friday night movie outing! Tickets and other info can be found here: http://www.bam.org/film/2015/ojuju. 

A few years ago, we were vocal about our concerns for a movie titled “The Dead” – or as I titled it the “Zombies In Africa” project, co-directed by brothers Howard J. Ford and Jonathan Ford (Americans), shot entirely on location in mostly Burkina Faso and Ghana, and was described as “a powerful story of one man’s struggle to survive in extreme circumstances all the while battling against a menacing threat all around him!”

An American mercenary, the sole survivor of a plane crash, travels across continental Africa, battling the living dead, joining forces with a local military man, who is desperately searching for his son amongst the chaos, as they fight together to survive.

Naturally, the American mercenary is white and male, not-so unlike the hero in “District 9,” amidst a sea of zombies, seemingly made up entirely of black Africans. It’s not an allegorical tale, but some layered analysis of just the concept alone could be a dissertation, as I said previously.

While I certainly welcome, and embrace a zombie film made in any part of Africa, starring Africans, this particular set up made me a little uncomfortable, if past films about Africans in Africa, with white lead protagonists, produced by non-Africans (read white Americans or Europeans especially) are any indication of what to expect.

That movie is out on home video platforms, by the way, if you’re curious. 

I started with that as a lead-in to share what looks like a “zombie film,” set in an African country, but, this time, starring black Africans, minus white lead protagonist, and made by a black African filmmaker. Specifically, the film is set in Nigeria, with a Nigerian cast, written and directed by an enterprising, young Nigerian filmmaker in C.J. Obasi. 

Titled “Ojuju” the multiple award winning film tells the tale of a man named Romero, and his friends, Emmy and Peju, who find themselves amidst a neighborhood-wide mysterious infection that’s turning people into, effectively, zombie-like creatures. Together, the friends track the disease to the local source of water supply, and struggle to understand its origins, while fighting to stay alive.

The film stars Gabriel Afolayan, Omowunmi Dada, Kelechi Udegbe, Meg Otanwa, Chidozie Nzeribe, Brutus Richard, Jumoke Ayadi, Paul Utomi and introducing Kelechi Joseph.

Check out the film’s trailer below, which is followed by an interview the filmmaker gave to our friends at Smart Monkey TV, in which he talked about the genesis of the film, his horror film inspiration, what he’s working on next, and more.

For tickets to tonight’s New York Premiere at the New Voices in Black Cinema Festival, and other info, visit: http://www.bam.org/film/2015/ojuju.

Here’s the trailer:

And here’s the interview with the filmmaker:

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