Lagos is a wonderful oxymoron. “It’s the land where The American Dream meets Europe’s finesse, meets the African hustle,” is how a male voice on a radio jingle once described the city. Lagos is a place where blatant excess and equally palpable evidence of lack co-exist side-by-side, breathing the very same air. Being the economic heartbeat of the nation, you can almost taste the sweat born out of ambition – thick and relentless. From those who live on less than $2 a day, to the blue-blooded, one simple thing cuts across our differences: the belief that we can have it all – if not now, then one day soon.
One artist who aimed to capture the true spirit of Lagosians is connoisseur in the business of arts and culture, and one of Nigeria’s best storytellers, Bolanle Austen-Peters, in her directorial debut, The Bling Lagosians. This feature film is centred on the lives of fictional(-but-we-really-all-know-one-of-them) Holloway family. They are Lagos royalty, clothed in and protected beneath layers of old money. A life immersed in glamour, European holiday homes and deep-rooted social standing has been handed down through the generations, and the Holloways have no intention of dishonouring the legacy. For them, there is only one way to live: for the show. “Decadence, lust, excess, greed, resilience, restoration. That is what this film is about,” said director, Austen-Peters, in a closed door interview.
One simple thing cuts across our differences: the belief that we can have it all – if not now, then one day soon.
But every good story (and life, alike) has a turning point. When the formidable queen of the Holloway castle, Mopelola (Elvina Ibru) is about to turn 51, she decides to throw the birthday celebration of the year, to outmatch her lavish 50th. Unknown to the matriarch – her billionaire husband, and two expressive daughters – this will set off a series of events that will change their lives forever. Underneath the luxury is years of unattended-to debt, accrued by husband, Akin Holloway, which keeps piling and threatening to blow up in their faces.
In between trying to plan the ‘it’ society event, the family of four must fight their own individual demons. For Demidun (Osas Ighodaro-Ajibade), the first child, she has to decide which is more important: keeping up the façade of a perfect life, or working towards healing a bleeding marriage, wounded by unfaithfulness. Side-by-side, younger Holloway, Tokunbo (Sharon Ooja) is trying to find her place in a Nigerian film industry she’s hell-bent on leaving a mark in, while secretly yearning for her mother’s approval. For Akin (Gbenga Titiloye), in between desperately trying to manage the debt and his family’s image, he comes to the point where he has to choose between riding on the waves of passed-down reputation and honour, or building a name of his own.
Moral of the story? The yachts, club memberships and bling often come at a price in Lagos, and if you are, or want to be among the 1% of the 1%.
At a time when it’s more important than ever to tell our own authentically Nigerian (and African) stories, The Bling Lagosians has found its rightful place. “It took almost two years to write the script,” Austin-Peters said, remarking on her desire to make the story as relatable and true to who we are – as Lagosians – as possible. It’s a time in the media and entertainment industry for less angry tweeting on the failures of international media, and more attempts to change the narrative with our own voices – be it using film, books, music or art. “This film is the part of Nigeria the media does not show you,” starring actor, Alex Ekubo commented. That being said, the moral of this well-told story is not lost: the yachts, club memberships and bling often come at a price in Lagos, and if you are, or want to be among the 1% of the 1%, you have to be willing to pay it. There is no ‘good trumps evil’ ending here; only the strongest and most resilient will survive in the jungle – period.
So, will there be sequel? Well, Austen-Peters certainly isn’t opposed to that, she reveals. But first, meet the Holloways in person at a cinema near you, come June 28th. They’re a wild bunch; you’ll love them!
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