REVIEW OF THE ENCOUNTER
The Encounter is set in 1967. The movie begins with the text – For over a year, the breakaway Republic of Biafra has been at war with the Federal Republic of Nigeria. This text sets the mood for us. The viewer may already be familiar with the civil war, but even if he or she is not, the word war does much of the work.
The story written by historian, Henry Onyema was produced by Trino Studios and directed by Tolu Ajayi.
I have always believed that the majority of Nigerians are quite ignorant of those who played significant roles in the Nigerian past, myself included. The real success of The Encounter is that after watching the movie you find yourself googling the names of the two main characters, Emmanuel Ifeajuna and Commander-in-Chief, General Emeka Ojukwu.
We are first introduced to Ifeajuna, played by Amara Onoh, with a close-up of his face. His eyes are closed and he is muttering or praying. Officers come in, one of whom he clearly knows and has no respect for. He is roughed up but this beating up of a prisoner was not only cliché but poorly done. They then escort him to the office of General Ojukwu, played by Gregory Ojefua, and we quickly realize that they are friends; or rather that they used to be friends.
The conversation that they go on to have is an odd mixture of nostalgic reminiscing and heated accusations. It is clear that General Ojukwu wants to find out what the motives behind his old friends’ actions were. He feels betrayed by his friend who is confident that he did what he had to do, though he failed.
“It was a revolution!” cries Ifeajuna. “And every Nigerian with a conscience knows it was the right thing to do.”
Ifeajuna, who we also learn was the first Black man to win a gold medal at the 1954 British Empire and Commonwealth Games, as well as a prime conspirator in the 1966 Nigerian coup d’état attempt. But his assassination came about as a result of negotiations with the Nigeria federal officials, discovered by the Biafran army. The conversation between Ifeajuna and Ojukwu, the Commander-in-Chief detailed by The Encounter takes place after this.
The cinematographer must be commended for his beautiful work. The shots were clean and meaningful. As Ifeajuna is taken out of the office, we see a newspaper clipping where he is accused of being a traitor. And in the next scene, where he is executed, all the camera shows us are the rifles before the screen goes black and we hear the gunshots. I believe that this was a conscious decision to avoid the pitfalls that the Nollywood movies of the past have been all too happy to fall into. The makers of The Encounter managed their budget excellently.
The movie is only 22 minutes long and with over 25,000 views, it is one to watch at least once.
May 20, 2019