AV Club: “Kasala!” is powered by a strong execution & a story soaked in reality

Even though it was released nearly two years ago, Neflix & the ‘rona have given Ema Edosio’s ‘KASALA’ a chance to shine once again and we 10/10 recommend. Given that viewers are typically drawn in by the familiarity of the film’s featured actors, it’s not difficult to understand ‘KASALA‘s commercial standing as an indie film. Working with a very limited budget, director, Ema Edosio doesn’t feature any recognisable faces in the leading roles, which made it a lot less marketable to an audience who is usually drawn in by preference and familiarity.

Regardless, the film still manages to capture anyone who comes across it, thanks to its undeniable authenticity. “KASALA!”, –which loosely translating to trouble or problem – follows a chaotic day in the lives of four young male friends living in a Lagos slum.

TJ (short for Tunji), Abraham, Chikodi and Effiong start off a slightly typical day trying to live their best, youthful lives, however, they get caught up in some trouble, and end up having to tinker and barrel their way through an unfortunate event. The foursome head out for a party in TJ’s uncle’s car without permission, and Abraham ends up bashing the car during a re-parking mishap. While the rest of the film brilliantly revolves around their quest to fix the car before uncle Taju finds out, it’s also an alley-oop to the reality-driven ideals of the film.

Emboldened by its setting in one of Lagos’ many inner hoods, “KASALA!” is an engaging and enjoyable representation of the lives of the actual majority in the centre of excellence. These people live in place where owning a car—even if slightly beat down—is an indication of prestige and eating food on credit is a thing, where danger casually lurks and the ultimate goal for many is to make a better life and escape.

Within this scope, much like we’ve seen with other films of the sort such as ‘Friday’, ‘Anuvahood’ and more, ‘KASALA’ uses humour to set-up and subvert its hard-hitting truth, avoiding the trap of empty comedy or drifting into poverty porn by presenting a realistic view of life as it happens without appropriating stereotypes and constantly playing to its stakes.

Right from the beginning, director Ema Edosio picks a tempo and runs with it. Much like the city it’s set in, “KASALA!” is obsessed with forward motion, and the occasional dizzy spin, but there are no unnecessary attempts at breath-taking moments, since the movements all culminate into a tightly helmed piece. The film is a purposeful barrage of sequences that obscures, or at least, makes it easy to overlook the few loose ties, using a reliance on perspective as its main superpower.

It could have done a bit better if there was a bit more focus on character study—there are narrative points that would have benefited from a bit more exploration. We’re given insight to being thrust with adult responsibilities while still trying to be young, sexual abuse, and the effect of familial ties, but all of these are riffs, albeit important ones, interjected into the broader composition.

 

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The best and most enjoyable part of “KASALA!” is its acting performances, which allows the four central characters gel together on screen superbly. They embody the type of crazy ass friendship where fights and punishing roasts are the norm, but outsiders don’t get to enjoy the same privilege. Both in writing and performance, the grouping doesn’t come across as contrived, emphasising the standout turns of each actor, from Emeka Nwagabaraocha’s freewheeling charm and melodramatic bits as TJ to the weary but determined edge of Mike Afolarin (Chikodi), and from Tomiwa Tegbe’s driven performance as the street savvy Effiong to the ruffian and emotive candour of Chimezie Imo (Abraham).

There are also noteworthy support performances, like Kassim Abiodun’s unrelenting but well-measured vigour, especially in the golden scene with Gabriel Afolayan, and Alvin Abayomi’s rugged charm as the leader of a neighbourhood bully group. It’s in the urgent assist roles and its spectacular ending that Ema Edosio’s “KASALA!” plays up its superiority over an adjacent film like Abba Makama’s impressive debut feature, “Green White Green”.

In an interview with OkayAfrica, Ema admits to “Green White Green” being an inspiration for her own film, and it’s apparent in her adoption of that film’s Buddy Movie elements. However, the differing point is that Ema roots her endeavour in the real rather than the ideal, and it ends up paying huge dividends.

Featured Image Credits: YouTube/Ema Edosio

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