93 Days: Remembering Ebola

93 Days: Remembering Ebola

Saturday, September 17, 2016 12:50 pm


Bimbo Manuel, Bimbo-Akintola and Danny-Glover-in-the-movie

Bimbo Manuel, Bimbo-Akintola and Danny-Glover-in-the-movie

93 Days, a movie recreation of the Ebola Virus Disease scare wins plaudits at The Toronto Film Festival as it sets to hit Nigerian Cinemas

NKRUMAH BANKONG-OBI/Abuja

Different scenarios grip diverse attention in a motion picture. This is regardless of whether the film is a fictional creation or an extreme makeover of history, a true life occurrence. Films touch our hearts and humanity – they make us cry, laugh, grin and thumbs up. Great films keep viewers on the edge. They teach morals and minister to the soul. These distinctive effects of movies amplify their appeal to the visual and they psychological outlets of the human composition.

For 93 Days, it is the story of a defeated extermination threat, a killer-disease humbled by resilient people and the victory of self-denial. This perhaps, is the story as we see one endangered man literarily sweeping his way to the middle of a crowd with an oozing balm. The sight of hospital staff constructing a makeshift isolation centre clad in airtight draperies and a woman standing her ground not to release a quarantined patient, an action turns out to save multitudes; drives the point about how eventful 93 Days can be in the life of a country.

It is a storyline that everyone of cognitive age in Nigeria knows. But the impact is unlikely to be felt now, as the human memory constant retires events to its mountainous mist. Not many remember how many bags of salt were added to water for early morning and night baths. Not a few still remember that the age-old African tradition of handshake and embrace was jettisoned. Lagosians, in the aftermath of that dissed alarum, forget that the city nearly lost its bustle and cosmopolitan appeal. And as one character says in the 93 Days trailer, “This is something that changes the way you see the world, changes your life, forever”.

But thanks to the power of cinematography, the events are being preserved beyond reams of paper, for history, for reference, for eternity. Featuring some of Africa’s best talents in the make-believe world, 93 Days directed by Steve Gukas recreates how Ebola gained entry into Nigeria and virtually clotted the nation’s blood vessels for a period that informs the film’s title.

For a synopsis, the movie begins with the landing at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Lagos, of Patrick Sawyer (played by Bassey Keppy Ekpeyong). The visitor collapses and is taken to a hospital where he is attended by a horde of nurses and doctors. The chief medical director, Dr. Stella Adedavoh (superbly modelled by Bimbo Akintola) detects that the case before her isn’t ordinary. Despites pressure on her to release the patient, she keeps him, until test results show that he was a vector of Ebola. Sawyer displays elements of bestiality when, in protest, sprays his body fluids on the personnel administering to them. This single action marked the beginning of the threat, the eight deaths and indeed, the unquantifiable socio-economic anguish that nearly brought West Africa’s largest city to a halt and the nation to its knees.

When the film walked its way through the aisles of the Toronto Film Festival recently, it drew global attention to a Nigeria’s collective will to stand up to adversity. It mirrors importantly, the sacrifice of the people, the ones and active contributions of a people through advocacy and emergency adjustments of lifestyles to curb what appeared to be an extermination pill that snaked in in the form of Ebola, which had ravaged other West African countries.

In real life and in the film, Nigerian once more produced another worthy leader who has joined the pantheon of a few who gave their lives for the good of others. Stella Adedavoh, is recast and acknowledged as the ultimate force that stopped Ebola on it tracks. For this, she belongs firmly to the category of Moremi, the Princess of Ife, Emotan another Benin Princess, Francis Adekunle Fajuyi, the soldier who gave his life to die with his boss just during the 1966 crisis. While exploits of these figures are firmly out of memory, Adadevoh’s we can rightly relate to and feel her loving. Here is a woman who, despite her own exposure to the disease still finds time to admonish her junior colleagues “You must all take your temperatures twice a day and if you notice any difference, tell us.” Of course, this epitomises her mindset, which make this movie a fitting tribute to her memory.

Little wonder, a critic says this is “one of the best films to come out of Nigeria”. For the profundity of its message, 93 Days is likely to escape any harsh criticism of by film aesthetes. That does not mean the movie which cost 40 million naira to produce lags in terms of quality. The fast-paced thriller is capable of keeping viewers glued to a position until the credit rolls up the screen. Transition or scene changes are marvellously done. The quick paces of change of situation come with a heightened suspense. With this, the story continues to look afresh, despite having its genealogy in the faction genre. Dialogue is crisp, with ambiguities banished. Even the medical staff take the viewers into absolute consideration. Lagosians can relate to their environment. The signature shoreline encysting the Atlantic brine and the many lagoons are there as common features. The red buses and congested areas are all incorporated as vital parts of the movie’s setting.

Regardless of its success in Toronto and expected sweeping stakes at box office when it opens in Nigeria, 93 Days retains bits of unanswered questions. It is silent on the events that happened in Lagos and the expected result of what could have happened, had Sawyerr been allowed to Calabar, his destination. Readers already know that one death was recorded in Port Harcourt but the film is silent on this. It stays silent on what became of Calabar, a city renowned for its social life. There is definitely nothing wrong with history projecting into the future. After all, that is why it is the foundation of humanity. The failure to bring Calabar, Port Harcourt as coordinate to the Lagos narrative leaves a vital part of story out.

For Nigerians who will throng the local cinemas to watch the film, it will be an opportunity to relief a not so palatable experience. It will be an occasion to appreciate the virtue of sacrifice and the need for collective will to defeat adversity.

Alastair Mackenzie, Charles Okafor, Danny Glover, are some form part of the stars featured in the film.

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