EPISODE 1 OF ‘IN LOVE AND ASHES’ FINALLY TAKES US AWAY FROM THE ETERNAL CHAOS OF LAGOS
If you’re anything like me, then you have to be tired of Nollywood’s never ending obsession with Lagos, particularly the triangle of Lekki, Victoria Island and Ikoyi. Every film and show with an iota of funding behind it zooms immediately to that tiny stretch of road rehashes old tired tropes. We have long begged for someone to tell another story; any story other than the Lagos one to be honest. It seems EbonyLife and filmmaker were listening because first they gave us Sons Of The Caliphate and now they’ve given us In Love And Ashes.
I’ll admit I was a little apprehensive when I read about the premise of the show. First off all they got 2Baba to write and record one hell of a theme song for the series and actually went on location to shoot the damn thing. What did we do to deserve all of this greatness?
The season starts with who I suspect will be our protagonist,Emeka (Charles Etubuebi best known from Dare Olaitan’s Ojukokoro, and being the only decent thing in Lagos Big Boy) prepping for a trip to Maiduguri, the first few scenes don’t really say much but you can tell that he is clearly not from the East and has no real idea what he is walking into. His fiancee, Folake (who somehow speaks Hausa accented english) is stressed out by planning their wedding (which is four weeks away) and rightfully apprehensive about him going to the epicenter of a terrorist crisis. He manages to convince her that he has to do this, and of course, not wanting to seem like a nagging fiancee, she ends up having to convince him to go to Maiduguri.
Meanwhile in Maiduguri, we discover a photographer at the Home Again IDP camp documenting the lives of the internally displaced people there. Too soon to tell if she really cares or she is actually exploiting them, but we’ll wait and see. We move over to a family house, and meet Falmata, a teenager living with her parents, who receives a dodgy text message from a guy named Bukar who asks them to meet at their usual place. She lies to her mother about getting Alkaki, and finesses her way out of the house. Do you need a soothsayer to tell you this won’t end well?
Emeka arrives Maiduguri and checks in with Folake, who it seems has fallen ill after he travels. It turns out Emeka is a bit of an jerk, cos he talks rudely to his Hausa driver. After some more backtalk, he asks to be taken to the Home Again foundation. At the foundation, When Emeka arrives the camp. He finds Uncle Nuhu (aka Kannywood hearthrob Sani Danja) the camp director is sharing rations to the IDP’s. After a weird stunted exchange, they leave the rations and go to his office to talk. It turns that Emeka is an auditor from a Lagos Non-profit and is there to inspect the camp and ensure that funds being given to the camp is well utilized. While they head for his office, we see residents at the camp giving interviews to a filmmaker. It’s a great but subtle reminder of what exactly is at stake at the Home Again IDP camp.
When Emeka and Nuhu get down to business, it turns out that Nuhu doesn’t have a finance manager or even proper documentation of all the funding that he has been given to run the IDP camp. Emeka is surprised by this, and reminds Nuhu that the next round of funding the camp will receive is directly dependent on the audit of the camp’s activities. I wouldn’t be surprised if Nuhu ends up cooking the books.
Elsewhere Bukar and Fahmata finally meet up in their special place which ends up being some ratty tree. Oh, the horrors of teenage love. It turns out that Bukar has a whole plan to get himself and Fahmata out of Maiduguri; he plans to get scouted by a major football club after he is invited to join the National team and use that opportunity to marry Fahmata and take her away from Terrorist bedeviled Maid. It’s a good plan on paper, but who’s to say if Bukar is even any good at football. We hope for both their sakes that it all works out.
Back at the camp, photographer girl (who turns out to be Maryam) is strolling through the classrooms and stumbles on a girl sitting alone, visibly scared. She tries to get the girl to talk to her, but when the girl refuses, she takes a picture of her anyways. Typical. Pfft.
Meanwhile, Bukar isn’t an orphan after all. He is actually the son of the man who picked up Emeka from the airport, the Lagos NGO’s representative in Maiduguri. Bukar’s mother is in the throes of some repeated illness and his father, while incredibly gentle with his mother has functionally disowned Bukar for dropping out of school to pursue his career in football. I want to side with Bukar, but I really don’t blame his father. Nigeria is hard enough as it is.
When Emeka ends up at his hotel the next day, guess who is giving an interview to a white journalist in the lobby? Yup, Maryam. Emeka, whose only met men on his trip to Maiduguri becomes enamoured with Maryam as he listens to her proselytize about Maiduguri. Guys, Emeka is gonna cheat.
I called it first. I can see the future.
It turns out Bukar’s rehearsal was actually for a big game, and when the show returns to him, they’re in the thick of it. Bukar is gingered by Fahmata in the audience and a white scout in the make shift bleachers and scores a fantastic goal. But his oversabi becomes too much and he dives into a hard tackle, injuring his knee. I said it. I SAID IT! Bukar’s career might be over and his plans with Fahmata too. Wow!
Thankfully Emeka has a better relationship with his mother (played by Patience Ozorkwor) than Bukar. Emeka checks in on his mother who lives in Enugu and runs a shop in the market. She is rightfully worried that he is in Maiduguri where bomb threats are an everyday worry, but Emeka is stubborn and doesn’t really listen to her. Why are men like this ehn, why?
It is this kind of pointless machismo that lands Bukar in a traditional bone setter’s house where they try to fix his leg. It is so hard having to watch Bukar go through so much pain, but if his dreams with Fahmata are going to happen he better grin and bear it.
Nuhu checks in with Maryam at the end of the day after all the events of the day. We see a different side to Nuhu, he is personally mending donated clothing for the camp, and it seems I might have misjudged him. Maryam asks about the girl she met earlier in the hostels. Nuhu explains to Maryam that the girl Habiba’s parents are missing and she might have been victim to the Insurgents that tormented Chibok. A PTSD fueled flashback all but confirms Nuhu’s foreshadowing and sets her as one of the season’s major story lines.
I’m super curious to see how they expand these character arcs in episode 2.