Fantasia Fest Review: OJUJU

The Nigerian zombie movie has zero budget but lots of charm.

C.J. "Fiery" Obasi's Ojuju opens with a title card stating that "70 million Nigerians exist without access to safe drinking water." And there, we have the straightforward premise of Obasi's Nigerian zombie movie, in which a brutal virus spreads through the drinking water of a small, friendly neighborhood almost instantaneously, transforming it into a horrorscape. 

Ojuju and Obasi are part of the Nollywood movement, the prolific and no-budgeted cinema of Nigeria, and Ojuju definitely has no budget. The filmmaking and especially the editing are messy and inelegant, but there's a lot of beauty to be found in Obasi's film. It's colorful and strange, using extremely stylized angles and framing that could be incompetent filmmaking or interesting directorial choices. It's hard to tell sometimes with Ojuju, but that's part of its charm.

With all of its many weird cuts and inexplicable reaction shots, Ojuju still has a strong sense of character, thanks to its performances that make up the film's heart. Gabriel Afolayan is Romero (yes), a cheerful guy torn between his pregnant longtime girlfriend (Meg Otanwa as Alero), his side-piece Aisha (Yvonne Enakhena), his irresponsible best friend Emmy (Kelechi Udegbe) and Alero's bossy sister Peju (Omowunmi Dada). Soon a virus attacks, and most of Romero's friends and neighbors are coughing violently, bleeding from their eyes and eventually transforming into mindless, shuffling beasts. Those who remain, including Romero, Peju and Emmy, fight their way through the overrun streets. 

That's about it for story, and the metaphor never goes deeper than the title card and the occasional ominous close-up of a glass of water. A good third of the 90-minute movie is dedicated to near silent, awkwardly paced scenes of zombie mayhem, and it seriously never gets old.

The movie's very funny, with great jokes both on the page and through the actors' delivery. Our audience giggled through most of the screening, at gags intentional and unintentional, but Ojuju never inspires the sort of mean-spirited snarking that a lot of micro-budgeted, hyper-weird movies like it might. It's just a good time at the movies - spirited and goofy and occasionally baffling, and always a blast. 

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