In the early 2000s, Nollywood had a surplus of psychology thrillers rooted in African folklore and mysticism. Films like Karashika and Nneka and the Serpent with diabolic female antagonists were disturbing albeit enjoyable stories. Call Me By My Name is a terrific, haunting short directed by Bolaji Kekere-Ekun, offering a renaissance of these Nollywood horrors of the 2000s, but without their technical deficiencies.
Kekere-Ekun seems to enjoy telling stories around African mysticism. In 2012, he directed Nkiru, a short film on Mami Wata. This new short delves into the world of “marine spirits” as they are called by Pentecostal Christians – that familiar story of a barren woman who gets a child from a water goddess.
The story, which follows a non-linear structure, revolves around Jacob, a detective with a troubled childhood. In the first scene, we see him with a prostitute, their faces outside of the frame; her hands moving provocatively across his belly. In the next scene, which is riveting as it is cinematically beautiful, we meet him interrogating a lady whose husband has gone missing. She is a fierce one, but that’s because she is no ordinary lady. She recounts the moments leading to her husband disappearance to him.
The lady is played by a fiercely excellent Nengi Adoki (The Most Toasted Girl). In a film industry that embraces talent over popularity, Adoki’s performance should make her one of the breakout stars of 2019. She embodies this role with so much energy and confidence that makes the performance of her co-actor, Demi Banwo, who was equally good, look average. The performances of the actors are heightened by a very haunting score and Nodash’s stellar cinematography. The cinematographer who made his directorial debut with the beautifully shot The Delivery Boy showed why he is one of the best to play with lights in the industry.
Although the story is not as gripping, Call Me By My Name rides on the strong performances of its actors and the excellent choices of its director. It is a psychological thriller everyone should see.