After my usual weekend Kung-fu movie, I had the opportunity to watch the new Shirley Frimpong Manso movie-LOVE OR SOMETHING LIKE THAT and I will start by saying; that it’s a significant story of life that is well tackled.
I am not a keen proponent of the assumption that every story has been told—but I certainly believe that, a story is only good when the storyteller is exceptionally passionate about the subject matter and has priceless cause of telling that particular story—which is to make a realistic impact.
I have long predicted and in a way hoped for a change in the improbable manner the African HIV/AIDS story has been told by many African film-makers. Interestingly, Shirley Frimpong Manso has taken up the challenge to tell the story in a way that is pulsing to the heart—and captivating to the mind in her latest movie-LOVE OR SOMETHING LIKE THAT.
I am yet to meet a single person who is not a party to the general consensus that education on HIV/AIDS in Africa, though has improved over the years, continues to be largely ineffective—and apart from blaming certain religious teachings such as “Aids is bad but not as bad as the use of condoms” for the ineffective outreach, the architecture employed for the purpose of mass education on this diabolical disease seems not to be working.
Many movies and documentaries have taken up the subject of creating HIV/AIDS awareness and in doing so; have failed to make impact with their messages simply because of the manner in which the stories are told—without substantially taking into consideration the societal changes and mannerisms that cannot be ignored in order to bring the story to the hearts of the receivers.
The Storyline & the Pace
Though the theme of the script is set on ‘HIV/AIDS’, the film brilliantly tells the story in such a way that, it does not only steal the best part of your emotions—and it doesn’t do so by invoking ‘sorrowfulness’, but by making you consider the fact that there is unimaginable value in being self conscious when it comes to sex.
Just like most well put together HIV/AIDS stories or films which take the bold approach into exploring the issues of life-threatening diseases like Cancer, the film is filled with emotions. In fact, the film which at large is themed on HIV/AIDS faintly deals with Cancer, without necessarily losing sequence and direction.
I’ve seen several African film-makers and even those outside Africa taking up the HIV/AIDS story from different angels and worldview, but this knocks me at home and presents a far better realistic way of how events unfold when the unwanted subject of HIV/AIDS finds its way into an African marriage/relationship.
Without giving much away, I must say the film starts on a very slow note—which I believe was deliberately set to pull viewers into seeing the existing love, affection and sense of belonging that existed between John Dumelo’s character-Mr Walker and his wife-Joselyn Dumas (Kwarley Mettle).
Soon as the foundation of love and bond between the above two are visibly established, the film begins to speed up—but not as much as I would have preferred. Surely, watching the movie immediately after a Kung-fu movie may have caused a heightened adrenaline, probably, the reason why I found it slow.
It is obvious Shirley Frimpong Manso and her team understood the nature and emotions involved in the story being told. Sparrow Productions’ films have always made good use of a collection of African songs but mostly, these songs compliment scenes or add that extra bit of entertainment to the movies while pulling back your attention.
However, the songs used in LOVE OR SOMETHING LIKE THAT went beyond the usual, the songs stabilized the emotionally filled story—-bumping up the pace and dropping in the needed energy intermittently.
I’m not the type to hear a track and jump up to dance but even though I was fully submerged in the ‘rough emotional journey’ the film was taking me, when the songs which were from the likes of Raquel, Okyeame Kwame and Efya were dropped, I caught myself immersed in the music—for a minute, and then the story hits back to the emotion.
To me, the interruption of the emotional ‘downs’ by these carefully selected songs make the viewer stay put as a viewer and not become a sympathiser, thereby, taking in the lessons and education/awareness the story is creating. If that is what the film-makers wanted to do, then it was perfectly achieved. If that wasn’t it—-I would proudly say, so was the effect for me.
When you have A-listers like John Dumelo, Joselyn Dumas and OC Ukeje championing a story and delivering their lines, backed by many years of experience under the directorship of a multiple-award winning director-Shirley Frimpong Manso, you should not expect less—because you won’t even get that if you wished for it.
The acting was outstanding—and I say this because none of the scenes throws a taint at the story, which would make you question any part of the delivery.
When emotions were involved, Joselyn Dumas was great at showing that, and it could just be that she was living her role—as she seems naturally emotional.
But if props must be given to any of the actors for an exceptional role play, I would give it OC Ukeje and this would entirely not be due to his prowess but to the over-convincing way his character was presented. From the ‘yellow coloured eye’ to the ‘arrow’ of sickness that surrounded his personality, he stood out, though he worked alongside some of our best actors.
The Joselyn Dumas & Nana Mensah Relationship
Though the movie gets so many things RIGHT in telling the HIV/AIDS story in a way that touches the deeper part of the heart while stimulating the brains to come to terms with the essence of protecting/knowing your status, one thing it perfectly deals with is stigma—and how those around you can be of great support.
It wasn’t the usual shun by friends and the portrayal of dogma when it comes to dealing with people affected with HIV/AIDS. The movie sets a well deserving place for true friends and scene after scene, it highlighted the healthy, supportive and caring relationship that existed between Joselyn Dumas and Nana Mensah.
Nana Mensah’s character was filled with strength which she continually channelled to Joselyn Dumas’s character but the film was realistic and maintained that Nana Mensah was a human being. Therefore, the film occasionally exposed her own fears which were carefully managed.
Again, the film showed that even in difficult times , friendships or relationships can be mutual and should not be considered as only beneficial to the person carrying the established burden, in this case, HIV/AIDS.
Even in her state, Joselyn Dumas’ character encouraged Nana Mensah to take the needed interest in knowing her status—and off the HIV/AIDS conversation, she also offered her emotional support. This I thought was an excellent way of portraying how healthy relationships/friendships can be, even if one is HIV positive.
On a lighter note, I thought Nana Mensah was type-casted for the role (from African City). She was mainly the usual fouled-mouth, loud and feisty single woman. In fact, she was even a mistress here too. But she was a delight to watch…
Despite the fact that Nana Mensah’s character appeared to be ‘shallow’, she stood by Joselyn Dumas with immense words of wisdom and stood by her all the way through—without judgement or stigma.
The John Dumelo and Christabel Ekeh Relationship
Regardless of the deep connection and sense of genuineness or care that was shown by the Joselyn Dumas and Nana Mensah, John Dumelo and ChristabelEkeh had quite a shallow relationship—which was mainly fuelled by greedy desires.
Even though both of them had a common status (prefer not to state the status so not to kill the plot), their relationship lacked anything valuable—though John Dumelo seemed to have picked a lesson from what Christabel claim took place between her ex and herself.
John Dumelo and Christabel’s relationship was a total contradiction of what Joselyn and Nana Mensah enjoyed—and if you ask me, every human relationship must have traits of the former.
The OC Ukeje and Joselyn Dumas’ Amazing Relationship
What takes centre stage as resentment rapidly develops into becoming an enviable relationship—partly due to the spirit of forgiveness and probably and inherent desire to help the sick by a doctor.
Surely, not many of us in the shoes of Joselyn Dumas’s character can look into the eyes of the person that ‘forcefully’ ended her dreams—even if it is for a short period of time and let go the past, aiming to move forward with the same person.
The best part of the movie is grounded in the surprising but caring relationship that came to be, between Joselyn Dumas’s character and Henry, played by O.C Ukeje.
Apart from the HIV/AIDS education that movie centres on, one thing I took with me is the hidden power and healing in forgiveness.
God & Faith Can Help Cope
Considering my atheistic beliefs when it comes to God and the concept of faith, you should not expect me to agree with the above—but the truth of the matter is; faith and God give majority of people comfort and hope.
You cannot probably tell an African story, especially an emotional one like this and ignore the God factor, which Shirley Frimpong Manso brought into play.
Despite receiving enough support from her friend, also through counselling and at some point from her confused husband, Joselyn Dumas’ character still took trust in God, looked upto the heavens for hope and strength to deal with her condition, this most Africans will do and I find it a perfect mirror of reality.
It was done subtly with a visit to the church, yet, the importance of God and faith in the lives of Africans, especially those who find themselves in such conditions was properly highlighted.
I think I should leave out production quality whenever I decide to write on Sparrow Production’s movies—because they’ve never gotten that wrong and I don’t think this is the time they will settle for less.
When it comes to sound and picture quality, once again they did not comprise on their own high set standards. If it were birds that were singing, you heard them all clear and if it was blood fusing out, you saw as much as you needed to see in order to make sense of the scene.
You cannot tell a perfect HIV/AIDS story and attempt to highlight on stigma related issues without having to tackle the ‘challenging issue’ of sex.
When it comes to our African film-makers, Shirley Frimpong Manso has mastered her ‘on bed’ ethics and with two or more sex scenes in the movie, I was thinking a lapse would at least appear in one. But she kept it discreet and at the same time, tastefully done.
Condoms were to be worn and she made sure the viewer knew what was taking place while not distracting the attention the sex scenes magically bring.
Realism in the Habits
Interestingly, in our human deductions, we attribute certain habits and even diseases to certain people. Some people still look for a weak sick woman with all her hair out of place when HIV/AIDS come in but when in fact, the healthiest on sight woman can be a carrier of the virus.
Also, when we think about weed smoking, certain low life individuals come in mind as a result of many years of stereotyping, when actually, the highly educated such as medical doctors do smoke weed.
In making the point that, HIV/AIDS like habits can be in the system of any person, no matter the qualification, social status, wealth or how healthy the person looks, the movie shows how a well trained medical doctor with a catalogue of awareness in her mind engaged in unprotected sex and was a weed smoker too (though occasionally).
The Slap of the Century
I don’t want to talk about this and I cannot pretend it did not happen. Describing the slap without the sound effects and facial expressions would make it awful, and kill the gleam.
I want you to know that, there was a heavy slap and I think it can only be described as the slap of the century!
In creating the needed awareness, the movie highlighted that contrary to popular assumption, having HIV/AIDS is not a death warrant or the end of the world. Rather, it marks the beginning of a new lifestyle which can be carefully undertaken to live normal as any other person.
Also, it showed that it doesn’t take multiple episodes of unprotected sex to get infected; even a single short act can push you into the ‘dangerous’ pot. It is therefore advisable to stay protected all the time and if you’ve had some few jumps, hope is not lost, knowing your status is the saviour.
Though the movie seemingly shows that your uninfected partner can still enjoy sex with you through the use of condom, it brings itself to the realization that the inner stigma and fear could become a standing block and things may never be as they used to be. Of course, unless conscious efforts are made by both partners…
More importantly, the movie ends on a great note that, even a HIV infected woman can through IVF get pregnant—and there are medical steps that can be taken to ensure that the baby is born healthy and HIV free.
Though there were no production down scores and the story was greatly told—-considering the many appalling ways certain film-makers have delved into the issue, I think Shirley Frimpong Manso should be given all the available props for the excellent work in tackling this true social issue.
However, I feel the story could have given a bit of attention to how Joselyn Dumas’s character was receiving treatment—simply to show that, treatment though effective is not a burden and it can be received in line with your daily life too.
I feel like the education should have paid a little more attention to treatment medications and hospital visits since there is a growing misconception that receiving HIV/AIDS treatment amounts to being hospital bed-bound or having to take hundreds of injections each day.
For me, the movie tackles the most important questions concerning HIV/AIDS—thus from awareness/education on protection to stigma and the fact that, your life is not cut short even if you’ve made a mistake—there is a brighter future for everyone as long as you are ready to do what it takes…
Therefore, giving the movie 8/10 for carefully telling a story that many African film-makers failed to impress us with over the years is not an act of generosity—rather, a well deserving mark for excellent work done!
The movie will start showing at the SilverBird Cinemas in Accra (Weija & Accra Mall) from 1st May, 2014…Do not miss it.
LOVE OR SOMETHING LIKE THAT features multiple award-winning Ghanaian actor-John Dumelo, Joselyn Dumas, Christabel Ekeh, Nigeria’s OC Ukeje, Nana Mensah and a host of other talented actors…
The movie is produced by Ken Attoh, Shirley Frimpong Manso and Joselyn Dumas—and directed by Shirley Frimpong Manso.