”Art is born because of restrictions, lives because of fights and dies because of freedom”
-Frank Raja Arase
So far this year, the African film industry has recorded a huge success. Many movies have been released, from the good, to the not-so-good, the bad and the ugly, even some that i can not categorically classify under any of these, maybe i haven’t find a suitable adjective to qualify them.
Among these is “Refugee” a musical film directed by Frank Raja Arase, the same brain behind blockbusters like “Somewhere in Africa” and “Iyore”.
Featuring a mix of Hollywood, Nollywood and Ghollywood actors; Yvonne Nelson, Belinda Effah, Okawa Shaznay, David Chin, Ross Fleming, Diana Yekinni, Sahndra Fon Dufe, Anastasia Pekhtereva, Sira Bah and a special appearance from Ramsey Noah.
Refugee, shot on locations in Ghana and Atlanta, is a heart-on-sleeve tale of life which tells the story of three African friends residing in a poor community in Accra who pursue their American dreams by embarking on a perilous stowaway journey by sea. The three friends learn to survive as they set out on their journey amidst different challenges hoping to make it big in America with their gift of Afro-vibe-African Music which defines Africa.
The film follows the lives of these characters, pinpointing the necessary and relevant areas and all they face to make their dreams come true.
On getting to America, the three friends were offered a mouth watering deal with an international record label ‘Worldwide Entertainment’ But they must change their signature, their Afro-Vibe-African Music in order to be able to sign the deal. Two of them oppose, Nahlela and Urika because of their love for African music. But the third, Nkoyo went behind their back, change her style of music, she even lied about her country and sign the deal. She was later made the lead singer. Things starts to go fine for her but the career was later ruined as she started doing drugs.
The director did an admirable job just as his previously released project, the cinematography was topnotch capturing the beautiful places in Accra, Ghana to the slums. The sound quality is a show-stopper and the soundtracks are properly sequenced with the intermix of lyrics and sounds which brought the movie to life. Whoever composed the songs performed by those characters has done a very good job, good sounds with wonderful lyrics.
The film also explores other relevant issues, including: Drug Abuse, Love and Racism infusing a subplot about racism and to me, it’s the most interesting part of the story. The racism story which in turn leads to murder was well play out.
Refugee is captivating and exceptional, every single scene made me want to see another with an array of casts who brought their A game into the movie.
Okawa Shaznay role as Nahlela Outshines. From her role as Clara in “Cheaters” to her stellar performance as Adejoke in “Iyore”. There’s something so unique about this actress that keeps me loving her, she’s beautiful and also talented.
Belinda Effah character did peaceably well, she’s Nkoyo and wouldn’t let any opportunity sleep by. Her smooth relation with the other characters is alluring.
As Afua, Yvonne Nelson delivered a good performance, she is in a relationship with Gibson whose parent will not allow to marry her because she’s African.
All the characters are appealing, they all have a connection with the story.
As good as this movie is, there are still some flaws, like how the rice stolen from the cabin in the ship miraculously multiply itself to be able to feed all of them, and how the director subtitle some scenes delivered in English and leave some that were delivered in a local dialect, also Urika’s character and how she met the other friends which was not convincing enough. But despite all these, the movie is good enough to earn a few nomination and won the award for Best Art Direction at the 2016 African Magic Viewers’ Choice Awards.
Refugee has decent production value, the story is engaging and well told.