93 Days was a particularly difficult movie for me to review, being that the entire country seems to be desperately in love with it, as it honors our fallen hero, Dr. Stella Ameyo Adadevoh. Irrespective, the truth about the construct of this movie has to be told, and there’s no better person to tell it than an undiluted, unpoliticized, and radical Nollywood well-wisher.
This is not a movie; it is a documentary; not even a docudrama, as it’s seriously lacking in drama. Hadn’t I been dedicated to finishing this movie, I would have walked out half way into it, as I could already see where the filmmaker was going, being a screenwriter.
It is true that Nigeria experienced Ebola. It is also true that she tackled it quite intelligently. We, the inhabitual citizens, know all about it, and 93 Days is a monumental movie to remind us about every single moment of it. Highly inspiring, indeed, but in this inspiration abides a number of shortcomings, and I will take you through that journey. You’re welcome.
Patriotism, heroism, Christianity and medical practice−to a large extent; corruption, fear, relationship, and family−satisfactorily. 93 Days is generally focused about the message it is trying to pass across, and this is very satisfying.
Dr. Adadevoh in the movie is a representation of the virtuous woman in Nigeria who lived a patriotic life, and served as Nigeria’s hero in her Ebola visitation. Adadevoh used her medical knowledge and experience to fight a dangerous battle despite the corruption that prevailed in Nigeria. She was scared, but she was fierce. She had a supportive family: a loving husband who wasn’t intimidated by her intelligence or success, and a precious son whose pride in his mother knew no boundaries.
The role her faith appears to play in the turn-out of events is beautifully thematic. She was a true Christian, and Christians of this nature have specific attributes: solemnity, wisdom, cautiousness, sympathy/empathy, total dependence on an infinite being as they exhibit the fruits of that spirit: love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (Galatians 5: 22-23). She joins these with her knowledge in medicine, and fights relentlessly.
Denial is another theme that is relatably explored in 93 Days: Patrick Sawyer about his Ebola status, and even Adadevoh, much later, about hers. It turns out to be somewhat ironic as she’s so sure Sawyer has Ebola, but can’t see so in herself for a long while.
The fear that grips the Ebola ambulance drivers and nannies comes as a surprise to the Nigerian audience; this is one reaction we never expected; I appreciate that this movie grants us insight into this. When these workers are called upon for a pep-talk meeting, though, they all look aloof. I’d like to imagine this is how they are meant to appear, and not that they are just very bad actors.
It is a good thing that this movie gigantically themes out (highly expected), notwithstanding, it turns out to be generally too on-the-nose, likely because all the names and places are precise. This does the script a major disservice as the filmmaker probably fears misrepresenting or tweaking the exact details as the audience knows them, sentencing the movie to Platitudinous Accuracy in its characterization and plotting. This, other than having submitted an appeal for creative license, and taking advantage of the disclaimer tool. (9/10)
Using The Script Lab’s “The Eight Sequences”, the highlights of 93 Days go thus:
- STATUS QUO & INCITING INCIDENT: Patrick Sawyer comes into Nigeria ill, and is taken to First Consultant hospital.
- PREDCAMENT & LOCK IN: It is discovered he has Ebola by Dr. Adadevoh.
- FIRST OBSTACLE & RAISING THE STAKES: He is quarantined, despite the pressure to release from the government.
- FIRST CULMINATION/MIDPOINT: He dies.
- SUBPLOT & RISING ACTION: Ebola awareness programmes to ensure it doesn’t spread beyond control in Nigeria.
- MAIN CULMINATION/END OF ACT TWO: Sawyer’s body contacts start falling ill and dying.
- NEW TENSION & TWIST: Adadevoh dies and is buried/honoured.
- RESOLUTION: A few victims miraculously survive the virus, and Nigeria wins as declared Ebola-free.
These are given facts, and the Nigerian audience are all too familiar with them; the filmmaker luckily didn’t need to do much thinking. Taking this for granted, everything in the movie continues in the same vein of not having had much thought. What the audience doesn’t know and needs to know are most of the other details this movie fails to explore.
Creating a story around these points is what is expected by a sophisticated audience, and not dwelling in these known facts the way this filmmaker does with 93 Days. A distraction with other drama and conflicts, building up in such a way that these major plot points come in as new tension would be in order; like a form of twist to the presumably normal lives the characters in the movie could be living.
Heck, this story could also be told from the point of view of Adadevoh’s son, who unknowingly is currently presented to the audience as a lay-about in this movie, as all the time we see him, he’s at home with mum doing nothing.
93 Days has no sub-plot. The first mistake would be starting too late into the movie; starting at the moment Patrick Sawyer steps into Nigeria. His later unruly behavior makes him generally hated by the audience. But I do not hate him. I believe he was a fine man living a perfectly human life back in Liberia, till something dreadful happened to him. It is quite condescending showing what’s bad about Sawyer, and failing to show the human reason he’s got this bad. The answer to this could have been the movie starting a little earlier, when Patrick Sawyer is presumably happy in Liberia, for the audience to clearly see how and why he got to Nigeria in a deplorable state.
The Nigerian populace in real-life had a specific reaction to this Ebola occurrence in 2014; for the first time in a long Nigerian history, everyone proved to have an innate understanding of orderliness, the same orderliness the country currently is lacking. We were all properly behaved, only in a desperate attempt to not contract this virus. Many things happened:
- churches temporarily banned bodily rituals of holding hands and hugging fellow members;
- crowd-programmes were completely cancelled;
- schools postponed their resumption dates;
- commuters dressed fully clad and sat cautiously in dirty buses;
- people viciously begged bus conductors and market women to keep the change;
- everyone literally bathed every minute with frequently sold-out hand sanitizers;
- casual visitations were restricted;
- and everyone generally kept abreast on the updates of this virus (another reason this rehash is uncalled for).
This careful Nigerian behavior, thankfully, was explored briefly in 93 Days, but only in-house; the doctors responsibly call for the ambulance to have them picked up to the centre.
Why couldn’t the audience enjoy more with some of these other humorous Nigerian populace experience? Adadevoh’s son could have easily taken us on that ride, instead of sitting at home and moping. Annoyingly instead, the filmmaker gets obsessed busying himself, showing the unfortunate Ebola victims, who are also minor characters, by the way, writhing in bed.
The gathering of executives in Washington D.C, the Nigerian Government house, and wherever places didn’t seem to have any impact in the movie. All the times we see these crowds they just blandly look on as someone else rehashes the Ebola details. We don’t even see them do anything with the details; we do not see them actively influencing the situation on the long term or even on an incy-wincy short term.
In Washington, Nigeria is rehashed as highly populated and diverse; in the Nigerian Government House, a conference, which appears to be seated for days (with no change of clothes?), watches the Ebola infected, the Ebola dismissed and the Ebola demised. This was no news to the audience, or intensifying either, as the crowd in the government house do not endear the audience with any form of emotions, and the audience could also see the infected, the dismissed and the demised in action. Static and boring!
What’s a biopic with no conflict or suspense? This movie fails woefully in this aspect.
However, there were a lot of close-up shots that misleads the audience into thinking something is going to happen, and nothing does. Sometimes it pays off, other times it doesn’t. A fair example of where it pays off would be when one of the doctors draws blood from Patrick Sawyer’s hand. We later see Patrick Sawyer spill blood from his syringe on the doctors. (3/10)
The Ebola virus functions as the antagonist in this movie. Coupled with the fact that it is inanimate, it also needs a carrier in human form; the movie’s villain. Patrick Sawyer dies early but someone else in the movie should uphold his “legacy”, making for conflict which is entirely and unrecommendably lacking in this movie.
Adadevoh’s son, in this movie, appears to be one of the kinds of men our mothers warn our Nigerian sisters about. He looks so grown up and could easily be mistaken for a married man with kids−despite his queer facial expressions and goofy attempts to act childish. Doesn’t he work? Is he on leave? Is he a student? Is he a drop-out? Why is he always at home and with mum? Why does Adadevoh love him so much? Yes, she’s his biological mother, however, this kind of love, as shown in 93 Days, seems to be the kind a caring mother would shower on a kid with special needs.
Adadevoh’s son speaks of printing “Dinner would be colder if there was none” on T-shirts that would quickly get sold-out, yet the audience do not get to see the sub-textual reason he says that. Is he a printer? Why don’t we see more about it in a sub-plot? This movie, though.
Dr. Ada appears to be the protagonist of her own sub-story, only, there’s no proper sub-story with her. Whatever happened to the pregnancy she’d been nursing and overtly expressive about? Was it just in existence so that we could see her check her temperature and then realize she’s got Ebola early? Is this early detection the reason she comes out alive? Surely, the audience feels worried that the virus might have affected the baby, but this filmmaker never thinks to clarify that. I guess the audience will never know.
It is blatantly unrealistic how everyone embraces Ada after her clearance at the Ebola Centre. Back in 2014, we all heard about her testimony in church, where she detailed to the congregation the stigma she’d faced for weeks, as people thought they’d contract the virus coming close to her. Or wasn’t this her testimony? An initial reflex of avoidance from the welcoming crowd in this movie wouldn’t be out of place.
Dr. Ada’s boyfriend is not seen in his own struggles. What was life like before he met Ada? How was his reaction to her announcement of the pregnancy? Why do we need to see a couple with no obvious (or real) chemistry smooch? Why should we care about the relationship? Why isn’t the boyfriend more charming? This area of 93 Days, particularly, lacks proper development as nobody in the audience cares to think these two should be love-birds.
The audience are cheated out of knowing what’s so important about Patrick Sawyer’s meeting. Why is he so agitated about it? Perhaps, a backstory would be in order— RE: starting earlier. It would also be nice to see what happens now that he doesn’t make the meeting. Another example would be when Adadevoh, in the ambulance van, thinks back to the moment where she believes she might have touched Patrick Sawyer, it would also be nice to see a flashback of that moment.
All the people who end up being the heroes aren’t given proper development or attention in 93 Days. Also, most times, because of the too many characters on camera close-up in this movie, the audience isn’t able to differentiate between the minor characters and the extras. Sometimes, some presumable extras are given lines to say, joining them to an already existing truckload of minor characters. What this does is this: it makes the audience open its heart to pay attention to every person in the room as a potential significant character, and going by the number of crowds on close-up in this movie, it’s quite exhausting and unfulfilling.
Wait. Was Patrick Sawyer’s personal assistant amongst those male characters lamenting in the Ebola centre? Many will never know.
There are no explanations as to why Adadevoh falls into comatose. I guess the audience should imagine that the virus has varying symptoms in individuals, especially as one of the victims can still eat when others can’t.
Being in coma, Adadevoh, seems to be more privileged to have Dr. Ada’s Christian music in the movie. The same music that helps the cleaner-lady-turned-Ebola-victim transit to eternal peace at the Ebola centre. The audience needs to see this done for our main hero only. That was a major misplacement of priorities by the filmmaker. The preferential treatment should always be focused on the hero in a movie, not a minor character no one really remembers. Also, the only person the audience would want to feel writhing in pain is our hero, not the other minor characters.
Speaking of the Ebola centre, the white man (Dr. David) and his partner did a good job managing the place and avoiding getting infected. Dr. David is fond of clarifying situations, but fails to stick out his talking-head one last time to tell Dr. Ada her baby is fine or not. The other volunteer doctors who later come in seem too useless, as we do not see any of their contributing activities in the movie. (2/10)
Yet, another Nollywood movie that makes all the mistakes that could possibly be made in a movie: talking heads, too on-the-nose, telling and not showing; and this movie does this a lot. Going into detail would be too cumbersome (it would also be a rehash like this filmmakers movie) as I have repeatedly done this in previous Nollywood movie reviews, but one thing’s for sure: the characters were out to lecture us about Ebola. Unfortunately, we’ve already passed this course and graduated. How dare this movie come off as literature for us, the seeming undergraduates?!
At the start of the movie, it appears the audience hears Adadevoh’s voice (or was it Dr. Ada’s?) narrating to us the population and diverse situations in Nigeria. One would wonder if the dead could narrate her own story−never heard of that.
Only a pinch of humour brightens up this movie: when Adadevoh reveals in the dialogue “No, Mr. Patrick Sawyer, you do not have a meeting. You have Ebola.”, and when Dr. Morris over-protectively shouts at his nephew, “Get away from here!”, knowing that he (Dr. Morris) had contracted the virus. One other one would be the way the Taxi man breaks out in shouts as he realizes that he’s so close to Ebola.
The number of uncensored minor characters allowed to speak in this movie is undocumentable; the characters’ names mostly unrememberable. This makes me wonder what the dialogue would have looked like on the script; the script readers might have had a tough time deciphering who’s who, and it blatantly exposes itself so badly on screen.
At some point in the movie, Dr. Ada says the whole country is praying for Adadevoh, yet we do not see a graphic representation of that happening. Instead, we are made to sit in and watch bouts of unwelcomd in-house prayer sessions every now and again, like this were strictly a Christian movie. Regardless of, Ada’s prayers appear to work for her own survival, while the others seem to just be lucky−we all know Dr. Morris wasn’t a prayer warrior, he was just a whiny, panicky wreck.
The major characters should have been seen in certain areas vocally helping out with public awareness, but that never happens. All we see is new meaningless faces dishing out “important” details over and over again. (4/10)
The audience is happy at the start of the movie as things appear to happen very quickly. In a matter of 10 minutes, situations have been established and the audience are at the edge of their seats, but that’s where this spice ends.
The movie, soon, starts to move too slowly, and especially because it lacks creativity, conflict and tension, and repeats information over and over again. The same information Nigeria and the rest of the world were bombarded with over and over again not too long a 2 years ago. (3/10)
The whole country wishes for 93 Days to explode worldwide because of our fallen hero, Dr. Stella Ameyo Adadevoh; I wouldn’t bet on it, though. What would help is an impeccably crafted manuscript, which this clearly isn’t.
If this “pretty penny” movie wasn’t about an important legend and a detailed occurrence in Nigeria’s history, I doubt this filmmaker would ever had made an attention gripping movie; it appears he’s limited in his knowledge and experience of standard film making. In any case, experience shouldn’t matter; to whom much is given, much is expected. (21/50)
Isedehi Aigbogun, also known as ISD, is a staunch academic, holding a B.A., M.A., and PhD (in view) in English Language.
She’s a Screenwriter, Screenplay Analyst, Consultant, and Film Scriptic.