To say that this has been a great year for Nigerians in Hollywood is an understatement. It started on the tail of wave from last year where American civil rights icons Martin and Coretta King were played by Nigerians David Oyelowo and Carmen Ejogo (and their now infamous Oscar snubs, which I am still salty about). It sailed through Rick Famuyiwa’s directorial masterpiece, DOPE, and also Uzo Aduba’s big win as Crazy Eyes on the Netflix show, Orange is the New Black. It caught an unlikely second wind in John Boyega’s performance as the Storm Trooper, Finn, in Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Finally, it peaked in the harrowing story of Dr. Bennett Omalu in the film, Concussion.
Yes, I know what you guys are going to say. Will Smith’s accent was terrible. To quote one of the more memorable quips, he “sounds like a Nigerian with a concussion.” Frankly, you are all right. And I am soooooooooooo fucking sorry for ever trying to defend his accent. I’ve been told that my Nigerian accent sounds distinctly American, but Holy shit that was terrible!!!!!!
Now, that we have cleared that up, you need to see this film!! I am not kidding. This is quite literally the first time that Hollywood has ever made a film about a Nigerian (at least to my recollection). Yes, Nigerians have played characters in Hollywood films, and there have been Nigerian characters in Hollywood films, but this is the first time that the film has been about an actual Nigerian and it was glorious.
For those of you who have lived under a rock for like the last 6 months, Concussion is a film about Dr. Bennett Omalu, a Nigerian-American forensic neuropathologist. By happenstance, he discovers a disease in athletes that put him at odds with what the film calls America’s “second religion” : Football (or hand egg, or whatever you want to call it). Sha, the film follows what happened to him and his family and the inexorable light that he shone on one of darkest secrets of America’s other god.
Once again, the accent is bitter pill to swallow, but I am telling you to swallow it, because the reward is sweet. Smith puts up what is undoubtedly the best performance of his acting career. Gugu Mbatha-Raw is completely phenomenal in her role as Prema Omalu. Not to mention, the unshakably ironic casting of Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje as Dave Duerson. There’s a scene where Agbaje’s casting just poetic. Trust me, you can’t miss it.
The film is obviously not without its controversies. Reportedly, Sony gave the story to the NFL to edit before greenlighting the project, which means the real thing was infinitely more harrowing than that. Despite all this, I still think you should watch the film. Point blank, never in my life have I been as proud to be both a Nigerian and an aspiring physician as I was sitting in that theatre watching the film.
I hope next year brings bigger and better things for Nigerians in Hollywood.
P. S. If you want to debate me about why I believe Smith was the best person for the job (all things considered), tweet me (@mythicvoice). I am not afraid of the wrath of Nigerian twitter……..okay, I fear small sha, but still I’m not hiding.