Bursts of malaise and violence — little kids skewering a lizard, a child suddenly flogged or slapped — punctuate the otherwise laconic, serene atmosphere of Kelly Daniela Norris and TW Pittman’s Ghana-set Nakom. The film thereby transcends its familiar “career vs. home obligations” conflict.
Iddrisu (Jacob Ayanaba) is a young medical student in the big city, the sole member of his family to leave behind the droughts, poverty and backbreaking daily labor of his childhood village. He visits Nakom to bury his late father, facing the jealousy and resentment of his relatives, who lack both the funds and the drive to pursue their studies or dreams. He also agonizes over whether to return to his urban surroundings or stay in Nakom and take on a chieftain-like role.
Nakom is sometimes slow-moving and occasionally succumbs to heavy-handed symbolism, contrasting images of the traffic-clogged city streets with the pastoral beauty of Nakom and naming a power-hungry character Napoleon. But the movie is commendable for centering on an atypical hero. Though he always means well, Iddrisu can be ornery and smug, a bit of a bully and oblivious, at times, to how lucky he is to be the village favorite. His aloof temperament keeps the film grounded even when high drama — incest, botched childbirth — erupts. And Daby Balde’s irresistible, buoyant score lingers in your brain long afterward.
Directed by Kelly Daniela Norris and TW Pittman
Opens March 3, Cinema Village
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on March 1, 2017