Perishable Goods – A review of BAD MARKET, directed by Paul Gaius
The glow of Lovette’s cigarette sets the tone for Paul Gaius’ 30-minute short film BAD MARKET. Her figure smouldering in red light, with fingernails to match, Lovette is putting finishing touches to her young charge’s appearance. The under-age Eno (Oluwafumbi Adesolanke) sits silently in the cramped room as she is dolled-up for her out-of-state appointment.
Played by Rita Edward, Lovette and her perhaps-lover Chike (Sunny Chikezie) run an interstate trafficking syndicate. Any doubts about Eno’s preparation for the slaughter slab soon evaporate when Chike arrives to collect her for the pleasures of a Lagos-based client.
There is little insight into Eno’s predicament as a ‘born troway’ (or “little reject”) in Lovette’s custody. She speaks few words in the film but soon acquires the labels “witch”, “animal” and the eponymous “bad market”.
Chike himself looks forward to a new life abroad, hence his impatience and use of force. He is also extremely anxious about getting this contract over and done with. Eno is however not as keen on forcefully giving up her innocence. Naturally, the clash of interest between these two desperate souls would ensure dire consequences. Throughout the ride, Eno keeps her cards up her sleeves; but Chike retains the upper hand on more than one occasion.
Through Eno as its prism, BAD MARKET highlights issues of human trafficking and prostitution as it affects young girls in particular. Some do not survive their experiences. Enablers who turn a blind eye or are actively involved in such operations are embodied in the characters of Chike, Lovette and the female police officer, whose senses are dimmed by the scent of a bribe.
Framing his shots through doors and windows – open or closed – Gaius gives the impression that, although the film’s action is in plain sight, we are intruding on parts of the underworld. His wide shots echo a similar motif: No one can rescue Eno. But does she really need help?
Chike and Lovette are not the only villains on Eno’s path though. Like many before her, the overwhelming city of Lagos and the fear of poverty combine to foil her escape bids. As the thriller’s female lead, her character evolves – for good or bad – from its start-off point as helpless victim. Adesolanke’s restrained portrayal enhances her characterisation of the unpredictable Eno. It is a relief to see her eventually get one up on her adversaries. And at the end of the film, one can assume that Eno also does one better on the dingy apartment in which we first see her.
BAD MARKET unravels smoothly boasting unexpected twists along the way. A major bump in the road though is the film’s poor sound mixing and a needless epilogue. Nonetheless, it makes for intriguing viewing.
By Aderinsola Ajao