Put bluntly, June Twelve ‘93 is a bad Nollywood movie. It’s so bad that there’s Mataracuta, a ludicrous name for a deadly, insect-borne virus that turns the story into a concept-drained, faux epidemic infection horror movie. Reddish rashes, hospital beds, infected saliva-spat-into-drinks and non-changing aerial shots will be tossed in your face. And you will sit there in the dark cinema hall and take it, just as I did for over an hour, mildly contemplating gouging my eyeballs out from their sockets.
June Twelve ‘93’s plot isn’t about the chain of political events that climaxes into the annulment of the June 12 election results, by the-then military government of General Ibrahim Babangida, for which MKO Abiola should have been president, though there are a scattershot of flimsy references. The movie pivots away from politics: its raison d’etre revolves around the aforementioned Mataracuta virus whose pathology, like most infectious disease outbreaks, is largely unknown. Days before the premiere, in a radio interview with OAP Yusuf Busari on Happenings radio, scriptwriter and producer Nkechi Edet (who plays Tasha as a lab scientist) hinted that June Twelve ’93 is a big-budget movie, by virtue that the bulk of the scenes were shot in South Africa and a few in East Sussex, England. Of course, this was to add some souped-up gloss and shine but, truth be told, June Twelve ‘93 is visually grainy and bland and feels like something produced on a shoestring.
As an indie movie, the characters are unknown, understandably so, never mind the dulled, fossilized star power of Keppy Ekpenyong (Prof. Jerry) and the overrated fine-boy looks of Ik Ogbonna (Charles). The opening scene runs like a disjointed locomotive: an elderly unknown woman gives a narrator-style account of the history of June 12, alluding that there’s more to the familiar political layers that gives the date its popularity, then there are politics-tinged quick-cuts until a seeming sensible scene is shown. Ruth Kadiri (Gina) is waist-deep in a house swimming pool with Charles, bodies pressed, kissing and fondling in their private romantic aquatic space. And it feels weird when Gina says with an insidious smile, “So…now you understand what I mean when I say that I am a killer.”
For clarity, Gina engineered the Mataracuta virus and vaccine to bring Nigeria to its knees. She is a bitter soul robbed of having good job prospects because, in her undergraduate days as a microbiology student, she was given carry-overs by Prof. Jerry who coerces her to sleep with him. In between these transitions plays a mournfully insipid soundtrack, almost a character by itself, gaping and wailing and cavernous, swallowing each scene into its tanker-size belly. There’s an overarching sense that the actors don’t know what they are doing, and as more people are infected with the Mataracuta virus (mostly men from sexual intercourse), June Twelve ‘93 neither amplifies the story nor its characters. What you have, at the end of the day, is a cringey, garden-variety potboiler without a modicum of creative imagination.
“It’s a historic drama,” Justin Edet, the director, tells our in-house staff writer and presenter Itohan Ferguson in an interview, minutes before the premiere time, “It’s also a psychological thriller.”
June Twelve ’93 doesn’t know what it wants to be, and what could be more criminally bad than that?