Review: ‘UNMASKED’ the Covid-19 documentary by Femi Odugbemi, Kadaria Ahmed

UNMASKED - The Poster
UNMASKED – coming to your screens on 8, 15 and 22 April

A feature documentary film project by award winning film producer Femi Odugbemi and ace journalist/broadcaster Kadaria Ahmed titled ‘UNMASKED: Leadership, Trust and The Covid-19 Pandemic in Nigeria’ is billed to premier on Channels TV at 5pm on Thursdays from 8 April onwards.

The three part documentary series presented by Daria Media and Zuri24 Media with the support of PLACNG & MacArthur Foundation is described as “Clever, engaging, timely and thought provoking” by Hollywood Director, Nnegest Likké in her review. “These are just a few words that come to mind to describe the new, high production value, documentary masterpiece.”

Director and producer Femi Odugbemi said to, “Exactly a year ago, we started work on this documentary film project. We filmed inside isolation centers, Intensive Care Units (ICU) in Lagos and Kaduna. We filmed in slums full of hungry and desperate people, we watched vacant-eyed almajiri children and mass funerals in Kano.” Odugbemi added “The documentary is a sober but riveting journey through Nigeria’s challenges as a nation in desperate times. It is an important film and we hope everyone gets a chance to see it.”

Co-producer and presenter, Kadaria Ahmed revealed “The COVID pandemic was bound to test Nigeria given its soft underbelly of corruption, poor healthcare infrastructure, weak systems and an ever-increasing number of its population living below the poverty line.” Ahmed continues “Last year was surreal and difficult. It was clear even before the first case that this would be a momentous period. Odugbemi and I set out to tell this story, to document this historical moment and tackle questions of leadership, governance and trust, which were brought to the fore by the pandemic and to which Nigeria needs to find the answers urgently. We experienced devastating losses including that of a team member while filming, so this is also a personal story.”

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The Review

Nnegest Likké is an American film director, screenwriter and producer, known for her movie Phat Girls, the multi-award-winning indie love drama, Ben & Ara and Everything But a Man. Below is her review of the film UNMASKED: Leadership, Trust and The COVID-19 Pandemic in Nigeria.

“When I sat down to watch it, I was expecting to see a predictable, depressing story of how “the pandemic” affected Nigeria. After all, every country has its own depressing Corona pandemic story. But I was pleasantly surprised to find that this exceptionally-shot film was so much more than that! Yes, it was disturbing, startling, and heartbreaking in parts, but it also offered threads of hope and optimism. What caught me most by surprise about the film is that the COVID crisis was just the catalyst to unmasking an even more potentially deadly, dangerous and widespread pandemic going on in Nigeria. While the existence of governmental corruption and mismanagement is neither something new or exclusive to Nigeria, it was the way in which Unmasked dealt with the now overly-saturated topic of “corruption in Nigeria” that made this beautifully crafted, eye-opening story so refreshing.

The movie has the power to draw viewers in from the first intimate scene until the last riveting frame. That is because the film is actually more of a call-to-action than merely a telling of something that happened like many documentaries turn out to be. They tell you something interesting or important that happened, but then that’s the end of it. The great beauty of this film is that the end is actually the beginning.

You’ll have to see it to understand what I mean, but without giving too much of the actual story away, Director Odugbemi uses the art of subtlety to get his movie’s powerful message across. The film is simultaneously honest and non-judgmental. It also brilliantly manages to unmask some serious, systemic issues that Nigeria – and many other countries face – but does it in a non-critical way, which is essential if it is going to be effective and achieve its primary goal: Change.

This is what makes its subtle and understated filmmaking style so effective and universal. One doesn’t have to be a Nigerian to feel the impact of what this film is ultimately about – calling out leaders to do better, be better and help the people bring about much needed social, political, and economic change. There is no perfect country and certainly no perfect government. And right now, more than any other time in history, the whole world is crying out for help and a cure from more than just one pandemic and UNMASKED could be that cure. Right now, Nigeria needs this film. Africa needs this film. And the world needs this film.”

UNMASKED: Leadership, Trust and The COVID-19 Pandemic in Nigeria is a masterpiece that must be seen. If for no other reason – although there are many – it’s a conversation starter, and that conversation must be had. Not just between Nigerian citizens and their government, but between all the citizens of the world and their governments. Let the conversations begin.”

Enjoy the trailer:


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