“Sudani from Nigeria”… A beautifully narrated, heart-warmingly human story with just a few jarring notes

Posted on April 9, 2018

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Spoilers ahead…

Read the full review on Film Companion, here: http://www.filmcompanion.in/sudani-from-nigeria-malayalam-movie-review-baradwaj-rangan/

Malayalis seem to have made a habit of welcoming sportspeople from outside Kerala. In Godha, we saw how the residents of a small town embraced a female wrestler from Chandigarh as one of their own. Now, in Sudani from Nigeria, set against the backdrop of the Sevens football tournaments in Malappuram (i.e. seven players per side, as opposed to the usual 11), a Sudani named Samuel (Samuel Abiola Robinson) is cheered as the star of a local team, managed by Majeed (Soubin Shahir). “I am not from Sudan,” Samuel explains patiently. “I am from Nigeria.” But no one cares. Hence the film’s title. And Samuel’s nickname, Sudu — short for “Sudani.”

Stories about “outsiders” have a way of playing out, and I thought I knew where this film was headed when I watched the scene that lays out Majeed’s distant relationship with his mother, Jameela (Savithri Sreedharan), and his stepfather (KTC Abdulla). It has to do with a grudge Majeed has nursed since childhood, and I thought the presence of Sudu — who is literally distant from his family, and would give anything to be back with them — would give the writer-director Zakariya Mohammed an excuse to unleash the “noble savage” trope, especially after Sudu ends up in Majeed’s house to convalesce after an injury. When the stepfather leaves, without looking back, Sudu raises a hand in a farewell gesture but Majeed remains stubbornly silent. Your heart aches for the stepfather. It’s only a matter of time before Majeed’s does too.

Majeed’s transformation is part of the agenda (and this is hardly a spoiler) — but only a part. Sudani from Nigeria isn’t the first “sports film” to use the sport as a metaphor for something bigger, but there’s a sweetness in the storytelling I haven’t seen anywhere else. The craze for football is a constant undercurrent. It’s why Majeed, while tending to Sudu at the hospital, forgets to inform the nurse that the drip bottle needs to be changed — he’s too busy following a match on the phone. It’s why we have a small scene with two Afghanis who’ve also come to play in Kerala. The sport is used for laughs (Majeed’s hunt for a bride is called a “selection camp”), but also to sum up the town’s never-say-die spirit in the direst of situations. “We are footballers,” Majeed says. “Even if we are losing, we hope for a draw until the last minute.”

Continued at the link above.

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