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17.6.15

The Discovery Channel EP03 | UDUDEAGU


I can honestly say I have no idea what's going on in this short, but I still quite like it. Warning: major spoiler alerts so maybe watch the film (below) first.


UDUDEAGU from Akwaeke Emezi on Vimeo.

I've never really taken to experimental films. Visually, they usually impress but when it comes to the narrative, I often struggle. Akwaeke Emezi's UDUDEAGU is a pretty good case study. More often than not, my default approach to anything advertised as being out of left field is from a detached albeit hyper-observant standpoint. In technical terms, my thought process is a depth-first search algorithm. I start with a furrowed brow, ready to decipher the scenes that unfold before me, and then get waylaid but the tiniest detail - and off on a tangent I go.

For example, the first thing I noticed when I watched UDUDEAGU was the window. It reminded me of windows back in Nigeria. I never liked the idea of barred windows, as seemingly necessary as they can be. It was also my first inclination that this might've been shot in Nigeria. The second was the mosquito net-looking curtain. I hadn't watched a lot of Nigerian films that hadn't been Sodomized by Nollywood's crusade against coherent, quality film production. Come to think of it, I hadn't watched any. Why was that?

This train of thought continued until the scene changed and I realized it wasn't even in English and I'd missed everything and had to rewind.

Upon paying closer attention* in Round 2, there was something rather compelling about UDUDEAGU that even I couldn't deny. Intrigue was aggravated by the almost unsettling brevity; intentionally so, I'm guessing. You never really know with art. People always say there's no "right" answer but that just feels lazy.

I feel like my sixth form English teacher would be hinting at the lack of colour as well, but is that really enough to go on? I like to take photos in black and white sometimes with little thought about why; perhaps Emezi just didn't feel like colour that day. There's a bluish tinge to the colour drain though that feels more deliberate. Blue implies cold... Spiders like dry, dark places better found in cold weather. Speak of the devil, we haven't even begun to discuss the spider**, who the "they" who wove him were, how a spider even gets woven, how everyone knows about the weavers... The things the spider knows that no one else knows end up being the easiest part to figure out!

For a film less than two minutes long, there's a lot. But there's also not nearly enough for one to unravel exactly what Emezi was going for. Then again if I was an artist, I'd probably only do things because they looked "preeeetty", and would essentially be useless at my own gallery exhibition as all questions would be met with a shrug and a "whatever, man, have you tried the hors d'oeuvres?"

So I guess the question is: is art about intent or reaction?

And also, what does this film actually mean though?!


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Photo credit: UDUDEAGU/Akwaeke Emezi


*After suppressing several other internal conversation starters, from my newly-discovered desire for dreadlocks thanks to Ade Bantu, to wondering how they got the bath water so milky, to theorizing about Akwaezi's possible relation to Yagazie Emezi


**Is it just me or do south-east Nigerians have a thing for spiders? I feel like the south-west have a million proverbs perfectly suited to the Jeopardy!-style answer "dafuq", the south-south have the best 419 stories and the south-east have countless tales about spiders.
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