Delta Boys is the story of the militants in the Niger Delta who are fighting the government and the oil and chemical companies. The powers that be are making all the money and destroying the land and the people of the region. The boys, and girls just want some of the money to go their way so they can have a better life/
For my money this is half a great film. The great part of the film is that which lays out the situation and tells the story of the militants and the cause. When telling the story of the poor people fighting to get a better life, or as they say better roads, better schools and better hospitals the film sings, In those moments, which make up roughly 30 of the films 55 minutes the film echoes the best films by political filmmakers such as John Pilger.
There is no denying that Delta Boys is an infuriating film. Much of the film is a troubling portrait of people trying to fight back at the rampant corruption that has taken over their country. There is something really wrong here and the film seeks to shine a light on it.
The problem with the film is that there simply isn't enough material to make a full "feature". The film falters when the film shifts gears to show us what life is like in the camps where the militants gather. Its here that the film shifts away from what is going on to the much weaker story of showing us what life is like for the people waiting to change things. Its less about anything, rather it's simply slice of life material where we see things like the story of a Mama giving birth, a cow being slaughtered. They like two long sequences of wrong doers being whipped and another sequence of two men fighting seem to have been inserted for no other reason other than to fill out the running time.. Why are they here? I don't know. While I understand that much of the existence of these rebels involves waiting, there is too much in the film
But let's talk no more of what doesn't work, let's discuss what does.
What I liked about the film was that it answered the first thing that I wrote down in my notes, which was the question about what would these guys do if they actually got into power or won. While we don’t see that exactly we do see what happens when the leaders are offered amnesty and a seat at the table- They fold themselves into the establishment while many of their flowers are left hanging. The upshot is that a year later things started up all over again.
There are wonderful passages where we watch as we watch regular foot soldiers and true believers talk about their hopes and dreams- it very moving, but its counter pointed by their leader , who at a press conference gives pat answers and is seemingly above it all, while his body language suggests that he is up to something.
I like that we see or sense the split between the various members of the group. We can see how many joined for a reason, how some still have the fire and how the boredom and uncertainty have taken their toll on others. You can see by the look in their eyes that they are wondering why they are really there.
One wishes that more details could have been given from the government or petrol chemical industry’s point of view. I wish we could have been told something about their view, a fleeting glimpse, but on the other hand it’s clear that wasn’t really possible since director Andrew Berends was tossed into jail for ten days.
As I said when the film works, it works wonderfully. The trouble is that the film actually could have been shorter. To my way of thinking this film is a prime example of how the need for a film to be certain length undermines what films could and should be. Films should be cut to the length that they need to be and this film, for all it's fantastic sequences was cut for a TV sale.
Available January 15th on Hulu, Netflix, & Snagfilms
Mr C takes a look at the film over at his regular haunt Planet Chocko and it can be found here
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