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LIVING IN BONDAGE – 1992/1993

Living in Bondage is a 1992/93 Nigerian two-part drama thriller film Written by Kenneth Nnebue, Produced by Okechukwu Ogunjiofor, Directed by Chris Obi Rapu, and Okechukwu Ogunjiofor and sponsored by Jafac Wine.

The starred Kenneth Okonkwo and Nnenna Nwabueze in leading roles.

THE PLOT

Andy Okeke (Kenneth Okonkwo) and his wife Merit (Nnenna Nwabueze) face several obstacles – redundancy, infidelity, the loss of their savings in a bogus investment, and indecent proposals from lecherous men including Merit’s boss Ichie Million (Francis Agu) and Chief Omego (Kanayo O. Kanayo).

Andy constantly compares his lack of fortune to the success of his peers, especially old friend Paul (Okechukwu Ogunjiofor). Despite Merit’s support and patience, Andy is driven to near-depression, determined to obtain wealth by any means possible, and the slick-talking Paul reveals his secret – a satanic cult where members pledge their loyalty to Lucifer and kill their loved ones in ritualized sacrifices, gaining enormous wealth in return. After much hesitation, Andy reluctantly agrees to sacrifice the person he loves the most – Merit. She dies in hospital days after the ritual, but not before she curses her husband’s betrayal.

Andy’s sudden affluence and subsequent remarriage three months after Merit’s death raise suspicion from his former in-laws who accuse him of murdering their daughter. He also faces more problems – the paparazzi‘s constant interference in his daily life, his new wife, Ego (Ngozi Nwosu) fleeing with his money after he collapses at their traditional wedding, and Merit’s ghost haunting and terrorizing him when he least expects.

Andy would later enter a common-law union with Chinyere (Jennifer Okere), another woman introduced to him by Merit’s former friend Caro (Ngozi Nwaneto), but she meets her untimely death after Caro poisons her friend and attempts to escape abroad with the cash Chinyere steals from her husband.

Caro is also killed by a hit-and-run driver on her way to the airport, and Paul is murdered by hitmen after Andy holds him partially responsible for his involvement with the cult.

A now frustrated Andy asks the satanic cult for help, but when the Chief Priest (Daniel Oluigbo) insists he can only pacify his late wife’s spirit by blinding and castrating himself, he refuses and becomes mentally deranged, living as a vagrant under a Lagos flyover until Tina (Rita Nzelu) a former prostitute Andy previously presented to the cult as a decoy before his deceit was exposed, takes him to her church. He finally confesses to Merit’s murder, and Andy’s mother (Grace Ayozie) weeps at her late daughter-in-law’s grave, pleading for her forgiveness.

In the film’s final scene Andy, now cured of his insanity, worships with the evangelical Christians who have assured him his sins are forgiven.

THE CAST

Kenneth Okonkwo – Andy Okeke

Nnenna Nwabueze as Merit – Andy’s wife

Kanayo O. Kanayoas Chief Omego – Cult member

Felicia Mayford – Obidia

Francis Aguas Ichie Million – Cult member and Merit’s boss

Okechukwu Ogunjiofor as Paul – Andy’s friend and cult member

Ngozi Nwaneto as Caro – Merit’s friend and Paul’s girlfriend

Ngozi Nwosuas Ego – Andy’s mistress

Clement Offiaji as Robert – Fraudster

Chizoba Bosah – Merit’s aunt

Bob-Manuel Udokwuas Mike – Cult member

Sydney Diala – Cult member/initiator

Daniel Oluigbo – Cult chief priest

Obiageli Molugbe – Cult mother

Rita Nzelu as Tina – Local prostitute

Jennifer Okere as Chinyere – Caro’s friend

Ruth Osu – Andy and Merit’s neighbour

Grace Ayozie as Andy’s mother

Benjamin Nwosu as Andy’s father.

Actors Kanayo, Agu, Udokwu, Molugbe, and Osu were already established actors from the soap opera Checkmate, and Okere had a regular role in rival soap Ripples; their appearance helped generate publicity for the movie.

THE SEQUEL

LIVING IN BONDAGE: BREAKING FREE

In 2015, veteran actor Ramsey Nouah and Charles Okpaleke acquired the rights to Living In Bondage from Kenneth Nnebue for a possible remake to be filmed in Europe and America as well as Nigeria under Charles Okpaleke’s production company; Play Entertainment Network.

The movie was in development hell for three years until in 2018, Ramsey Nouah announced the making of the sequel now titled Living in Bondage: Breaking Free, and was released on November 8, 2019, becoming the 11th highest-grossing Nigerian movie.

Ramsey Nouah, who plays the cult’s new Chief Priest, makes his directorial debut, with original actors Kenneth Okonkwo, Bob Manuel Udokwu, and Kanayo O. Kanayo also involved.

THE PLOT

The story this time centres on Andy’s son Nnamdi, and his vaunting quest for wealth like his father before him.

Former MBGN Munachi Abii makes her acting debut alongside Swanky JKA in his breakout role.

Twenty-five years after the events of the original movie, Andy Okeke (Kenneth Okonkwo) has become an ordained man-of-God, renouncing his allegiance to the secret cult now known as Brotherhood of the Six. The sect has expanded into an international organisation, with most Nigerian members who survived the 1996 Otokoto riots fleeing the country apart from Chief Omego (Kanayo O. Kanayo) now an Imo state governorship aspirant and Mike Ekejimbe (Bob-Manuel Udokwu).

The film opens with Omego’s son Obinna (Enyinna Nwigwe) murdering his young daughter Kosi (Charlene Chisom Ignatus) in a forest as part of a money-making ritual. In a nod to the original story, her spirit torments her father throughout the movie, leading to his sudden death towards the end.

Nnamdi Okeke (Swanky JKA) Andy’s secret son by his late second wife Ego has been raised by maternal relatives Pascal Nworie (Zulu Adigwe) and his wife Eunice (Ebele Okaro), and shares a close bond with their son Toby (Shawn Faqua). Highly ambitious but largely unlucky, Nnamdi is unable to maintain a stable career as an advertising executive five years after graduation.

Despite the disapproval of his uncle who is aware of Omego’s occultic background, Nnamdi, who yearns for a luxurious lifestyle by any means possible, becomes acquainted with Omego’s wife Nneka (Ndidi Obi) and Obinna who both offer to help him establish connections within the advertising industry.

During an office presentation where Nnamdi pitches his campaign for an upcoming rail network, billionaire tycoon Richard Williams (Ramsey Nouah) is impressed by his ingenuity. He mentors Nnamdi professionally, and the latter is catapulted into high society status, acquiring vast wealth and recognition, but his new life comes at a price. Unbeknownst to Nnamdi, Richard is the new leader of The Six, and on a mission to lure him into their cult. Due to Andy’s past, the Okeke lineage is eternally bound to the dark side.

Investigative journalist and blogger Uzoma (David Jones) grows suspicious of notable billionaires associated with mysterious murders, particularly after his sister and her daughter Kosi die in mysterious circumstances, and pays Andy a visit in search of answers. Having experienced cultism himself, Andy attempts to warn his son after Uzoma informs him of Nnamdi’s existence, and tries to save him from The Six before time runs out.

Richard eventually initiates Nnamdi, but fails to persuade Andy back into the fold after the latter refuses.

Nnamdi later regrets joining The Six, especially after falling for Kelly (Munachi Abii) whom he meets at Obinna’s wedding when the latter remarries seven months after his wife’s death. Richard and Omego have commanded him to present her as a sacrifice, and Nnamdi is torn between appeasing the cult and sparing Kelly’s life.

Toby visits the depressed Nnamdi to get to the bottom of the latter’s melancholy demeanour and passes the night at his place, but Richard possesses Nnamdi, commanding him to stab his sleeping cousin in lieu of Kelly. Unable to resist, Nnamdi resorts to stabbing himself instead and is rushed to hospital where he survives and reconciles with his biological father Andy whom he had previously rejected. Members of The Six are arrested after a recording Obinna sent Uzoma before his suicide is used as evidence. However, Richard is able to dodge indictment, and is seen on his private jet before the ending credits roll.

THE CAST

Ramsey Nouah as Richard Williams

Jidekene Achufusi as Nnamdi Okeke

Kenneth Okonkwo as Andy Okeke

Enyinna Nwigwe as Obinna Omego

Munachi Abii as Kelly Nwankwo

Shawn Faqua as Toby Nworie

David Jones as Uzoma Adibe

Ebele Okaro as Eunice Nworie

Zulu Adigwe as Pascal Nworie

Kanayo O. Kanayo as Chief Emeka Omego

Ndidi Obi as Nneka Omego

Bob-Manuel Udokwu as Mike Ekejimbe

Nancy Isime as Stella

Charlene Chisom Ignatus as Kosi Omego

Chamberlain Usoh as Himself

PRODUCTION

In 2015, Charles Okpaleke acquired the rights to Living In Bondage from the writer Kenneth Nnebue for a possible remake to be filmed in Europe and America as well as Nigeria. The news was later confirmed on Instagram, but languished in development hell for three years.[11] In 2018, Nouah announced the film would become a sequel instead of a remake and titled Living in Bondage: Breaking Free, marking his directorial debut. Actors Okonkwo, Udokwu, and Kanayo who featured in the original were retained.

Filming took place on location in Lagos, Owerri, and Durban.

RELEASE

A special premiere held on 2 November 2019 at the Filmhouse Cinemas, Lagos; it was generally tagged as the one of the most anticipated Nigerian films for 2019 in the media. The film had its theatrical release in Nigeria across 52 locations on 8 November 2019.

RECEPTION

The film was critically successful at the box office. At the time of its release, it recorded the highest opening weekend for a Nigerian film for 2019, grossing ₦25.8 million, and the highest collection in a single day for a Nollywood film in 2019.

The film also recorded the highest opening as a non-comedy film for 2019.

In its first seven days of release, the film grossed ₦48.6 million, as reported by the Cinema Exhibitors Association of Nigeria.

The film collected ₦36.7 million in its second week to remain number 1 at the Nigerian box office.

In the third week, the film collected ₦24.7 million, dropping to number 2, albeit having the highest weekend admissions. After three weeks it had grossed over ₦100 million. This surpassed the 2019 record set by Bling Lagosians.

In its fourth week, the film regained the number 1 spot at the box office and grossed ₦19.6 million over the week.

In its 5th week, the film experienced a drop by 38% for its week on week gross, earning ₦12.5 million and dropping to number 4.

The 6th week saw the movie drop to number 6, earning ₦5.7 million.

The 7th week; over the holiday period, the movie grossed ₦5.4 million, dropping by just 6%.

The 8th week saw the movie grossed ₦4.6 million staying at number 10 at the Nigerian box office.

The final cumulative stood at ₦163.4 million at the box office after 11 weeks.

The film ranked eleventh overall on the list of highest-grossing Nigerian films of all time after its theatrical run.

The film saw a short theatrical re-run in March, bringing its total gross to ₦168.7 million

CRITICAL RESPONSE

Living in Bondage: Breaking Free generally received positive reviews from film critics and audiences.

It received critical acclaim for its direction, cinematography, and soundtrack, with critics commending Swanky JKA’s performance. Conversely, the character direction of Uzoma (played by David Jones) has been panned.

AWARDS

At the 2020 edition of the Africa Magic Viewers Choice AwardsLiving in Bondage: Breaking Free received 11 nominations and won seven, including Best Overall Movie, Best Movie West Africa and Best Director.

Nwabueze, Nwosu, and Ogunjiofor were the only main actors not to reprise their roles for the second part of the movie. Nwabueze’s character Merit appears in a flashback scene, but a body double plays her ghost. Paul’s name is mentioned numerous times in part two but he never appears on-screen; his death scene is also filled in by a body double.

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