Key Issues


“Twenty-one million people call this city home,” says a female voiced intro as ’93 Days’ opens, signposting the devastation that could have been wreaked by Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) in Lagos, the bustling heart of Africa’s most populous country.

The movie – produced by Bolanle Austen-Peters, Dotun Olakunri, Pemon Rami and director Steve Gukas – is the first cinematic treatment of the catastrophe averted.

Holding the film together is a brilliant ensemble cast including Bimbo Akintola as ebola heroine Dr. Ameyo Adadevoh, Gideon Okeke, Somkele Idhalama – and Keppy Ekpeyong who plays the part of Liberian Patrick Sawyer, the index patient that brought EVD into Nigeria. There is strong international support from Alastair Mackenzie and Tim Reid.

Leading the cast is Hollywood actor Danny Glover. The star has long collaborated with African filmmakers, producing Abderrahmane Sissako’s ‘Bamako’ (2006) and even featuring in ‘Death in Timbuktu’, a film-within-the-film. Glover’s role in ’93 Days’ is therefore in furtherance of his abiding interest in African cinema, and his towering presence induces some incredulity in the Nigerian viewer.

But with his weathered charisma, he gives no one on the screen a reason to be overawed by his huge profile, as he delivers an understated performance. Even when he is addressing the staff at the First Consultant Medical Centre (FCMC), everyone standing, Glover shrinks himself a little, stooping to hold on the table’s edge. He could have been better guided as to the pronunciation of ‘Lagos’, however.

As Dr. Benjamin Ohiaeri, Managing Director of FCMC, Glover exudes quiet wisdom. He is ponderous and his gestures are tentative, as though apprehensive of the next move – not unlike the anxiety that gripped Nigeria while Ebola was lose within its borders.

“Quick hands will kill you,” says Mackenzie as Dr. David Brett-Majors, the WHO expert in charge of the Ebola Emergency Centre hurriedly set up in Lagos.

He knows what he is talking about. “Ebola and I are old friends,” he declares. So, the film unfolds slowly but steadily, opening with aerial shots of Lagos, the teeming metropolis under the deadly threat of EVD, once Patrick Sawyer, ill with the hemorrhagic fever, is brought to First Consultants.

“It seems to me you’re a very sick man,” Dr. Adadevoh says to the yet undiagnosed Sawyer, who is insistent on being released to travel onwards to a conference in Calabar. Adadevoh refuses to let him go, determined to get to the root of his ailment. ‘Not to be released’, she writes on his medical file.

The film’s colours are clinical, metallic greys, greens and blues complementing the white uniforms of medical personnel. There are outdoor scenes showing not only Lagos landmarks but also the morass of the sprawling city. Not the usual ‘New Nollywood’ fare which assumes that only unrealistic sanitized cityscapes will make for a beautiful film. ’93 Days’ trains an unvarnished yet loving eye on the city, and the result is more profoundly beautiful than any postcard scene.

The passage of time along an empty hospital corridor is shown very subtly in one shot, with an almost imperceptible shift in the texture of light. From the puddles on the streets to Sawyer’s vomit being mopped off the hospital floor, the creeping fear of contagion is palpable. The sense of foreboding is heightened in a scene in which a weary Dr. Ohiaeri plays the piano in the shadows. “This is one of those days I feel old,” he says, and the audience is in no doubt what is to come.