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*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This charming and uniquely African movie, picked up by the
Franco-German TV network ARTE, evokes "better times", not so much
materially but with regard to a certain unselfconsciousness and good
faith, heralded and commented (in the film) by a traditional African
storyteller. The audience, he gets us into the action, shall lend him
an ear for it's about to hear an incredible tale that took place "right
here" in Nakara, in the heart of the legendary state of Kwetu: the
story of "Nakara's Captain" who showed what's what to the corrupt!
The setting, we're then told, is not today but some years back from now in the "glorious days of military rule, that's when Nakara's Captain made an epoch". Some may say he used dubious means, should have been put back in jail. But he was just a nice, affable fellow trying to come into his own. And they kept on making it difficult for him, even the simplest things: a menial job, a decent girl to marry. But "Nakara's Captain" knew how to beat the system with its own weapons!
We then see how the Generals have wrested the power from the hands of the corrupted elite installed by the colonialists, and we also see how everybody is now full of hope that things will finally get better. Then, while the minstrel's story, "sometimes gay, sometimes sad" is related, we're asked to "please calm down" and make ourselves comfortable for: "it's going to take a while " And we're taken into Nakara's city jail.
The action starts by MUNTU and his pal Sunday, two rather dreamy small-time crooks, being released from jail as part of the celebrations of the President's birthday. On the same day, Muntu falls in love with the extremely pretty daughter of a preacher, but refrains from mentioning his immediate past and allows her to believe he is pursuing an honorable career. He is then no longer ready, like his pal, to join the criminal gang headed by the brother of his beloved. Muntu now wants to become truly honest, and not just for show.
In order to get closer to his beloved, he helps her deal with the death of her sister. And before he knows it, Muntu has promised to marry his sweetheart, who believes she has found the perfect partner. In the attempt to establish himself as a prosperous small businessman before his scam is exposed, Muntu encounters all manner of economic, social and ethnic difficulties.
While thus engaged, Muntu meets a perpetually drunk general who cannot accept the death of his wife, and who adopts him as a recruit. The wedding date approaches as relentlessly as the wedding costs climb.
In order to pay the bills, Muntu finally succumbs and joins his pal in the caper which Sunday has been pestering him to get involved in since their pardon. The night before the wedding finds the friends back in jail and the bride-to-be waiting in vain for her groom. But in jail Muntu manages to get his hands on a uniform.
Dressed as a Captain and able to make a very convincing impression thanks to his training by the General, Muntu wins his freedom and secures all the papers necessary for living an honorable life. He barely manages to appear punctually at the altar.
In the end, his scam is discovered but his sweetheart loves him too dearly by this point to bear a grudge.
As for characters MUNTU, 22, is an affable orphan who got into prison by helping his best friend to pull a job, somewhat dreamy and, thereby, the object of infatuation of those around him. His tendency to "put lipstick on the pig" gets him in a hopeless situation but also forms the basis of his surprising ability to pull himself (and finally others) up by his bootstraps. Muntu is very romantic, infecting others to become better people.
MUNA, 20, is Muntu's love interest, a compassionate preacher's daughter whose staunch principles may be overrun by a fiery heart.
Sunday, 42, Muntu's streetwise pal, is a little criminal with the desire but not the heart to become a big one.
BISHOP ELIJHA, 62, founded the "African Israel Divine Charismatic Evangelical Movement of the Second Coming" and is Muna's holier-than-thou father.
Finally the GENERAL (played by African superstar Charles Bukeko) becomes Muntu's fatherly friend and sponsor as long as he's drunk enough to not remember what he's doing.
The Captain of Nakara is a thoroughly funny, warm and deeply romantic comedy from the days of yore (of post colonial Africa) and - without past comparison - a potential classic!
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