Africa Now: Our Review of ‘Veve’

Posted in Movies, Theatrical by - March 11, 2019
Africa Now: Our Review of ‘Veve’

Director Simon Mukali’s Veve has a lot of plot lines. In introduces characters at a breakneck speed, which makes audiences hope that he can give them enough to do. The title comes from a tree with saplings that some Kenyans find addictive. The movie begins, then, with two men, a black one and a white one, Clint (Adam Peevers). The black man being the son of a veve farmer. Beginning the film with them feels like an odd choice because they’re not the film’s main characters. They’ll disappear and reappear as the film’s Greek chorus, if that.

Although Veve will eventually lead us to characters supporting people who seem important to the veve trade. Having a movie about an addictive substance means there’s going to be a plot about a widower who has to care for his underage addict son. That child, when he pops up, has an interesting trajectory, eventually joining a band of kids stealing veve from farms that may or may not have a connection with his father’s work. There’s a beauty in some of those kid versions of heist scenes, which offsets the inevitability of the farmers catching them.

That prodigal son’s father, by the way, works for a sleazy parliament member, Amos (Lowry Odhiambo), who is also a veve dealer on the side. There’s an interesting dynamic between then that they don’t fully explore. Amos is a philanderer while this man is loyal to his dead wife and barely living son. Amos’ shady dealings need explanation from a curious audience, but characters like Clint and his friend do so by calling a member of parliament by his first name.

In Amos’ riding and vicinity are equally dicey types like Kenzo (Emo Rugene), a casual veve user. He’s trying to attract friends, asking to meet them in bars. He wants them to do mysterious jobs for and with him that have something to do with the veve trade. Specifically, he wants to rob one of Amos’ checkpoints because he’s sure that those places have cash. Three million, if we’re talking exact amounts. His friends, however, balk on the suggestion because going after one of the country’s biggest drug dealers is obviously crazy.

Veve is not the best at showing visual cues, which makes its characterization overt. We know Kenzo’s a lovable bad boy because he’s wearing a trench coat even if he lives in a hot country. And if we think the film is done showing the connections between characters, we are wrong. What’s worse is that it gives them soap opera worthy backstories. Sure, Kenzo tries to ingratiate himself into Amos’ circle as a driver. But he wants to rob Amos or worse because the latter killed the former’s father.

Another way Veve passes off Amos as a crime lord is showing scenes of him yelling at a phone that’s neither an iOS or an Android. It’s also easy to unlock this phone so that his teacher wife can see the other women texting him. She eventually falls for Kenzo, legitimately worrying about him when Amos starts to see him for who he really is. This film passes this off as a romantic subplot in a movie that’s too busy for its own good.

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While Paolo Kagaoan is not taking long walks in shrubbed areas, he occasionally watches movies and write about them. His credentials are as follows: he has a double major in English and Art History. This means that, for example, he will gush at the art direction in the Amityville house and will want to live there, which is a terrible idea because that house has ghosts. Follow him @paolokagaoan on Instagram but not while you're working.
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