‘Citation’ review: Nigerian legal thriller spotlights sexual assault on campus

When Moremi's uni tutor makes inappropriate advances on her, a crippling world of rape culture comes under scrutiny

This Nigerian (or ‘Nollywood‘) film tackles a global hot-button issue, campus sexual assault, with a winning cultural specificity. Moremi Oluwa (Temi Otedola) is a bright-spark student with dreams of working for the UN; she’s installed as “teacher’s pet” when her university hires superstar tutor Professor N’Dyare (Heroes’ Jimmy Jean-Louis). He’s distinguished, charismatic and has stints at Harvard and the Sorbonne on his CV, but his motives towards Moremi are far from altruistic. In time, his behaviour becomes increasingly inappropriate and manipulative, culminating in a shocking accusation of attempted rape.

Following a sluggish start featuring an unnecessary prologue, Citation becomes more compelling when Moremi and Professor N’Dyare square off at a tense university tribunal. In front of his fellow academics, Professor N’Dyare tries to use his swagger and stature to make Moremi seem less credible in what is essentially a case of his word versus hers. Director Kunle Afolayan deftly uses flashback sequences to show how the tutor’s version of events are flagrant flip-reversals of the truth. When he claims that Moremi drew attention to her underwear during a one-on-one tutorial, we see it was actually the other way around: he made Moremi uncomfortable by pointing out she was wearing his “favourite colour” beneath her jeans.

Experienced screenwriter Tunde Babalola (who previously wrote Afolayan’s 2014 thriller October 1) builds their toxic relationship convincingly. We see Professor N’Dyare trying to groom Moremi by pretending he can’t work a manual gearbox in a car; when she offers to serve as his driving constructor, their roles are reversed in a way that lulls her into a false sense of security. In another sequence that feels all too realistic, a frustrated Moremi bemoans the fact that a women’s rights group are using her as a “test case” to raise awareness of campus sexual assault. Nigerian attitudes and values are baked into this story, but the way it plays out should feel relatable to viewers from all over the world.

Sadly, at 151 minutes, Citation is bloated where it should have been forensically brisk. A class trip to Senegal and Cape Verde allows for plenty of sun-dappled cinematography, but breezy beach vistas don’t mesh well with the film’s weighty subject matter. There are other pacing issues too, including an unsatisfying character arc for Moremi’s unreliable friend Gloria (Ini Edo), who reappears jarringly in the final scene after a lengthy absence. Still, Citation deserves credit for handling a complex and emotive issue with sensitivity. Anchored by powerful performances from Otedola and Jean-Louis, it’s a flawed but worthwhile watch.

Details

  • Director: Kunle Afolayan
  • Starring: Jimmy Jean-Louis, Temi Otedola, Adjetey Anang
  • Release date: November 6 (Netflix)
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