“Shanty Town” lacks originality, but actors display individual brilliance

Omoleye Omoruyi
Shanty Town
Shanty Town, a Netflix series

The ending of “Shanty Town” will keep your mouth ajar for a long time because you would wonder how the six-episode limited series that started like some country music would end that way. But let’s go on this journey together.

Title: Shanty Town (6-episode series)
Director: Dimeji Ajibola

The Plot – “Shanty Town”

“Shanty Town” starts on a good note: Prayer will not solve insecurity problems or criminality, and e go reach everybody.

The movie opens with a woman reminding her twin daughters that prayer should start their days. But, before the prayer could even start, bombs and firepower shook their town. It was not God talking to them. This was a gang burning down the town and killing everyone in their way.

On their way to a waterway escape, their father is shot, and one of the daughters gets hit, but we would only learn later that she never died. You would only keep guessing until episode 6.

What follows is the life of people in a criminalised slum: Children who are potential criminals, girls who have become the property of the King of the Zanga, Aboderin aka Scar (Chidi Mokeme) because they cannot pay their way out of debt, ‘science projects’ in underground rooms, and organ harvesting.

Shanty Town
Chidi Mokeme as Scar in Shanty Town (PHOTO: Netflix)

We understand that it is basically the story of a drug cartel, a prostitution ring and a human organ sales business. One where organs are harvested and sold, like in the case of Jackie (Mercy Eke).

Before we go deep into the story that drags, one of the twin girls (we are made to assume) is seen with a prison chief, laying out a plan to go undercover in Shanty Town.

What follows the final spread of the story is one of betrayal and political scheming.

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What we think

In this part of Nigeria, people like to make connections. So, the customised headwear, the location of Shanty Town, and the empowering of criminal ballboys and their activities, social media whisperings – and supposed media takes – point to a former governor of Lagos, who is also a presidential candidate. But, as we all know, ‘innocent until proven guilty by a court of law’. At least, like religion, that is what is used to ‘absolve’ people of their atrocities.

Everyone in Lagos knows who you are.

Inem to Chief Fernandez.
Shanty Town
Richard Mofe-Damijo as Chief Dacosta Fernandez (PHOTO: Netflix)

No doubt, your first encounter with Chief Dacosta Fernandez (Richard Mofe-Damijo) and you think you are seeing a real-life character and one of his popular proteges. But, Nigerian politics does not revolve around the Tinubus, which is not the only political family in Nigeria, even with the Lagos reference.

Away from that narrative, “Shanty Town” is a fictional story, and could be one of many politicians who understand the system, know how to manipulate it, and may go diabolical too to keep their pockets full and influence emboldened.

To buttress this point, Dame comes into the picture at some point, and her scheming, even with Chief Fernandez’s bastard son, Scar, indicates that Nigerian politics has many dangerous players, and we may need to expand the reach of the halogen.

Dame is as ambitious as in “King of Boys“. You may even consider “Shanty Town” as a mirror of Kemi Adetiba’s story, merged with “Blood Sisters.”

The audience, however, may fail to form any psychological or emotional bond with the criminal activities in a town like Shanty Town. You would know that the director wants to focus on gymnastics (karate) and visual effects rather than original storytelling that will draw and keep the audience through to the end.

Body dey pepper me say dem no do big big violence for this film.

Reference to Colorado (Zubby Michael)

The ‘aesthetics’ of Jackie’s cut body is good and covers that up for less than a minute, and you don’t see that every day in Nollywood. This is besides a proper accident scene involving Scar – talk about the unexpectedness of life.

“Shanty Town” is underwhelming, generally, and fails to live up to expectations, except if you consider the stellar performances of Scar and Inemesit. You could also raise your thumb to the excellent cinematography showing the expertise that went into filming each scene.

Shanty Town

A couple of sidenotes: 

  • What is that Femi Fernandez’ (Peter Okoye) diction? “…vision to behold.” “I grew up in a foreign type of circumstance.” Who speaks like that? We talk about dialogues and diction in Nollywood; this indicates that we can only see the horizon, not the end of the road.
  • “She send me voice note oo,” Shalewa (Nancy Isime) from nowhere. Also, she sent a voice note that continued until after her death. How do voice notes work again? Also, how come she did not check a message her good friend sent a long time after she announced she was going to Epe?
  • “I don’t know anything about my father’s businesses” – ah, agbalagba, that lives in the same house? That was Femi Fernandez speaking to Inem (Ini Edo).
  • Dame is too expensive for that wig, please.

Meanwhile, the theme of juju as the power source for powerful elements is becoming boring and may need to stop with “Shanty Town.”

Nigeria in 6 episodes?

“Shanty Town” is mostly all of Nigeria with the criminal masterminds who eventually become political leaders and the proteges who are only given scraps and still made to stay low. The same proteges who do all the dirty work.

The prostitution ring is no news, neither is the theme of political scheming.

“Shanty Town” makes an attempt, but there is no originality.

The ending explained

“…And the peace and victory the women of Shanty Town won, is only temporary.”

That quote, together with another that says Dame is governor “for now,” indicates that “Shanty Town” will continue with a season two.

Colorado was declared missing too.

Stream or skip?

You may enjoy the stunts and cinematography, especially the village raid at the beginning. Yet, you may become bored with the mis-originality and be reminded that trailers and huge marketing budgets do not mean the story’s presentation will be amazing.

“Shanty Town” is above average and may not be an outright waste of your time in this economy.

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