Well-intentioned 'Black November' tends to overreach

Oil companies' exploitation of Nigeria receives well-intentioned but choppy treatment in 'Black November'

Nigerian militant group Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta devoted a decade to raising hell about the exploitation and pollution of the region by oil corporations, often resorting to guerrilla warfare and terrorism to get its points across. Nollywood filmmaker Jeta Amata's "Black November" dramatizes the outfit's mission, enemies and tactics almost in bullet-point form, eschewing any complexities in its onslaught.

The film opens with the Nigerian rebels piling up cars and taking hostages in the 2nd Street tunnel in downtown Los Angeles in broad daylight. They make their demands in a roundabout flashback that will make up the bulk of the running time.

Apparently after a pipeline explosion back in Nigeria, the oil giant bribed tribal elders and summoned the military to contain disgruntled commoners. A cable news reporter (Sarah Wayne Callies) has anointed the outspoken Ebiere Perema (Mbong Amata, the filmmaker's wife) — recipient of a oil corporation scholarship — as the residents' unwitting figurehead.

Originally premiering in 2011 as "Black Gold," the film dropped performances by Billy Zane, Tom Sizemore, Eric Roberts and Michael Madsen and appended new scenes with Mickey Rourke and Kim Basinger following a death threat to Mbong Amata.

There's little going on in the final product other than good intentions, as Jeta Amata always seems overreaching for the right buttons to push. The filmmaker has trouble developing scenes, characters and plots. Never have Rourke and Basinger seemed so in need of direction.

------------

"Black November."

MPAA rating: None.

Running time: 1 hour, 36 minutes.

Playing: Arena Cinema, Hollywood. Also on VOD.

Copyright © 2016, Los Angeles Times
72°