Veve is a well-intended Kenyan crime thriller overwrought with poorly thought out subplots and uncharismatic characters who lack depth. A Simon Mukali directed co-production, it tells the story of a power-hungry politician’s dirty dealings and the members of the community who are affected by his insatiable need for influence.
Already a Member of Parliament in Maua, Amos (Lowry Odhiambo) is throwing his hat in the ring for the race for governor. He’s in good standing, as he’s a well-known figure to the townspeople because of his political affiliation and the side business he runs as a supplier of Veve, a mild narcotic. Much to his chagrin, he is not the sole proprietor of that business, he shares it with his partner, Wadu (Abubakar Mire), whose share in ownership is much larger than his.
Amos’ would-be First Lady is his meek and doting wife, Esther (Lizz Njagah). Very early on it’s clear that Amos has a hard time making time for little else outside of his ambitions, but it turns out the reason for their failing partnership is infidelity on his part. This revelation forces a brokenhearted Esther to seek comfort in another man’s arms – a man who wants to avenge his father’s death by killing her husband.
And then there’s Sammy (Conrad Makeni), who acts as Amos’ right-hand man, one of his henchmen, if you will, who makes sure his boss never has to get his hands dirty. Since the loss of his wife two years ago, Sammy’s son Kago (David Wambugu) has been unfocused and running around with the wrong crowd. This has the concerned father’s full attention and his interest in carrying out orders is drastically diminishing, leaving Amos up to his own devices.
There’s an undeniable authenticity to Veve which is created through its cinematography and Kenyan backdrop, but the film’s failure to tell a succinct story brings any previous interest or excitement to a halt. There are too many subplots interwoven with the main plot and not enough time to see them through or develop the characters involved in each.
If we’re supposed to be rooting for a certain character, it’s not clear who it is. All of the central players operate with a rather iffy moral compass and we don’t know them well enough to throw our support behind one or the other. Veve’s lack of direction probably contributes to this, too. With overstuffed storylines, subpar dialogue and flat performances, how can we bond with these characters?
For Mukali, Veve should serve as a lesson: Don’t bite off more than you can chew.
Tuesday, March 12, 9 PM, TIFF Bell Lightbox
Veve is screening as part of the Goethe Films: One Fine Day – Africa Now retrospective.