Sexual Harassment faced by women at work or other institutions has gained the required public attention recently. The cause has been well adapted to films and literature. #MeToo incident paved a path and gave courage to many to orate their unheard stories that were once suppressed. In 2020, many such necessary stories were put to screen, my personal favorite being The Assistant which is a subtle portrayal of sexual harassment incidents at the workplace. Netflix’s Film Citation depicts the same evil but in an academic institution.
Citation directed by Kunle Afolayan, portrays a young post graduate student Moremi (Temi Otedola) who reports a sexual harassment case against her lecturer, Prof. Lucien N’Dyare (Jimmy Jean-Louis). The story is said to be based on real events which makes the narrative more shocking and empathetic. The incidents are narrated from Moremi point of view, and it is purely her story, a woman fighting against all odds.
The first scene of the Citation, sets the theme of the film, without wasting a moment. It portrays a young girl, talking to her professor, begging him, not to lower her grades. The professor, in return for his favour, wants the girl to visit him in a local hotel. The girl, however, calls her friends in the hotel room, and records the professor while he tries to run away. In the chase and run, the professor comes in front of a car and is killed. The young girl and her friends are called up by the college jury and instantly rusticate for as their unruled actions led to a loss of life.
This particular sequence has nothing to do with the plot directly, but it underlines the subject matter of the story. 2 years after, a new post graduate student, Moremi reports similar case against a high prolific professor, Prof. Lucien N’Dyare who has recently joined the university. Lucien has a well established presence in his profession, with a brilliant work profile. He had even worked for the United Nations before finally opting teaching as his main profession.
When Moremi files an internal complaint against Lucien, no one really wants to hear her plea, and everyone is quick to judge. Even her friends think that Moremi is doing the hustle to get good grades and come in limelight, but Moremi doesn’t want to be a poster girl for the cause. She just wants to prove to the world that no matter how shiny the monster is, it doesn’t make them an angel.
The narrative is told in flashbacks, that are often visited from Moremi point of view. These flashbacks quickly establish that she is the one fighting for her innocence but how she is going to win it against this influential professor, is what the story explores further.
An Informative Disclosure
Citation, as it’s dictionary meaning suggests, derives a lot of it’s verbal dialogues from books and current affairs. The communication between characters, especially between Moremi and professor Lucien, has a peculiar informative worthiness attached to it that discusses the political scenario of the world. It argues various political stances like the working of the United Nations, what is the purpose of resolution if it doesn’t resolve the cause and The Kevin Carter photograph (popular image where a vulture was waiting for an emaciated African child to die, so it can feed upon the body). These important events are discussed by these major characters, who have a change of opinion that leads to some really interesting exchange throughout.
Well Fleshed Out Characters
Most of the characters showcased in Citation, are well written for the kind of scenario and drama it represents. More importantly, it brilliantly equalizes everyone’s opinion in this case. Even Moremi is juggling between a variety of opinions, if she had committed a crime by reporting the professor. She feels at some point that she should have really let it go or would have taken matters in her own hand, like the young girl of the same college did, two years ago. It is mostly because of the amount of shame and gaze, a girl has to go through when she reports a sexual harassment case against a reputed man.
Moremi’s best friend, Gloria, who is infatuated by older men and has a different opinion and totally disagrees with Moremi. She sounds like a gold digger majorly, and sometimes too blunt or one sided, but it was necessary to balance the stance. These characters, that mostly include Moremi’s classmates, create a powerful negative energy, that gives Moremi enough space and conflict to grow. When she fights all their false notions and assumptions, it transforms her into a character that she aspires to become. As said, the stronger the protagonist, the more interesting the story would be.
Gripping Social Thriller
Citation might be a film based on real life incidents that highlight a necessary cause, yet it never fails to lose its grip on the narrative. Use of several flashback scenes, reveals the story in chunks, thus keeping the mystery intact. It allures the viewer’s attention and their interest to know more. While the film is heavily verbal and it’s run time (150 minutes) considerably longer, it never drives towards the preachy side. Every scene keeps increasing the drama and tension with a new detail put forward to screen, thus giving the audience something to munch on, periodically. It is not treated as a dramatic suspense thriller, but the screenplay is written so precisely with necessary hooks, that makes the story clutching.
When #metoo cases erupted a few years ago, many people were of the opinion that why, all of a sudden, everyone is coming out of their closet. Many were quick to judge too. People whose names were printed on these campaigns were disgraced and humiliated for being fake or doing things for fame. In Citation, Moremi hates being a poster girl and runs away from people who want her to be the face of the cause. She is in denial of this instant attention. A later part of the story explores the idea that she never wanted this heed, but her cause has given courage to a lot of women, who were hiding their story or were afraid of the negative consequences on their social image. Moremi becomes a role model because she showed courage to speak against the misdeeds done to her and that is what the film wants it’s viewers to do. Speak Up and Not Wait.
Moremi’s last dialogue of the film articulates the same thought.
“I’m just trying to go to school in order to attain a dream. It was never my intention to become a poster face for sexual harassment on campus. But it is a hat I am proud and willing to wear. I hope my victory gives a voice to the silent girls or women in all walks of life facing sexual harassment just due to their gender.”
Citation is an important tale that needs to be told in a popular medium like Cinema. It expresses the thoughts that men have created an unsafe environment for women in all walks of life. It is not necessarily the uneducated men who commit these barbaric deeds but even a well educated man like Prof. Lucien has no shame towards his action. It isn’t about education but an approach towards humanity that will cure this cynical thinking, where men consider women below them. The film makes a requisite cry to all the women around the world to come forward and voice everything wrong done to them.
Citation is streaming on Netflix.
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