A Long Review of Rhema Johnson Emmanuel’s ‘Bury Me’ (Part 2)


The setting of Bury Me is the Nigeria of contemporary times. Certain spatio-temporal indicators situate the film’s locale in the city of Lagos and a southeastern village in Nigeria. Indicators such as exotic cars, ATM cards, architectural structures and the characters’ dress sense point to the temporality of the film in the nowadays.

Specifically, the setting of the film oscillates between urban and rural areas. The urban centres mentioned in the film include Benin City, Abuja and Lagos, which is a major setting of the film. The rural area is where Obiora’s mother and sister live. The film makes use of two constant establishing aerial shots, one rural and the other urban, to indicate a shift in scene. This means that when a scene is to be situated in a village, the rural aerial shot will be used, and when the scene shifts to the city, the city aerial panoramic shot is used. The rural area is seen to be pure and pristine, while the city is depicted as decadent and cancerous; capable of infecting the rural with its deadly viruses and cankerworms. Notice that all the evils in the film spread from the city to the village. Thus, the city represents the ills of the post/modern and post/colonial Nigerian culture and how it has gradually gnawed at the fabric of our traditional values which the village represents. This illustration re/enacts The People of the City motif in the film.


The plot structure of Bury Me is in medias res (in the middle of things). This means that the events in the film are arranged in such a way that the middle comes first. The film begins where Obiora meets Chizaram along the road at night. But that is not the beginning. Before now, Chizaram and her mother had been involved in a fatal accident. The climax of the film is where Chizaram battles Obiora and his gang in a bid to get Obiora to return her body to the mortuary. The denouement and resolution is when Obiora finally returns Chizaram’s body to the mortuary and asks for forgiveness. It is also seen in his going to plead with Ikenna to forgive him.

Language and Style

The world of Bury Me is as multilingual as the society in which it is set. Three different linguistic codes can be isolated in the film. These are the English language, Igbo and pidgin. This is a reflection of the postcolonial linguistic situation in Nigeria, a situation that is also duplicated in other countries on the continent. Obiora’s boss speaks mostly in English. Of course, he is a minor a character and we do not get to see him in more than one appearance in the film. Obiora code-switches most of the time in the film. He speaks English fairly well, which is an indication of his being a graduate. For instance, he replies to Chizaram’s ‘I want to be buried’ with ‘Everybody must not be buried’. He also speaks Igbo, which he sometimes code-mixes with English. Some of Obiora’s memorable pidgin expressions in the film are: Wahala be like bicycle (problem is like a bicycle) and wetin dey sup? (What is happening?).

Magical Realism

The film’s mise-en-scéne is characterised by magical realism; the manipulation of events in such a way that the fantastic and the real coexist side by side. The arret that makes it possible for Chizaram to appear and disappear is superbly executed to enhance the magical realism in the play. Music is also instrumental to the creation of the magical ambience and awe in the film. The scores are creatively chosen and rendered in synchronous patterns with the film’s visuals at the appropriate instances to instill and conjure up an atmosphere of fear and horror in the film. Dreams and visions are also elements of magic realism deployed in the movie. For instance, the dramatisation of how Adanne is pursued in the forest and shot dead in a stream by Ikenna and his men, as an act of revenge for Obiora’s kidnap of Chiaram’s corpse, is merely the dream experience of Obiora, but it is done in such way that the audience actually thinks that it is real. Chizaram’s Aunty also has a vision in which Chizaram appears to her and demands that she be buried. This vision is also made as real as her usual appearances. It is in the end that the audience is made to learn that it was all a bad dream. This movie is one of the few instances where ghosts do not have to look ugly, weird and distorted in form in order to be frightening. It should also be noted that the manipulation of these horror-filled dreams and visions reinforces the gothic texture of the film.


The kind of humour deployed in the movie is called dark humour; a postmodernist humour in which laughter is evoked in the midst of dire human circumstances. The scene where Adanne runs away from the house when she mistakes Obiora’s men for Ikenna and his gang is very hilarious. The scene where Obiora has to help out the native doctor with information is also humorous. It goes to show that some of the mediums are not as efficacious as one would expect them to be. It is also funny how Obiora deploys business diction in talking to the three spirit ladies at the Nde-miri shrine. Humour is also seen in the scene where the pastor comes to pray in Chizaram’s Aunty’s house to ward off Chizaram’s ghost. It is hilarious to see the shock on the pastor’s face when Chizaram still appears after all his prayers. Of course, the reason for this is that Chizaram is not a demon, but a benign ghost who is only fighting for its right to be buried. Ghosts’ rights? Think about it.


The film makes use of flashback; a dramatic device that allows for past events to be recalled so as to shade light on the present situation in the movie. Flashback is utilised when Chizaram’s Aunty wants to explain to the pastor that Chizaram was not killed by Obiora. The flashback mostly consists in taking the audience back to the day that the fatal accident that claimed the lives of Chizaram and her mother happened. On that day, she meets Chizaram outside the house crying. Upon enquiry, she says she has been sent away from school for not paying her fees. She vanishes when the Aunty comes out of the house and cannot be found even after the guard is ordered to search for her. The Aunty’s vehicle stops mysteriously on the road due to overheating. This is perceived to be Chizaram’s act of preparing the Aunty for the tragic phone call she is about to receive. It could be dangerous to receive such a call while driving. Even after receiving the call, the car still does not move. Chizaram might still be stalling the car so as to keep the Aunty from driving herself to death. The Aunty has no other choice than to go on foot, hoping perhaps that she would get a lift on the way.

Dramatic/Situational/Verbal Irony

Dramatic irony is a device in which a character is ignorant of the course of events in a film, whereas the audience is in the know. Bury Me is enriched with dramatic irony. The relationship between Adanne and her mother is regulated by dramatic irony. Adanne’s mother is ignorant of the fact that a huge amount of money has been sent to her daughter. Thus, when the soup she eats tastes too delicious for the amount she gave to her daughter to prepare it, she becomes suspicious and asks if Adanne has added more money to buy so much meat. Adanne lies that she only found favour in the eyes of a butcher at the market.

One night while Adanne is enjoying her ‘concoction mixture’ of milk, yoghurt and malt drink with roast chicken, her mother emerges from the house. Adanne quickly covers them with her wrapper and begins complaining about Obiora’s perpetual poverty. This is so ironic because at this point in the film, Obiora is immortally rich and Adanne knows it. But the mother does not; neither does she know that Adanne is hiding something under her wrapper. Thus, Adanne’s act of covering her drinks with wrapper is metaphoric, as it also connotes her covering up the truth about her brother Obiora from the mother.

Situational irony is a dramatic technique which defines an action that brings about an opposite result. When Obiora’s old-time friend broke his business principle and gave a client’s sample job to Obiora, he might have thought that he was doing himself and his business a world of good. But the end is the opposite as Obiora orders that Flash should kill him to cover his tracks in the Chizaram affair.  

Verbal irony is exemplified when one of the elders in Ikenna’s family refers to Obiora as an innocent young man when Ikenna’s mother accuses Obiora of being a ritualist and the murderer of her daughter and granddaughter. Ikenna later calls Obiora to apologise for his mother’s rudeness, referring to Obiora as a good man. These are all instances of verbal irony in the film.

#Expect More on Bury Me#

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