Those hoping that Louis might have returned to his more lightweight investigations of eccentricity will have been disappointed last night. He continued his more mature investigations into â€˜the bigger issuesâ€™ with this trip to Lagos, Nigeria to take a look at the reported corruption inherent in its system of government.
This was a somewhat chaotic documentary, which was inevitable given that the subject is an area torn between several factions, with an uneasy balance of order, its people prone to sudden bursts of violence and unrest.
Given the strange, shifting dynamic of the power-share, a lot of Therouxâ€™s film was devoted to asking the same kinds of questions over and over, simply to try to establish a picture of what was going on. Through the course of the show, Louis met with three groups of Area Boys â€“ essentially a gang culture sponsored by government and given titles under the Union for Motor Vehicles. After a little digging, it turned out this was really a front for a mafia-style extortion racket whereby Area Boys would take donations from stall-holders, motorcyclists and taxi-drivers, all silently condoned by the local senator.
If you were wondering what the real police were up to during this time, instead of tackling this organised crime syndicate, Theroux met with the KAI (Kick Against Indiscipline) Brigade â€“ set up to police the area, specifically in â€˜environmental issuesâ€™. In practice, it turned out this involved turning a blind eye to the activities of the Area Boys and, instead, ripping down improvised shack-stores â€“ peoplesâ€™ entire livelihoods â€“ because they were improvised on public freeways. All while the Area Boys got busy extorting millions of Naira in the background.
The real joy in the film was Louisâ€™ encounters with various leaders from the various organisations. The leader of the KAI Brigade couldâ€™ve come straight out of a Nollywood version of Dadâ€™s Army â€“ all Captain Mainwaring posturing and self-preservation, unintentionally hilarious and misguided. The head of the Area Boys, MC was also an interesting character, floating through his privileged life as a gang boss, treated as a messiah and unperturbed by the madness surrounding him.
But the real find was Mamoc, one of MCâ€™s circle of trusted friends. Eloquent to the point of being a motormouth, this thug in an Arsenal shirt was also eminently self-aware and personable. Where he was proud to extol his gang lifestyle and brag of his status, he was also prepared to give a reasonably honest account of just how badly the whole system affects the area. His conversations with Louis gave greater insight into the area than the sequences in which Louis was surrounded by rifle-firing gangsters and shotgun wielding police, and had more impact than the moments where Area Boys showed off their scars and chanted toward the cameras. But like Lagos itself, it was essential that Mamocâ€™s qualified explanation was juxtaposed with the insanity and threat of violence he lives within and, to some extent, encourages.