Why Viewers Connect So Well with Blood Vessel

Segun Ade-Martins

Blood Vessel is a Play Network Studios production, directed by Moses Inwang from a story by Charles Okpaleke with writing contributions from Moses Inwang and Omotola Ekeinde Jalade and the screenplay by writers Musa Jeffrey David, Justin Dix, and Jordan Prosser.  

This story follows the journey of “six people who stow away on a mysterious ship” on a course to a European port. Since its exclusive release on December 8, 2023, it has been on the Top Ten Chart of Netflix’s most popular films in Nigeria.

 Its premise intertwines the struggles of the real-life Niger Delta. A voice-over monologue invites us by giving us a brief history of how communities have suffered from the pollution of oil exploration.

 When a riot breaks out in a town, star-crossed lovers, two brothers responsible for the circumstances of the riot, and another set of two brothers from a neighbouring town all find themselves confined in a cramped compartment below deck.

The cast of characters includes Tekena, played by the late Sylvester Ekanem, a younger brother keen to prove himself to his family and himself as well. Olotu is played by Obinna Christian Okenwa, the older brother of Tekena, who takes the bold step of illegally migrating.

 Abbey is played by David Ezekiel, an outcast of his community whose only crime is being born a ‘half-blood’ and falling in love with a full-blooded girl in his community. His lover, Oyinbrakemi, played by Adaobi Dibor, completes the duo of star-crossed lovers forced out of their community in search of a safe place to be in love.

 Degbe, played by Levi Chikere, and Boma, played by Jide Kene Achufusi, are brothers in a militant group protesting the activities of oil companies in their community.

What didn’t work

In the beginning, there were a few janky scenes with somewhat wooden dialogue. I have made my fair share of a few janky and wooden dialogue scenes myself; I know it’s because of not enough rehearsals, not blocking enough, and too much improvisation.

 The summation (the ending) of the film from the beautifully told folklore-based stories feels like this holds it back from being a top film. It comes across as 1 + 1 = 2.

Meanwhile, this was the place to give the film its special sauce. It almost succumbs to the same village mentality that it displays and, I believe, is trying to critique. Explaining further will reveal key revelations and plot details. 

Screams—I hate movie screams — are unnecessary and annoying. A scream puts bloody events into motion. I don’t believe the character that screams was particularly useful to the story. 

The villain’s motivations are unclear and unnecessary. It brings forth the mayhem that ensues, which drives the entertainment of the second act through to the climax of the film. This is a shame because, for the six, their motivations are well defined and clear.

What worked

To continue on with the motivations of the six protagonists, I believe they are plausible and relatable to the average Nigerian living in Nigeria, not just natives of the Niger Delta.

 Thank goodness there wasn’t popular music. As the movie wore on, the score played with a blend of subtlety and over-emphasis, guiding the emotions of the film. 

As the ship is on the high seas, the stowaways and authorised passengers get comfortable, and there’s a good match cut from above deck to below deck. During the sequence, Oyinbrakemi’s stories serve as the narrative to provide us with juicy subtext.

Additionally, the text and subtext of Oyinbrakemi’s stories serve to frame the emotional heart of the movie. I just wish the stories and all the themes were weaved together better.

The technical aspects of the film worked very well. The intercutting between fight scenes during a crucial moment was exquisite. The character moments between brothers are quite compelling. Even more so than the love story.


Unfortunately, I rate this 5.3 out of 10. I wish I could give it more. The lensing and editing are good. The filmmakers’ choices worked well to tell the story with good visualisation. The acting wasn’t as cohesive as I would like, and I don’t blame this on the actors.

You can see that the cast can act. Also, I don’t completely blame it on the director. So producers, maybe, but not entirely. I think there were too many cooks in the kitchen in terms of writing.

I suspect the confusion created comes from the various edits and notes in between each writing stage and gets carried on to the rest of the project.

Now, I strongly recommend all filmmakers have a script 100% locked that has been rehearsed and blocked. Just like Darren Arronfosky would have it, but with the mind of experimenting on certain elements.

Essentially, to take last-minute input from actors, producers, and other crew on those elements to see if they work.

I think this approach can allow for a firm vision and room for improvisation. Improvisations should be spices that can be added or removed in post-production.

Reception and significance

Despite my rant on filmmaking methodology as a lesson for filmmakers, I think the filmmakers did their best, and I can see that they can and will make super-genius films very soon.

It’s just that this film is a few steps shy of that level as a piece of art; however, the story is highly significant, and it resonates with Nigerians, as shown by being the fifth most watched Nigerian film on Netflix in 2023.

Considering that it came out in December 2023, that says a lot about how well it resonated among us. So, I don’t need to tell you to watch it because you’ve already watched it.

• Ade-Martins writes from Abuja 

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