One of the great things about Netflix is that it’s introduced me to a load of world cinema titles that I probably wouldn’t otherwise have had access to. Thanks to Netflix, I’m now a committed Bollywood fan and I’m also starting to dip my dainty cinematic toe into African cinema as well, something I wasn’t even aware existed to the extent it does.

OLOTURE, pronounced Ollo-turay, a Nigerian crime drama, is one of the most gripping but also horrifying movies I’ve seen in a long time. It’s based in Lagos, which is the capital city of Nigeria and the biggest and most densely populated city in Africa as well.

Sharon Ooja plays the titular Oloture, a stunningly beautiful black journalist who goes undercover as a prostitute for a story for the newspaper she works for, THE SCOOP. She keeps in touch by phone with her editor, boss and friend Emeka, or they might occasionally meet up secretly and at great risk to Oloture, as the people she’s mixing with now do not take kindly to cops, snoopy journalists or spies.

The world Oloture now inhabits is an ugly, cruel and merciless one peopled by savagely violent pimps, cold, unsympathetic madams, rich, privileged punters and prostitutes often in the last stages of poverty, desperation and helplessness.

The first time we see Oloture on the job, as it were, she’s climbing out a bathroom window at a sex party to avoid sleeping with a client. The client is furiously angry, though, and Oloture gets in trouble with the madam, who is also the landlady of the dump she sleeps in with the other prostitutes. And when I say, she sleeps there, I literally mean she has a camp bed there and nothing else. It’s purely functional.

Next time Oloture attends a sex party, wearing a wig like the other hookers and a short garish outfit that leaves little to the imagination, she doesn’t get off as lightly. She is drugged and raped by a grossly overweight politician called Sir Philip.

She’s devastated. I’m not sure what her intentions are when she goes undercover as a sex worker. I mean, I don’t know if she intends to have sex with the punters or if she’s hoping to avoid it or what, but the fact is that the situation she’s in is perilous and precarious, and she must have known, deep down in the back of her mind, that sex was on the cards at some point. Ah well. It happens, and poor Oloture tries to wash away the ignominy and degradation in the shower, and we all know how well that works…

Oloture hears from another prostitute of a woman called Miss Alero who, for a hefty sum of money, will take these poor broken women away from their shitty lives to a wonderful, magical place called… Europe.

That’s right, Europe is the holy grail for the prostitutes, and Oloture, traumatised and all as she is, decides that she wants in, for the sake of her story. The story in the newspaper has become even more important to her now, more personal, even more than ever worth fighting for, since the rape at the party.

What Oloture and the other girls don’t know yet is that the trip to Europe is a front for the worst kind of human trafficking. Once they pay their money, they are herded onto a bus and taken to a secret destination.

Angry, frighteningly aggressive muscular black men then take over from Madam Alero. Well, let’s tell it like it is! They take the girls’ phones- no contact with the outside world is allowed- and ‘train’ them to strut, bump and grind and lap-dance, all the skills they’ll need to attract male customers wherever they’re going. They subject the women to terrifying voodoo rituals to terrorise them into not running away, to make the superstitious young ones think they’ll be cursed if they try to leave.

It’s tragic the way one of the girls has earlier sent for her younger sister, thinking that the two of them will have a lovely new start in Europe together. All the young woman has unconsciously, unknowingly done is, she’s just provided Madam Alero and her crew with a much-prized ‘virgin’ for their ‘collection.’ Can you imagine how shit that must feel…?

Seeing Oloture making quick, clandestine visits to her loving mother, before the whole ‘Europe’ thing kicks off, really highlights the difference between the sleazy twilight world of the prostitutes and the light, bright clean world of fresh air, personal freedom, home cooking and motherly love.

The film also shows us that the era of the traditional pimp, working alone, with his gold-knobbed pimp cane, fur coat and broad-brimmed, feathered hat like every black pimp in every blaxploitation movie ever, is dying out, to be replaced, I suppose, by a sort of communal madam in a brothel or group of ‘controllers.’

Oloture gets into terrible trouble for trying to get a battered and abused hooker called, heart-breakingly, Blessing, to leave her pimp, Chuks, who makes Ike Turner look like Barney the Dinosaur, but it’s poor Blessing who gets the mother of all hidings as a result…  
Oloture has gotten herself into the worst situation imaginable. These men Madam Alero runs with don’t let the girls go once they have them under lock and key. Can Oloture be the exception to the rule? Can Emeka, her editor, manage to secure her release? This is an excellent eye-opener from a social justice point of view, but it’s a cracking good story as well. Watch it if you can. Did I mention it’s on Netflix…?

Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, poet, short story writer and film and book blogger. She has studied Creative Writing and Vampirology. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, women’s fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra’s books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page: