Aníkúlápó: A Critique | Olaitan Olayanju

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    To begin with, a prologue of a good story succinctly brings forth what the experience of the readers would be. Though it’s like a spoiler, it is often crafted in a manner one would long to read the story to the end. It is no different from what an opening voice narration does in a movie. Aníkúlápó was inspired by Baba Yemi Elebubon as we were told: “Story Inspired by Yemi Elebubọn.”  To accentuate this caveat, Baba Elebubon himself led us into the film, enunciating an essential and ancient practice of the Yorubas when burying their dead and how the practice has evolved. To the Yoruba viewers specifically, and broadly, other viewers, interest would be heightened and disbelief suspended to learn a part of a culture that is long jettisoned. Igbó ìfèyìntì.

    The significance of hearing a story or the tale of an ancient Yoruba practice from Baba Elebubon could be likened to finding oneself in a library of culture. He shares this attribute with a few others like Baba Wande Abimbola. And so, the movie from the beginning promised to give more than entertainment. Baba elebubon moved swiftly to provide the viewers with an important piece of knowledge about the magical power of a bird called Akala (ground hornbill). We were made to know that Eye Akala (Eye-Akalamagbo) could resurrect the dead. While I believe viewers would have loved to know more about this bird, and know what it is, we were constrained to make do with a CGI (Computer Generated Image) of the bird.  Though the CGI is good, we anticipate Kunle Afolayan and certain others to do better, especially in this century. Even if the bird is extinct, it could be recreated to provide viewers with a concrete image of what the bird looked like. After all, we see dragons in foreign movies and no one living has truly ever seen one and can confidently tell that dragon brew fire while they were existing. The knowledge of the magical power of the Akala bird is exclusive to the Yorùbás and we must not hide this belief because of fear of rejection or believability. An interesting attribute of the Akala is that it averaged 70years in lifespan. Ground-hornbill might be endangered, but they are still existing.

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    Baba Elebubon crowned his narration with evidence of a Canto from an Ifa Corpus,

    Idin’Osun (Odi Irosun) which tells the story through the eye of a Character, Saró.

    Akinkanju omo, abewu Akala lorun

    (A courageous child dressed in form of Akala)

    Adia fun Oba lOde Oyo

    ( Consult the oracle for the of Oyo)

    Won ni o rubo ki Ile re o ma ba se jona

    ( And tells him to make a sacrifice so that his palace will not be razed by fire)

    Omo ti o gboran, hin ni ngbo piri adaba nibi ti gbe n fo lo

    ( A disobedient child is one who hears the flutter of the wing of a dove in flight)

    A dia fun Saro, eyi ti n sore Elemele

    (The oracle is consulted for Saró, a friend of Elémelè

    Salagerede,

    eni ba pe kẹ́yẹ o ma yojú ore òun jẹ

    (Eventually, the protector )

    Oju Oluwa rẹ lẹyẹ yọọ́ jẹ

    (Becomes the sacrificial lamb)

    Èrò oko èrò Ọ̀fà eyin o ri’fá ọjọ́ ẹ̀ bí tí n sẹ

    (Everyone come around, can you not see the prophecy has been fulfilled?)!

    The import of this to a Yoruba person is that the story is not fiction as such but a credible excerpt from the Yorùbáknowledge bank, Ifa. Generally, the hindsight from the foregoing sets a part that the movie will tour and a foundation upon which viewers would hinge their expectations.

    On the parameter of exposition, it would be unfair to say that the movie did not do right.

     

    Saró

    Going to the basics. Saró walked into Oyo Alaafin with a bag full of mystery fastened to his shoulder and the viewers anticipate what he would unpack. As the movie progresses,  it became clear that Saró has nothing spectacular to unpack. The character of Saró as the protagonist becomes less motive-driven. He was reduced to just an opportunistic character who thrives solely on the grace of the women that fall for his charming appearance. The way, Saro was introduced to the viewer when he had a conversation with Awarun, he could be more. He was never an Akinkaju in the context of the word, meaning industrious, however, he could be an Akinjanju in the context of the word meaning recklessness. This made it difficult for me as a person to become the character and the story becomes just a  story. Onward, Saró fate becomes predictable. And this eliminated one of the basic criteria that makes a great movie. An epic story should be told, well told in a way that transcends it beyond ‘one of those.’ Despite the broader view that the movie set out to explore, the character of Saro and Olori Aróláké is the door through which the Story, Aníkúlápó would be assessed by many.

    Olorì Arọ́lákẹ́

    Olori Arolake was understandably presented to the viewers as a dissatisfied and victimized queen, however, it is difficult to understand what she wants.  To be loved? We were made known she is the King’s favorite. A child?  Sex? Freedom? There was the suspicious herb given to her. By who? Are the other Queens behind Arolake’s barrenness or did she become barren because she was married out at a teenage age? What is the essence of the herb scene if it would not be explained? What is behind her barrenness? Again, this character went out in the middle of the night to rape a man she did not know, a queen. Even if the idea of a one-night stand has been permeating the Yoruba sociocultural life, it could be substantiated among persons that enjoy loose movement. Its plausibility in Alaafin’s Palace remains doubtful. And when the plausibility of a story becomes doubtful it loses another element that makes it a great movie.There was no conversation, just a moment of attraction. Scenes as such make the movie less real.

    The story was made further unbelievable when a mortal character like Olorì Arọ́lákẹ́ drives away a mystical bird like Akala and took possession of its magical gourd.

    The setting

    The setting, the economic setup of the Oyos in the time the movie is set (pottery, blacksmithing), language, choices of words, and excused accents. On setting and cultural context, Anikulapo could be said to be near something real. But, it is nearly ruined when it failed to put dialogue at the Alaafin palace in the proper context it deserved. Setting has other elements that make it whole and perfect. A conforming dialogue is essential in any choice of setting, for the setting becomes faulted if the conversation or dialogue in it does not fit the time. In Yoruba culture, Obas do not suggest, they give orders, especially the Alaafin. We saw the Alaafin, acted by Taiwo Hassan, throw up a discussion on one of the tribes under his control.  The Tapas, as we were made to know. The necessity of that scene is not substantiated, for the crime committed by the Tapas was not mentioned or discussed. The Alaafin went ahead and ruined it further when he said ” èmi o bá mú ìmọ̀ràn wa…” Meaning I would advise… Alaafin does not make such a statement while discussing with the Oyomesis and in matters that spring off the mood, as we saw in that scene. In Yoruba traditional life the Alaafin is believed to listen to the Oyomesi and give the final order. Àṣẹ l’ọba npa, Ọba e daba. Although the chiefs’ dialogues about slave traders are not in any way relevant to the film’s progression, it helps to drive the belief that intelligent conversations often ensue among the traditional chiefs.

    There are a few questions that agitate the mind.

    What happened in the Palace when it was discovered that OloriArolake has abandoned? Did the Palace search for her? Who bears the consequence?  Even if we do not know what used to happen in the reigns of the ancient Alaafin, we witnessed the reign of Alaafin Adeyemi III and Oyo people would attest that there is always a consequence, especially for the parent of such Olori.

    Why should Saró be resurrected, was he unjustly killed, or does it mean that it is not the right time for him to die just as Baba Elebubọn made us know at the beginning that Akala would resurrect those whose time of death is not right? What other time is right to die for a man who had an affair with an Alaafin’s wife in ancient Yorùbá culture?

    If Akala resurrects only those who die at the wrong time, does it mean that all those people Aníkúlápó resurrected died at the wrong time? Because, except the prince of Oba Ojumọ who could not be resurrected by Aníkúlápó because his magical gourd has been tampered with, he resurrected others?

    What is the need for the nude scene if the culture is the traditional Yoruba life? Yoruba, most often than not would be under the clothes when copulating.

    Where was Olorì Arọ́lákẹ́ heading when she left Saró?

    Casting

    This is one element of Anikulapo that we must all appreciate.The introduction of veterans is, to me, a conscious attempt to document the legendaries of those actors. And interestingly, the veterans were the ones that breathed into that movie. It would have had little or no life. The dialogue among the chiefs in Ojumo when the chief priest was trying to question the source of Anikulapo’s power. Baba Wande’s epic act to make sure the scene where Saro was trying to resurrect the prince was not bland. Nonetheless, most of them were underutilized.

    The movie did well in cinematography, sound, pictures, wardrobe, and costume. These are perfect and commendable, though it is not unlike Kunle Afolayan’s movies. He has done the same with most of his movies giving us what we can be proud of.

    For a movie to be called a masterpiece it must be able to elicit a certain feeling of gratification in the viewers, a feeling that transcends explanation. It should go beyond the feeling of ordinary experience and make one more informed and connected to certain elements exposed in it.

    Lest I forget, the theme

    Well, it was reduced to greed. 😥

    Aníkúlápó n’be lóde ẹ̀rù o le bàwá o

    Aníkúlápó n’be lóde ẹ̀rù o le bàwá

    Aníkúlápó is one of the movies that spawned controversies in 2022. Critics here and there assess the movie with different tones. Some tolerable and some harsh.

    I want to believe this is not because of the movie itself but because of the maker and the bars he has set with movies he has made in the past. The bar must be surpassed.

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