GeekAfrique’s Best Film of 2022: ‘Elesin Oba: The King’s Horseman’
Beloved director Biyi Bandele’s last movie is the adaptation of a revered classic, as well as a sharp and unforgiving look at the hubris that typified colonialism. But in its totality, it’s a jarring fable about the never-ending clash between tradition and modernity, all in a beautifully-realized film.
Cast: Odunlade Adekola, Shaffy Bello, Deyemi Okanlawon, Mark Elderkin, Jenny Stead, Omowunmi Dada, Olawale ‘Brymo’ Olofooro, Jide Kosoko, et al.
Director: Biyi Bandele
Producers: EbonyLife Films and Netflix
Reviewer: Abdulkareem Baba Aminu
‘After his king dies, a horseman must sacrifice himself to serve his ruler in the afterlife but sudden distractions lead to unexpected tragedy’. The plot of director Biyi Bandele’s final film appears to be simple and straightforward, but a closer look reveals a modern masterpiece that is nuanced and layered in many ways which many Nigerian filmmakers have not been able to achieve. And for an anti-colonial tale, that’s saying quite a lot. But then again, there’s more to it. There’s also the not-so-little detail that it’s based on what is considered to be the magnum opus of Nobel laureate Wole Soyinka, the play ‘Death and The King’s Horseman’.
The titular king’s horseman has the unenviably terminal job of ensuring the smooth journey of the late Alaafin to the afterlife, but when the day for his ritual suicide comes, he is having too great a time. A last-minute wedding to a young damsel who’s caught his eye sets events in motion, dragging into the story an incredibly tone-deaf colonial British official and his waifish wife, as well as the entire community, in a tug-of-war between tradition and modernity, leaving the viewer wondering which one is genuinely representational of ‘civilization’. Events cross into each other, pitting character against character, resulting in an unexpectedly tragic end for a major character.
Colourful in all the right ways, and heavy when it needs to be, Bandele’s adaptation of Soyinka’s enduring play is itself in many ways an instant classic, buoyed by a number of factors
Colourful in all the right ways, and heavy when it needs to be, Bandele’s adaptation of Soyinka’s enduring play is itself in many ways an instant classic, buoyed by a number of factors, chief among them the film’s stellar cast. While Odunlade Adekola is as usual charismatic in the title role, the performance with the most gravitas remains that of Deyemi Okanlawon, who plays his son, back from studying in Britain, yet remaining fiercely in alignment with Yoruba traditions and culture. The talented Mr. Okanlawon gives life to Olunde with method acting-like attention to detail, resulting in a character that is truly multi-dimensional.
Okanlawon’s brilliant turn has enough gravitas to carry the whole movie, and his quiet storm countenance is reminiscent of early-day Sidney Poitier, perfect for conveying his disdain for British disrespect. One of the best scenes in the film – and indeed in any Nigerian film this year – remains the deceptively casual conversation he has with the British official’s wife (played to perfection by Jenny Stead), during which he floors her off her high horse with words that are not violent, but a glare that is deadly. If the actor ever needed to stamp his greatness, his performance here does it perfectly.
[Deyemi] Okanlawon’s brilliant turn has enough gravitas to carry the whole movie, and his quiet storm countenance is reminiscent of early-day Sidney Poitier, perfect for conveying his disdain for British disrespect.
That said, the sheer quality of the cast alone is worth the price of admission, as they deliver powerful performances – including the scene-stealing Shaffy Bello as female elder Iyaoloja – and a strikingly memorable one by Jide Kosoko as a comically stoic native law enforcement officer. Mark Elderkin, too, exudes a nonchalance that’s both irreverent and dangerous. Singer Brymo also shines in his feature film debut, as do the other cast members. It is quite easy to deliver greatness, by dint of the source material’s brilliance. Though written in English, it was adapted mostly in Yoruba, bringing a weight that anchors the film as it should be.
The music of ‘Elesin Oba’ is so well-realized that it is practically a character in itself. Featuring Yoruba drums and chants in a way that could make it pass for a musical, the film’s stage origins are clear in the most complimentary way, giving off a tone reminiscent of classic Rodgers and Hammerstein musicals like ‘The Sound of Music’, ‘The King and I’, et cetera, et cetera, no pun intended. It is also backed up formidably by songs performed by the always-compelling Brymo. The overall tone one gets is like that of old Hollywood classics.
That said, the sheer quality of the cast alone is worth the price of admission, as they deliver powerful performances – including the scene-stealing Shaffy Bello as female elder Iyaoloja
Full of powerful performances, gorgeous production design, vibrancy, and stunning originality that is needed in Nigerian movies today, Bandele’s film does the rare thing of being a period piece so well-put together, so intricately-tailored, that it seems to address the current global zeitgeist of racism, otherness, and more without appearing even remotely preachy or arrogant. Add to that the fact that ‘Death and The King’s Horseman’ is based on real events circa 1947, and you have what is unquestionably the best Nigerian film of 2022. Bravo!
A version of this article was published in the Daily Trust newspaper on Saturday, 17 Dec. 2022, as well as online.
Attorney says Jonathan Majors isn’t the villain, video will prove he’s innocent
Jonathan Majors says he is the victim of domestic violence allegations that led to his arrest in New York. The actor’s attorney Priya Chaudhry released a statement on Sunday that the “Creed III” and “Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania” star “is completely innocent and is provably the victim of an altercation with a woman he knows” and expects charges will be dropped.
The New York Police Department confirmed in a statement on Saturday that Majors, 33, was taken into custody after officers received a 911 call from a Manhattan apartment where a 30-year-old woman said she had been assaulted. The woman was taken to the hospital, the statement says.
On Sunday, the Manhattan district attorney’s office said Majors had been arraigned on multiple charges, including assault and aggravated harassment. In the complaint, the woman claimed she was struck with an open hand, causing a laceration behind her ear, and suffered bruising and pain when “the defendant put his hand on her neck.”
Majors’ attorney says she is submitting evidence to the district attorney “with the expectation that all charges will be dropped imminently.”
“This evidence includes video footage from the vehicle where this episode took place, witness testimony from the driver and others who both saw and heard the episode, and most importantly, two written statements from the woman recanting these allegations,” Chaudhry said. “All the evidence proves that Mr. Majors is entirely innocent and did not assault her whatsoever.”
On Saturday, a judge granted a limited order of protection and released Majors on his own recognizance. The next court date is May 8.
Majors’ attorney claims the dispute occurred because the woman “was having an emotional crisis, for which she was taken to a hospital yesterday.”
“The NYPD is required to make an arrest in these situations, and this is the only reason Mr. Majors was arrested,” she said. “We expect these charges to be dropped soon. We look forward to clearing his name and clearing this up,” the statement said.
What led to Jonathan Majors’ arrest, according to police? Officers responded to a call within the 10 Precinct at approximately 11:14 a.m. ET Saturday. “A preliminary investigation determined that a 33-year-old male was involved in a domestic dispute with a 30-year-old female. The victim informed police she was assaulted. Officers placed the 33-year-old male into custody without incident. The victim sustained minor injuries to her head and neck and was removed to an area hospital in stable condition,” the police statement said.
Majors is a rising star in Hollywood, seen two weeks ago on the Oscars stage, presenting best cinematography with Michael B. Jordan. The Yale-educated actor, an Emmy nominee for HBO’s “Lovecraft Country,” recently joined the Marvel Cinematic Universe as Kang the Conqueror and is slated to headline “Avengers: The Kang Dynasty” in 2025. The actor stepped into the ring with Jordan as Damian Anderson in the boxing drama “Creed III,” and starred as real-life Navy aviator Jesse Brown in the Korean War drama “Devotion.”
Next up, he stars as an amateur bodybuilder in “Magazine Dreams” (set for release in December) and plays mercurial basketball icon Dennis Rodman in “48 Hours in Vegas.”
Disney absorbs Marvel Entertainment, sacks Chairman Ike Perlmutter
Per a report on Variety, Disney’s cost-cutting measures have reached to the top echelons of the company: Isaac “Ike” Perlmutter, chairman of Marvel Entertainment, has been laid off, as his division — which is separate from Marvel Studios — is absorbed into other units of Disney.
Along with Perlmutter, Marvel Entertainment’s co-president, Rob Steffens, and chief counsel, John Turitzin, were also dismissed. A Disney spokesperson confirmed the departures.
The 80-year-old Perlmutter was at the center of activist investor Nelson Peltz’s months-long fight to join the Disney board. Variety reported in February that Perlmutter’s backing of Peltz was due at least in part to CEO Bob Iger’s decision to sever Perlmutter’s control of Marvel Studios in 2015, which reduced Marvel Entertainment to not much more than consumer products.
Peltz ended his proxy battle in February after Iger announced his plan to reduce costs by $5.5 billion, which included reducing the workforce by 7,000 employees, as well as the expected return of the dividend payment for shareholders by the end of 2023.
‘John Wick’ spinoff ‘The Ballerina’ to be released in 2024
As ‘John Wick: Chapter 4’ continues to dominate the box office, Lionsgate executive Joe Drake revealed the studio’s target release window for the upcoming spinoff, ‘The Ballerina’. He confirmed that the studio is currently planning to release the Ana de Armas-led action thriller in either the spring or summer of 2024. Production for the first ‘John Wick’ spinoff movie took place in Prague and began last November 2022.
‘The Ballerina’ is directed by Len Wiseman, who previously helmed 2012’s ‘Total Reboot’ and five ‘Underworld’ films. Written by Oscar winner Emerald Fennell, the story is expected to follow a young female assassin as she goes on a mission to seek revenge against the people responsible for the murder of her family. Franchise star Keanu Reeves previously confirmed that the spinoff will be set between the events of ‘John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum’ and its latest 2023 instalment.
The film is inspired by a scene from 2019’s ‘Parabellum’, where fans were introduced to the Ruska Roma syndicate, the organization that trained young boys and girls into becoming lethal assassins. Leading the spinoff is Oscar nominee De Armas who has signed for the role of Rooney. Like former Ruska Roma member John Wick, Rooney went through grueling and rigorous training at an early age, under the supervision of Angelica Huston’s The Director. In addition to Reeves and Huston, Ian McShane and the late Lance Reddick will also appear once again in their respective roles as Winston and Charon.
Besides ‘The Ballerina’, Lionsgate is also currently working on the impending Peacock premiere of its John Wick prequel series, titled ‘The Continental’. The 3-part limited drama will revolve around the origins of The Continental New York’s manager Winston, and loyal concierge Charon, who are respectively portrayed by Colin Woodell and Ayomide Adegun. The series is expected to chronicle how a young Winston Scott manages to establish a safe haven for assassins. In addition to Woodell and Adegun, it will also feature the introduction of Mel Gibson as Cormac and Katie McGrath as The Adjudicator.
As for the future of the main series, director Chad Stahelski recently revealed that he and Reeves are planning to take a hiatus from the blockbuster franchise following the theatrical release of ‘John Wick: Chapter 4’. ‘John Wick: Chapter 4’ is now showing worldwide.