…….Erin Fon, Omo E Na Fon
By Taopheek Babayeju
The Yoruba movie industry has undoubtedly reached a significant milestone, poised to claim its rightful position within the broader Nollywood landscape. This evolution can be traced back to the foundational efforts laid several decades ago by trailblazers such as Hubert Ogunde, Oyin Adejobi, Kola Ogunmola, Ishola Ogunsola (I Sho Pepper), Adeyemi Afolayan (Ade Love), Duro Ladipo, and Moses Olaiya (Baba Sala), all of whom are fondly remembered. We must also acknowledge the living legends like Kola Oyewo, Kareem Adepoju (Baba Wande), and Lere Paimo (Eda), among others.
During the 90s, Ebute Meta, a suburb of Lagos, emerged as a thriving hub for the Yoruba movie industry. From East to West, Ebute Meta nurtured exceptional talents for Nollywood. The renowned Odunfa Street housed icons like Taiwo Hassan “Ogogo,” Yinka Quadri, Abbey Lanre, and others. On the western side, there was the presence of Adebayo Salami, popularly known as Oga Bello.
It was a common sight to witness these Yoruba movie actors passionately pursuing their craft, even when financial rewards were modest. I have fond memories of observing the late Babatunde Omidina, also known as Baba Suwe, who lived next door on Bola Street. Alongside figures like Opebe, Moladun, and occasionally Jide Kosoko, they would rehearse for the weekly comedy show “Erin Keeke” on TV.
In 1993, Tunde Kelani marked his directorial debut with “Ti Oluwa Ni Ile,” a Nollywood Yoruba drama sequel written by Kareem Adepoju. Released through Mainframe Films and Television Productions, this film signaled Kelani’s commitment to elevating Yoruba cinema. Subsequent releases like “Ayo Ni Mofe” (1994), “Koseegbe” (1995), “O Le Ku” (1997), and “Saworoide” (1999) further elevated the industry. Notably, Kunle Afolayan, the son of the legendary Ade Love, made his acting debut in “Saworoide.”
The 2000s saw the rise of a new generation of actors, directors, and producers. This emergence was particularly prominent within the dynasties of movie veterans who continued their parents’ legacy. In 2006, Kunle Afolayan transitioned to directing with “Irapada,” followed by acclaimed films such as “The Figurine,” “Phone Swap,” “October 1,” and “Citation.” His most recent work, “Aníkúlápó,” a Nigerian epic fantasy released in September 2022, has garnered significant praise for its quality. Afolayan is credited with enhancing Nollywood’s standards through larger budgets and international platforms like Netflix.
Femi Adebayo’s recent epic film has undeniably set a new benchmark, not only for Yoruba cinema but for Nollywood as a whole. This remarkable achievement, following the success of “King of Thieves (Agesinkole),” has firmly established Adebayo Salami’s son as a formidable presence in the industry, boasting consecutive major successes.
After viewing “Jagun Jagun” (Warrior) on three occasions, I’ll attempt to provide a concise overview without revealing any spoilers.
Storyline: “Jagun Jagun” isn’t merely an epic fiction; beyond its intrigues and suspense, the film serves as a potent satire shedding light on society, leadership, and the people. It highlights how the pursuit of power corrupts elites and leads them to employ any means necessary, including thugs and mercenaries, to further their ambitious agendas. The film also emphasizes the potential for collective citizen action to overthrow tyranny. Power, love, betrayal, and bravery are central themes in this tale.
Cast: The cast of “Jagun Jagun,” especially lead actors Femi Adebayo (Ogundiji), Lateef Adedimeji (Gbotija), Ibrahim Yekini (Gbogunmi), Bukunmi Oluwashina (Iroyinogunkitan), and others, impeccably embodied their roles. The blend of seasoned and emerging actors contributed to the film’s diverse appeal, essential for an epic production. Each cast member skillfully inhabited their character, delivering performances that exude professionalism.
Location and Set Design: The chosen filming locations boast breathtaking beauty, showcasing artistry in its purest form. The portrayal of African architecture, art, and palace splendor is meticulous. The intricate design of Ogundiji’s home reflects the producers’ meticulous imagination, even if the concept of a multilevel house in that era raises minor questions. Nevertheless, the overall aesthetic remains impressive.
Cultural Richness: “Jagun Jagun” proudly showcases rich cultural elements. From the masterful use of Yoruba proverbs, adages, dance, music, and costumes to masquerade displays and Ewi chants, the film immerses viewers in an awe-inspiring cultural experience. The incorporation of Odu Ifa’s spoken words and renditions further adds to the authenticity.
Action Sequences: For the first time in Yoruba cinema, viewers witness authentic traditional war scenes, surpassing mere incantations. The choreography of war stunts meets international standards, displayed with remarkable artistry. The film “Amina,” recounting the story of Queen Amina of the Zazzau emirate (released in 2021, directed by Izu Ojukwu), comes close in showcasing such impressive battle scenes.
Makeup and Visual Effects: Commendation is due to the consistent makeup team, led by the renowned Hakeem Effects. Their attention to detail in creating distinct looks for each character, from injuries and scars to blood stains during battle scenes, is noteworthy. Both magical scenes and practical effects are executed impeccably, achieving a level of realism. However, I found the wrist decapitation of Odunlade Adekola’s character (Jigan), accompanied by immediate flies, slightly questionable. Aside from this, the efforts are compellingly believable.
Overall Evaluation: “Jagun Jagun” imparts valuable lessons and is suitable for family viewing, devoid of gratuitous nudity and indecent language that often mar contemporary Yoruba and Nollywood films. The film excels in cinematography, sound, and lighting, fostering a high-quality production.
Kudos to Femi Adebayo, and Congratulations to the Legendary Adebayo Salami (Oga Bello): Femi Adebayo’s latest work not only sets a new standard but also firmly cements his position as a force in the industry. This achievement, coupled with the success of “King of Thieves (Agesinkole),” underscores the dynamic legacy of his father, Adebayo Salami. The saying “Erin fon, Omo na fon (The elephant trumpets, and its calf responds likewise)” is poignantly apt in describing this lineage’s remarkable contributions.
Taopheek BABAYEJU is CEO of Icentra, he can be reached on @Taopheek | Taopheek.com