“Ijogbon” Review: Kunle Afolayan poses an enlivening reflection on greed & Yoruba mythology

Following the several nominations and awards bagged for his previous movie; Anikulapo, Kunle Afolayan presents his coming-of-age adventure thriller titled Ijogbon which premiered on Netflix on October 13, 2023. 

Afolayan’s Ijogbon explores Yoruba folklore, specifically a deity, Oranmiyan, who is the source of the existence of how natural resources, and how those resources found their way to present day Oyo State, South-western Nigeria. 

Set in old Oyo-Oke, Oyo State, Ijogbon which derives its meaning from Chaos, follows four teenagers whose lives take an unusual turn upon discovering a pouch of diamond stones in a handbag.

Puzzled by their newfound treasure, the trio; Jamiu (Kayode Ojuolape Jnr), Ranti (Oluwaseyi Ebiesuwa) and Oby (Ruby Akubueze) decide to keep it as a secret from Omo Oba (Fawaz Aina) whose puerile reasoning might endanger the situation at hand.

The plot of the movie portrays Jamiu as the brain power of the gang who dictates the next line of action following the need to sell the diamonds to enrich their lives out of Oyo-Oke. 

On their encounter with Chief Owonifaari, a Car Smuggler in Oyo-Oke, the teenagers proposed to sell four diamond stones for five hundred thousand naira each.

Being a top dog in the dirty field of operations, Chief Owonifaari agrees to buy the diamonds, yielding to the obstinate demands from the teenagers after an unsuccessful initial price. 

The story introduces us to Teju (Greg Ojefua), as the original possessor of the diamonds who is being chased by unknown men. In a bid to retrieve the handbag, Teju buries the bag with the diamonds. Unfortunately, he was shot by unknown men in a futile attempt to recover the bag, thus, the discovery of the handbag by the village teenagers. 

Ijogbon gradually leads us to realize the mystery that surrounds these diamonds, the opportunity and the wealth the treasure holds. A Chinese investor, Ming Ho (Robin lee) accompanied by Banjo (Femi Branch) and Kaffachan (Funky Mallam) sets out to visit Oye-Oke village in a bid to acquire land to start up a factory. 

Chidera (Adunni Ade) who’s sure of the diamonds’ location and Teju being the first person to visit the village, sends Banjo and the Chinese investor with the original intention of finding the whereabout of the handbag. 

Kunle Afolayan is known to deliver outstanding movies which puts him on a pedestal among filmmakers in Nigeria. Afolayan’s Ijogbon reminds one of Gold statue by Tade Ogidan whose story is quite similar and also under the same cinematic umbrella: adventure-comedy thriller.

The characters in Ijogbon are on the hunt for diamonds while those in Gold Statue chase after an ancestral statue, the gold statue itself believed to hold magical powers in the Yoruba Mythology.

Although, the diamonds in Ijogbon narrate the tale of how Oranmiyan was blessed with natural resources, a blessing that requires unearthing the ground for these treasures.

However, the movie tells us that the treasure was hidden by Oranmiyan from strangers who came to Oyo Land for a different purpose but with the intent of causing chaos and scarring the land off its natural resources. What becomes a blessing turns into chaos, driving men insane, turning friends to enemies and a deadly hunt for these treasures. 

There’s a notable take-home lesson from Afolayan’s movie. It resides in the character of the Chinese investor, Ming Ho. His acting was not all that great but he left us with a line to brood over when he said to Chidera: Your diamond is very small compared to what lies here.

We can picture a foreigner’s perplexity in realizing that what we chase is right in our bosom. This portrays a moralistic approach to the movie when you think of Greed and Selfishness. Chief Owonifaari, Chidera, Kasali and Jamiu are all exemplary characters that resonated with this phenomenon.

Give Afolayan his flowers when it comes to casting, role depiction and character embodiment. While some of the characters embodied their roles poignantly, It is unarguable to handpick the characters of Oby (Ruby Akubueze), Mama Oby (Tana Adelana), and Kasali (Gabriel Afolayan). 

The list might be an endless one but these characters shone among others. Also, the movie is packed with an ensemble of Nollywood veterans such as Bimbo Manuel, Kola Amusan, Tunbosun Odunsi, Yemi Solade, Femi Branch, Sam Dede, Gabriel Afolayan and rising actors like Tana Adelana. 

On the note of casting, Kunle Afolayan never relents to cast debutants on his projects. From his previous project, Anikulapo, the filmmaker casted his daughter, Eyiyemi Afolayan. Likewise, in Swallow and Citation where he casted the debutants: (Niniola Apata) and (Temi Otedola) and Mokalik (Simisola Kosoko). 

In Kunle Afolayan’s recent oeuvre, one thing that excites the eyes is the effect of coloration— it helps to blend the scenery and geographic location and landscape. The effect of coloration in Ijogbon strengthens the visuals of the rocky landscape and mountains lodged in Oyo-Oke, Oyo State. The filmmaker has shown to be particular about crisp coloring.

However, being an adventure thriller, the use of comic relief and suspense proves itself as an important tool but contributes to the flaws of the movie. While the suspense in the movie resides in the right place, the comic relief heightened tension rather than adding relief. 

The scene where the Principal (Yemi Sodimu) tried to flaunt his grandiloquence was better off scraped in such a dire moment in the movie. Likewise, the Reverend (Sam Dede), who was overly dramatic with his prayers. The comic relief was not necessarily needed in the movie and would go on to being a coming-of-age adventure thriller. 

Afolayan’s Ijogbon is a beautiful watch. It’s one of his several projects that takes a new form and plot. The movie is thought-provoking, and touches on Yoruba Mythology & folktales in a way that is intended to connect with younger audiences.


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