Director: Kunle Afolayan
Writer: Tunde Babalola
Release date: October 13, 2023
Languages: Yoruba, Igbo and English
Streaming site: Netflix
InsideNollywood rating: 2.5/5
When the sun goes down and the mind is at rest and most receptive, kids are gathered together. And then the aged tell fables about the history and wisdom of the people, subtly hiding life lessons in the various corners of their subconscious minds. These life lessons usually become of help at turning points in their lives. This was the practice in conventional African communities. Kunle Afolayan’s Ijogbon, as is his practice, remiss one of those good old days.
The cinematography of Ijogbon is top notch but I blame Kunle Afoloyan for the few rough edges I spotted in the movie as it flowed scene after scene telling the story of blood diamonds, young daredevils and dangerous people. One of such rough edges was the part where those kids were trailing the strange tyre marks in the forest. There were trees all over the place and the teenagers squatting at some point to check out tyre marks at some point when the trails were so obvious to the eyes was just overdoing it.
Gabriel Afolayan, Kunle’s brother, on the other hand, outdid himself in role interpretation. That scene where he sat at a pub singing a song about Bisi his lover really did it for me. I laughed so hard. Gabriel is one of the best Nollywood actors today and deserves an accolade for his sterling performance in Ijogbon.
I need to also quickly shout out to the four youngsters who played the four friends that discovered some uncut diamonds which formed the bone of contention in the movie.
Ijogbon is the story of four boys who found a bag containing some diamonds which fell from a dead man. This discovery awoke their desire to get out of the seemingly stifling lifestyle of their parents. However, diamonds being bloods got the kids enmeshed in a fast paced chain of events that almost got them killed as many persons got murdered in cold blood.
The beauty of the movie lay in the way Afolayan married scenes of an old woman telling a folktale about a strange stone that turned brothers against brothers, with scenes on the four kids and their adventure with the bag of diamonds. Finally after surviving all those who knew about the diamonds, and getting the diamonds as their part of a bargain with a Chinese investor who is interested in mining for diamonds in the village, two of the boys turn against each other and almost throw themselves into a lagoon. Oby, the female among them who happens to be the warrior and deep thinker of the pack reminds them of the folktale about blood diamonds and just as was suggested in the folktale, throws the diamonds into the lagoon. End of movie.
Kunle Afolayan scored a strong point in this movie in the area of teenager’s perspective to life. They seem caught between two stages in life; childhood and adulthood. They already understand things and life almost like adults but they still have the strong control of their parents over them. The different survival instincts teenagers develop in their verge to navigate that stage in life smoothly especially with over bearing Nigerian parents, is done justice to in this film. There is also the theme of greed among the adults of the society who would go to evil lengths to satisfy their inordinate quest for easy and quick riches.
How about the theme of the white man’s tendency to see the big picture faster than the African. While the Chinese man was able to see an opportunity to get a mine full of diamonds, his Nigerian counterparts were killing themselves over a few diamonds. He was only able to find reasonable men among the teenagers and that was why he killed the adults and struck a deal with the kids.
Of course, the tendency for diamonds to be blood diamonds is emphasized. I see it as also as a lesson about the snare of get rich quick syndromes. I believe this is the first Nollywood movie about diamonds that really struck a chord in me. One great thing about Kunle Afolayan movies is his ability to enshroud them with that moonlight story kind of vibe.
When the sun goes down and the mind is at rest and most receptive, kids are gathered together and fables about the history and wisdom of the people is narrated to the kids hiding life lessons in various corners of their subconscious minds. These life lessons usually become of help at turning points in their lives.
Ijogbon is a suspense thriller about coming of age in Nigeria and it contributes to the conversation about the relationship between Nigerians and expatriates with regard to Nigeria’s natural resources. At some point in the movie, it almost felt like I was watching a documentary about a real life incident in Nigeria. I was asking questions like, “could the story writer know something about this unfavorable deal communities have struck with these expatriate miners allegedly plundering our precious stones? Is it possible this is one of the narratives in one of such communities blessed with precious stone deposits in their land?”
I am cocksure that if Kunle had collaborated with another director like Dimeji Ajibola, Ijogbon would have had that missing wow factor. However, I see Ijogbon doing very well at the box office and most likely winning a laurel or two.