by Wilfred Okiche
… the overall experience is a superior one. It packs an emotional punch and you might just find yourself shedding a tear or two.
Director cum cinematographer, Tunde Kelani has brought us some of the most beloved Nollywood films on the DVD/VCD format via his Mainframe productions (‘Thunderbolt’, ‘Oleku’). The films, made mostly in the Yoruba language sometimes feature actors from the English speaking genre and above average quality that can guarantee a crossover audience.
Funke Akindele is the queen of crossover. With her 2009 monster hit, ‘Jenifa’ she launched a dedicated offensive, with the sole aim of taking Yoruba movies to the mainstream and with the box-office success of last year’s ‘The Return of Jenifa’ the movement has recorded it’s biggest success yet.
It was therefore only a matter of time before both torch bearers-the director and the star found themselves and found the right project worthy of their talents. Kelani dusted Professor Femi Osofisan’s play and adapted it to the big screen. After a series of false starts and unavoidable delays, ‘Maami’ is finally here. Mainframe’s last film, 2009’s ‘Arugba’ misfired with the critics so you could forgive those who had their misgivings about this one. We are happy to report however that ‘Maami’ is somewhat of a return to form for the director.
Kashy (Wole Ojo) is a football hero in the Mikel Obi tradition; a local chap who makes good and finds himself playing top-tier football for his dream club, Arsenal FC. It is the season of the 2010 World Cup in South Africa and our hero arrives the country just to keep the FA in limbo as he takes his sweet time on deciding if he wants to play for the national team. But this isn’t the all too familiar case of protesting unpaid fees, ego trips or temper tantrums. See our hero is tormented and has a few demons begging to be laid to rest. In deftly wrought flashbacks that are the heart and soul of the film, he recalls two pivotal days of his childhood in rustic Abeokuta, growing up with the love of his life, his mother.
When it comes to deft camera work and the simple basics of attention-to- detail filmmaking, few directors can touch Mr Kelani. Confident in the knowledge that his audience possesses some form of cerebral matter, he makes a movie not just for the eyes and ears but for the other senses. He brings the sleepy village in Abeokuta to life, complete with the squalor of poverty which Kashy and his mother inhabit, the traditional quirks of rural life and nuances of the human inhabitants.
For this film, he seems to have a thing for the colour brown as he bathes the screen in a generous shade of the hue. From the shack which is home to Kashy and his mum, to the tin where Maami saves her pennies, down to the costuming, the color brown is an integral part of the story. It may feel depressing at times but it lends a sense of mood and credibility to the overall film.
Kelani is an observant director for actors as it is to his credit that he squeezes out a believable performance from Ayomide Abatti, the actor who plays Kashy as a child. Casting children in pivotal roles can be tricky but the director prevents the film from falling apart, the resemblance between the grown up Kashy and the little boy is striking. Funke Akindele delivers a touching, sincere performance. The screenplay does not canonize Maami. She has her own flaws but Ms Akindele keeps her on our side always. Again credit must be given to the director for reining in her performance so that she loses any tendency to over act and stays faithful to the character. We still don’t get how she was not nominated for an AMAA last year.
Wole Ojo plays the grown up Kashy. Since his debut in the AMBO flick, ’The Child’ we have seen precious little of him. His earnest, handsome features express Kashy’s torment but there is a nagging feeling that he is holding some of himself back. It seems the director spent so much time on the child actors that he neglected one of the adults. Former beauty queen Tamilore Kuboye in her role as Kashy’s personal assistant seems like she is just reading her lines most of the time.
But the overall experience is a superior one. It packs an emotional punch and you might just find yourself shedding a tear or two. We realize that good films cost money and have resigned ourselves to the product placements and nods to Governor Raji Fashola of Lagos state but thankfully, they keep it tasteful and at a bare minimum here.
It is not a perfect film but it is definitely one to watch and yes, Y! recommends.