I remember typing ‘Nollywood’ into the search box as I subscribed to Netflix for the first time. Only a few options to none were available, most of which were movies from other African countries such as South Africa and a particular movie with a colourful poster and an unusual title which caught my eye, titled, Green White Green (and all the beautiful colours in my mosaic of madness). “Is this really Nollywood”, I asked myself. However, I was reassured on seeing the names of the cast which were Naija-like and I speculated that they were creatives based in diaspora (totally wrong btw). As I watched Abba Makama’s Green White Green a few years back, I knew I had found my favourite Nigerian indie director (not even like there is an endless pool). It was the first Nollywood movie I watched on Netflix and reviewed on this blog. The movie found its way to the global streaming service way before the new pile of Nollywood collections arrived after Netflix took a further significant step in their investment in African content. After hundreds of mainstream and commercial-driven Nollywood movies, The Lost Okoroshi made its Netflix debut on the 4th of September.
The Lost Okoroshi is a comedy and cultural movie that depicts the Lagos adventure of a struggling family man, Raymond, who goes to bed as human and wakes up possessed by an ancestral masquerade with a costume that cannot be left behind. Raymond is down on his luck at this time of his life, living an average and unsatisfied life with his wife. While spending his day dreaming of a better life, he also experiences night dreams where he’s being chased by ancestral masquerades. His day involves complaining about Lagos, the modern life, making comments about ladies who pass by his work station and trying to psych guests for money as a typical security guard in Lagos or even the whole of Nigeria does (no survey needed to confirm that). Moreover, he wishes to move away from the sophistication of Lagos to enjoy the rustic life of his village where he would like to practise farming as it used to be done by his forefathers. After months of recurring nightmares where he finds himself being chased by masquerades, he’s finally possessed by one which is highly regarded in his Igbo community, known as the Okoroshi. This introduces the metaphysical and supernatural aspects of this film.
From this moment, his life takes a new turn as he is wildly controlled by the Okoroshi masquerade, trapped under a mask and costume that he cannot take off. What does Lagos life have for him in this undesirable state of entrapment? At this stage begins his Lagos adventures, during which he plays a brief superhero role amongst other spectacles featuring dancing and acrobatic feats. He also comes across those who would like to take advantage of the fact that he is well loved and popular on the streets of Lagos. Ranging from a streetwise guy he encounters who wants to make him the next big thing in entertainment and two warring factions of an Igbo group who would like to lay claim to him, raising the question, “does he remain in Lagos or move to the east where the other faction believe he truly belongs?”. Not even worrying or curious about his metaphysical problem, those he comes across are looking for ways to selfishly benefit from his plight of being a coerced masquerade. However, mute Raymond inside the Okoroshi can only express his feelings and thoughts through grunts and direct actions. The way these forces all take charge is what makes the story come alive in a vibrant Lagos scene.
My major criticism of this experimental piece of art is the editing which felt off at times. Abba T. Makama decided to do the job of four- co-writer, editor, producer and director. This is fairly normal and nothing new. But with the end product I watched, he could have shed a few tasks by taking on all but the role of an editor. However, this ‘problem’ did not affect the storytelling in anyway, just mere aesthetic purposes which I struggled to ignore. Nevertheless, I remain a huge fan of his alternative stories. He makes use of lesser known actors with a light mixture of experienced ones who deliver reasonably good performances. This is also a credit to the impressive casting which is rarely done in other Nollywood movies with bigger budgets, where the pulling power of an actor is of utmost importance.
Budget could also be a reason for a single man carrying multiple roles behind the scenes. I do not know the film’s budget so it is hard to fully judge. But I would guess the production team did not have much to work with as it was also evident in the set design, which was subpar in a particular scene that was meant to be a native doctor’s shrine. Nonetheless, writer-editor-producer-director Makama makes up for this with the cinematography on display. The city of Lagos and its landscape is done justice with the scenes primarily taking place in the city. This choice of location and how it is visually portrayed on screen added an interesting detail to the storytelling.
The Lost Okoroshi is a short and fun watch with a commitment of just one and a half hours. Someone like my mum would question why she spent such time watching a movie like The Lost Okoroshi.
Regardless, I would gladly take such stories over the mainstream ones that we’ve seen repeatedly. The mainstream ones fill cinema seats in Nigeria, understandably and The Lost Okoroshi would struggle to attract huge numbers.
But on a platform like Netflix, more stories like this need to be given a chance.
I spotted one easter egg and recurring faces from his other work that I watched on Netflix. I might be turning into a Makama fan boy. I would love to see a Makama project financed by Netflix. He sure has more interesting stories to tell in his own alternative format which can not be compared to other contents coming out of Nollywood. He has set a lane for himself that I don’t see other creatives in Nigeria rivalling. You can just tell that his style is distinct when you get to experience it. With more money, Makama lo ma help Wes Anderson.
- The Lost Okoroshi stars Seun Ajayi, Judith Audu, Chiwetalu Agu, Jammal Ibrahim, Ifu Ennada and Tope Tedela.
- The film boasts vibrant colours and costume designs for the masquerades.
- I wouldn’t mind if Ifu Ennada became typecasted as a prostitute in Nollywood movies. She is great at it.
- With two movies as an indie filmmaker on Netflix, it might be time for Netflix to finance Abba Makama’s bright ideas from the scratch.
Let me know in the comments section below: Do we need more stories like this or we should manage the same old tricks Nollywood has been offering us? Will you pay to see a movie such as The Last Okoroshi in theatre?