Sometimes, real life is more entertaining and inspiring than fiction – a fact echoed by Àyìnlá. The movie is a biopic of a famed musician and one of the pioneers of Apala music, Ayinla Omowura, alias, Egunmogaji. With every scene came an astounding revelation of the life of the legend – from how he reeled out innumerable tracks that addressed societal ills and condemned unfavourable government policies up to his tragic death.
Director Tunde Kelani did a remarkable job bringing Ayinla’s life to the screen. And with the lineup of cast and crew, a memorable film experience was delivered. Here are some of the elements that stood out for us:
A good storyline is one of the differentiating factors between an excellent film and an average one; in this regard, Àyìnlá scores a high point. Although the film is based on a true-life story, we loved how it was beautifully told with no dangling parts or unnecessary details. Using a gradual story build-up from the beginning, we were able to see how Ayinla’s abominable temper and love for women became the end of him.
Also, the representation of traditional spirituality was a breath of fresh air – from the masquerades to the Ifa or Sango priest, the film subtly debunked the myth that every traditional entity is diabolical. In the end, the film leaves one thinking about death, life, and Ayinla’s music career, which of course, were the most important things the filmmakers tried to portray.
Characterisation and Casting
Adedimeji Lateef was the perfect choice to play Ayinla. He brought such charisma to his performance and had such depth and range that he disappeared into his character – from the passion and joy with which he sang Ayinla’s songs, his larger-than-life smile, gestures and the arrogant yet charming way he carried himself, one can easily forget they’re watching an imitation.
Aside from him, the film was packed with other actors and actresses who understood the assignment. Ade Laoye, for example, embodied her role as a journalist well, Kunle Afolayan who played the music producer was quite typical. Then, there was Debo Adebayo (Mr Macaroni) who played Ayinla’s band manager and a host of others.
Costume and Setting
The film lavishly showcased the very rich Yoruba culture. The costume showed in-depth research, bringing to fore actual expensive laces, adire and aso-oke fabrics that were popular then. Also, shooting the film in Abeokuta ( Ayinla’s hometown), adds elements of realness and believability to the story. The historical references were spot on – from the set pieces inside the homes to the passports, the naira notes used, the old Mercedes and Volvo vehicles, to the dialogue and use of language.
Sound and Music
Leveraging the original Yoruba tunes by the late Ayinla provided an amazing backdrop to the story. The songs revealed so much about Ayinla and the kind of person he was. The music placement carried the story along by highlighting his character traits or offering insights into Ayinla’s head. It is also commendable that the filmmakers took their time to ensure that the subtitles were correctly done and that they were as detailed as possible to enable the audience to connect with the story deeply.
It’s great to see that Nigerian filmmakers have begun telling our own stories and documenting our history through biopics like Àyìnlá. With a well-researched screenplay and meticulous production process, the industry can bring more of such to life. For us, the elements discussed above were what stood out the most. Do you think otherwise? Let us know your thoughts. See you in the next movie review.