By Fatima Husain
Nigerian film director Abba Makama’s latest feature The Lost Okoroshi premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival ’19, exposing Western audiences to a fusion of Nigerian myths and traditions. The film, a rare venture on the big screen, as Nigerian cinema (or Nollywood) - although the second biggest film industry - remains widely underrepresented at many international festivals.
The Lost Okoroshi is a light-hearted, yet thoughtful tale of Raymond (Seun Ajayi), a young but disheartened security guard who’s been constantly haunted by dreams of ancestral Okoroshi masquerades, belonging to the Igbo tribe. His disillusioned behaviour and lack of interest for city life leads him to a further cynical approach towards his wife.
© Youtube | TIFF Trailers
One fateful night, caught in the masquerade dream replay, Raymond wakes up with a jolt only to find himself transformed into a mute Okoroshi. His terrified wife turns hysterical at the unnerving sight, and discover moments later, the silent masquerade is none other than Raymond.
At the break of dawn, she desperately rushes her husband to a hospital, in search of urgent relief to convert him back to human form. But her honest efforts go in vain as the world becomes miserably unreceptive towards Raymond; who is now the ancestral spirit; Okoroshi.
The Okoroshi then uncontrollably embarks on a spiritual journey - as though Raymond was destined to be a conduit for the powerful spirit.
The Lost Okoroshi takes an unapologetic, sans need-for-clarification approach, allowing the audience to accept a self-guided journey to simplistic Nigeria. The narrative, set in modern-day Nigeria fuses, thoughtfully, the surreal clash of mythology with present-day life, making The Lost Okoroshi quite amusing.
However, minute yet glaring editing errors; poorly-timed jump-cuts and painstakingly prolonged scenes occasionally, serve to be dull and dragged, and break the otherwise blazing plot.
Abba Makama, who also produced and edited the film, masterfully portrays the return of the ancient Okoroshi, as a social justice warrior, to fix the ills of the mismatched modern society.
In an interview with VIBE105, Director Abba spoke about representation at international festivals.
Abba said: “It’s about time… long overdue. Everyone needs a voice. We’re moving from the predominantly White male narrative to inclusion of everybody; every race, creed, sexuality. Everybody needs their voice to be heard and that’s what makes the world more unified. Diversity and inclusion is very important, especially in this era of globalization…”
“It’s very important that we keep telling these stories – in the context of film festivals and representation.”
The 94-minute long feature ends with a thought-provoking conclusion, as the humour sharply dies with trailing eeriness.
*Editor’s Note: The Lost Okoroshi premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival ’19 as part of the Discovery programme.