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ENTERTAINMENT

Much Ado About A Tribe Called Judah.

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By Justin Akpovi-Esade

A popular African adage states that someone may pretend to enjoy a meal served to him simply because of who prepared it, rather than because it was delicious.

The film A Tribe Called Judah fits perfectly into the scenario outlined above.

When the news of the blockbuster A Tribe Called Judah broke in December of last year, the entire country was excited, with cinema houses trembling and threatening to burst at its seams. This excitement piqued people’s interest, including ours.

The icing on the cake was a congratulatory message from the president of the country, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, delivered through his Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Ajuri Ngelale. “The President praises the excellence of Nigeria’s creative industry, recognising its critical role as a medium not only for artistic expression but also a source of enormous soft power and viable exports.

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“The creative industry is a high-employment sector that employs our able and talented youth. This is an industry that is critical to my administration. I applaud Nigerians for their unwavering support and patronage of homegrown creative endeavours. We will create a conducive environment for the industry to thrive further,” excerpts from President Tinubu’s message to the film’s producer stated.

Tinubu’s compliment must have come after A Tribe Called Judah broke the box office record for the highest grossing Nigerian film, earning $1.1 million (approximately 1 billion naira) in just a few weeks of release. According to experts, no Nigerian film has achieved such commercial success since the resurgence of Nigeria’s film and video culture. Without prejudice, one must congratulate Ms Funke Akindele, she has not only been a fantastic actor, she has become a daring producer since the production bug bit her.

After seeing A Tribe Called Judah twice, one is left wondering how this film became the highest grossing Nigerian film. To answer this question, return to the first paragraph of this article, which discussed eating a meal and pretending it was delicious solely because of the cook. Before labelling the writer as a ‘hater’, ‘ethnic bigot’, ‘loser’, or ‘hatchet man’ (words commonly used to describe those with whom this generation disagrees), please watch the movie again after reading this piece.

A Tribe Called Judah is about Jedidah (Funke Akindele), a single mother with five young sons. The most intriguing aspect is that she had five children with men from all of the country’s geopolitical regions. Emeka (South East), Shina “Shinene” (South West), Adamu (North), and Pere and Ejiro (South South). These are all five of Jedidah Judah’s children. The script’s inclusion of these children from the three geopolitical regions may have a deeper meaning than first appears. However, the film did not delve into that aspect; instead, it told us a typical Nollywood story about Jedidah’s struggles to make ends meet, as well as how her first and second sons, Emeka and Adamu, worked as security guards at a nearby shopping mall. Pere is a street hustler and pickpocket, Shina is a tout who also feeds on the street, and Ejiro is a street-savvy budding artist.

Yes, there was an incident where their mother, Jedidah, was being manhandled by a man, and Ejiro, who was with her, had to summon his four older brothers, who arrived to beat the living daylights out of the somewhat irresponsible man. Pere was established as a pickpocket in one scene, while another showed him nearly being lynched by an angry mob. Pere would have been burned alive if Jedidah and her friend, played by Fathia Balogun, had not intervened on time.

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Jedidah informed viewers about how she came to have five children for five different men. There are people in real life who match or even surpass that record, so it is not particularly noteworthy.

Jedidah then fainted and was diagnosed with a kidney or liver disease that required a large sum of money for treatment and transplantation. This brings us to the film’s main theme. The kids then had to organise a heist to raise funds. The heist victim is Emeka’s former boss, who uses a furniture company, C&K Furnitures, as a front for his money laundering operations. A Tribe Called Judah taught us that it is acceptable to steal from a suspected criminal because it should be the justification for an otherwise simple heist (Smash and Grab) that escalated into an armed robbery that resulted in the loss of life. Emeka, Jedidah’s first child, was killed in a botched robbery attempt. Collette’s gang also suffered losses of two members.

Jedidah’s children stole the dollars stuffed in Furnitures in the VVIP room of C&K Furnitures, and with the help of Itele and his boys, all Shinene allies, they were able to flee the owner of the money and CEO of C&K Furnitures, Chigozie Onuoha, who is also the underworld kingpin of the money laundering operation, as well as the police.

In summary, that is the plot of A Tribe Called Judah, Nigeria’s highest grossing movie. One forgot to mention that there is a suggestion that there will be a sequel to the film because the final scene revealed a two million reward by the police for information leading to the arrest of Jedidah’s sons, who are suspected of masterminding the robbery operation.

A Tribe Called Judah is not unlike an average Nollywood film, which is shot in a matter of days and released into the market. One could argue that the equipment used in the production of Funke Akindele’s ‘Awaiting Multiple Awards’ film is of higher quality, but in terms of storyline, locations, and scripting, it is very similar to a late Chico Ejiro home video. So, once again, how did it become Nigeria’s highest grossing film? Is it necessary to refer you to the first paragraph for the answer?

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Until Part Two of A Tribe Called Judah is released, in which we may see the police apprehend Jedidah’s surviving children and charge them with armed robbery, one could argue that the film attempted to justify crime in a subtle way. Until Part Two of A Tribe Called Judah is released, in which we may see the police apprehend Jedidah’s surviving children and charge them with armed robbery, one could argue that the film attempted to justify crime in a subtle way. While one does not expect much from a possible part two, which will be no different in terms of fleeting emotions, until then, A Tribe Called Judah is what it is–an average Nollywood home video.

A closer look at some of the characters revealed nothing noteworthy. Nse Ikpe-Etim, known for her role as the ‘Mama’ (head of prostitutes) in Shanty Town, was cast as Collete, Chigozie Onuoha’s secretary, CEO of C&K Furnitures, and underworld kingpin. Her dark past became known to us when she revealed that she was a member of a criminal organisation specialising in armed robbery. This was similar to what she was doing at Shanty Town. It will not be surprising to see her in another film playing a similar role. Na so stereotype dey take start for Nollywood.

Ebere Okaro, the Nollywood home video veteran, was cast in A Tribe Called Judah to reprise her familiar roles as a doting, nagging mother/grandmother and wife…basically, that is what Ebere Okaro does 99.9 percent of the time in Nollywood films, complete with her trademark fast blinking of the eyes and other nuances. Okaro has earned a place in Nollywood’s stereotype Hall of Fame over the years. She plays the same character in almost every Nollywood film, and she was perfectly cast as Jedidah’s mother and grandmother in A Tribe Called Judah.

Olumide Oworu, who played Ejiro, Jedidah’s last child, simply played his role from The Johnsons. So, watch any of the episodes of that TV comedy series, and you might agree. Only the lines were different.

Itele simply brought to A Tribe Called Judah’s table his ‘area boy’ character from Yoruba films. Ironically, he played the same character (Itele) in Funke Akindele’s film, and, just as he is always the king of ‘area boys’ (touts) in Yoruba films, he was also the leader of Shinene’s gang in A Tribe Called Judah. If you have seen the Yoruba film Jaguda Baba Ole, among many others, you will agree that Itele had the role waiting for him without having to go through a casting audition.

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And should we discuss Funke Akindele’s Jedidah role? So, is not it similar to her Jenifa character? Does this mean Funke cannot remove his Jenifa garb even if the roles/circumstances are different?

Nosa Rex and his mall security guard colleague, Pluto even though their roles were short, did a great job of it. Rex, a top Nollywood star showed he could make something out of nothing within a short time.

One major flaw in the film, which highlights its Nollywood home video standard, occurred when the Jedidah Five were planning the heist. The viewer was made aware of all the details of the robbery prior to its occurrence. That eliminated the element of surprise and suspense. We already knew there would be a costume party at the mall, and they would all be dressed in different costumes, and when the party ended, they would sneak into C&K Furnitures and rob it. Wetin remains? Would not it have been better if the scene cut to the party before Shinene revealed the plan until the Costume part, leaving the viewer wondering what was going to happen? That was a major flaw in the film, which is only seen in typical Nollywood home videos. But then, A Tribe Called Judah is Nigeria’s highest-grossing film…

Some questions that only Funke Akindele can answer include: was the film set in Nigeria? If so, would she refer to the funny uniform worn by the alleged police officers as the Nigeria Police Force uniform? If the film was made to appear not to be set in Nigeria, are Ejiro, Pere, Adamu, Shina, and Emeka names of people in Gotham City where the idea originated? What kind of mall security guards wear the Nigerian traffic police uniform, known as ‘Yellow Fever’? By the way, what kind of Nigerian anti-crime unit is known as the “Financial Crimes Task Force?”

Drama is an imitation of life; if we are in Nigeria, we must see a police officer dressed in the proper Nigerian police uniform arresting a suspect for an alleged crime in a film. We need to see Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) operatives in red jackets taking down a suspect in a movie, not some fictitious Financial Crimes Task Force with uniforms like LASTMA officials. An American filmmaker does not hesitate to depict the FBI, CIA, DEA, and NYPD as they are in his films. Ms Akindele is too famous a movie star to be giving us fictitious names of government security organisations in films as if they were television dramas in 1982.

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By the way, why were Adamu, Shinene (Shina), and Emeka, three of Jedidah’s sons with Hausa, Yoruba, and Igbo fathers, shown speaking their fathers’ languages at one point in the film, but Pere and Ejiro did not speak Urhobo or Ijaw at all, if the goal was to establish each child’s ethnicity? I am just asking.

On a lighter note, why did Funke Akindele cast someone with mother tongue interference as the arresting officer who led the team that apprehended criminal kingpin Chigozie Onuoha in A Tribe Called Judah’s final scene? Some of us heard, “You are ‘hunder’ arrest?”. For an actor in that type of film to pronounce UNDER as ‘Hunder’ exposed the Director’s handicap. A serious director should have made him do so many takes until he got it right, and if he didn’t, change the character. However, this assumes that the Director is aware of the distinction.

*Akpovi-Esade is a journalist, newspaper columnist, film/art critic, and media lobbyist. 

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ENTERTAINMENT

EU, UNDP Host Private Screening Of Feature Film, ‘Deafening Silence’

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Deafening Silence

The European Union and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in Nigeria have hosted a private screening of the feature film Deafening Silence to advocate for gender equality and women empowerment in Nigeria.

The film which is a result of the EU-UN Spotlight Initiative aligns with the government of Nigeria’s gender priorities as well as the European Union’s and the United Nations’ Gender Action Points.

“Deafening Silence” produced by the UNDP within the framework of the EU-UN Spotlight Initiative, leverages the power of storytelling to explore themes of Gender Equality.

The intervention is on gender equality, women’s Gender Empowerment, and Sexual and Gender-Based Violence (SGBV) in Nigeria.

The film aims to foster deep and honest conversations around these critical issues, to incentivize social change.

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The film seeks to raise awareness and inspire action to combat GBV, promoting a society where gender equality and empowerment are fundamental values.

Speaking during the private screening, Samuela Isopi, European Union Ambassador to Nigeria and ECOWAS, said: “Art is a powerful tool to promote behavioural change, fight stigma and create awareness around negative social norms.

“It is therefore my hope that this film will contribute to promoting gender equality and prevent g gender-based violence in Nigeria and build a more inclusive society”.

In her remarks, Ms Elsie Attafuah, Resident Representative of UNDP Nigeria, stated that “Deafening Silence is more than a film”, stressing that “it is a comprehensive communication, media and visibility intervention designed to challenge biased gender norms and inspire transformative conversations.”

She further added, “It harnesses the power of storytelling, communication, and mainstream media to catalyse societal change and promote gender equality.”

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On his part, a former Minister of State, Budget and National Planning, Prince Clem Ikanade Agba, sought protection for women in other aspects of their lives.

“Our budget at the federal and state levels does not reflect the aspirations of women in the rural communities where we have over 60 per cent population,” he said.

The former minister also said most of the food consumed in Nigeria was being produced by women in the rural areas, stressing that when government policies exclude the rural areas, women are automatically excluded.

In Nigeria, the spotlight initiative was implemented in five states: Sokoto, Cross River, Lagos, Adamawa, and Ebonyi, as well as the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) and ended in December 2023.

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ENTERTAINMENT

Fussion: An Emissary Goes Home (TRIBUTE)

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Late Fussion, a member of the Apostles Group

By Godwin Adindu*

It was at Akpu Rd, in a compound overlooking the popular Girls High School Aba, of the present Abia State that Fussion charmed me into a passion for rock music. Poor impressionable boy! I almost took to raps because I associated it with transcendental inspiration.

He would stand at the edge of a long chair, holding a burning piece of paper in his hand. He drew smoke from the rap, gaggled it in his mouth, and allowed it to percolate through his head’s nerves, tears streaming down his cheeks. Then he would gently place the rap on a couch and watch the smoke curl around and dissipate into the atmosphere. It was like a ritual. One would think there was something esoteric about the rap because he would suddenly jump into a burst of energy, elevating his entire body to a higher level.

Fussion would grab the microphone, his creamed afro hair hiding half of his eyes. Barry was already on the drum set, his two legs kicking, his two hands flogging, and his chest gyrating to the beats he was creating from the sets in front of him. The guitarists were flinging the bars, while the keyboardist had already been transported to an unknown world.

It was fascinating to watch The Apostles Rock Group perform their rehearsals. They never drove us away. We would look out the window, the smoke from the raps clogging our lungs.

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Then Fussion would sing a code that would bring the entire studio to a halt before quickly switching to a tenor voice that would re-energise the band. That seemed like a prelude. It was typically old-school music. Then he would move from the material to the elemental realm, seeing things you can not see, hearing voices you can not hear, and singing with extraordinary inspiration. He was expressing the paradoxes of life using primordial idioms that conveyed wisdom and truth. This was in the early 1980s, and as a teenage schoolboy at the nearby Wilcox Memorial, the Apostles Group became my heroes.

Looking at Fussion on stage, nodding his head, hitting the air, and kicking at nothing as he meanders his voice through extremely difficult chords, I saw a spirit in human form. I saw a supernatural emissary carrying a light and communicating a universal message of truth across time and generations. Odighi whe aka nrichala ya ato lo onu. (There is nothing the hand will eat and become stuck in the mouth.)

It is so sad that this emissary has completed his circle and returned home.
Fussion, there is a fire at Ekeoha. I have always borrowed from you to tell my brothers, “Nmeregiri bu ogu.” I will miss you.
Bye.

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ENTERTAINMENT

Diddy Apologises For Cassie Assault, Says ‘I Hit Rock Bottom’

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Sean “Diddy” Combs has apologised in a social media video for violently beating his then-girlfriend Cassie Ventura in 2016.

In an Instagram video, Diddy admitted to being fucked up and apologised for it.

“I mean, I have hit rock bottom. I make no excuses. My behaviour in that video is inexcusable. “I fully accept responsibility for my actions in that video.”

The music mogul claimed the incident prompted him to seek professional help, such as therapy and rehabilitation, and that he was “committed to being a better man every day.”

“I am not seeking forgiveness,” he said. “I am truly sorry.”

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Diddy’s Instagram post came two days after CNN released a harrowing video of the star repeatedly stomping Ventura as she attempted to flee their Los Angeles hotel room in 2016. The CCTV footage showed Diddy dragging her motionless body back into their room with her leg.

The footage sparked widespread condemnation, including from Ventura’s husband and Diddy’s rival 50 Cent. It may have prompted Diddy to close his fashion line’s website. The Los Angeles District Attorney’s Office found the video “extremely disturbing and difficult to watch,” but could not charge him due to expired statutes of limitations on aggravated assault.

Meredith Firetog, a partner at Wigdor LLP and Ventura’s attorney, criticised Diddy’s apology as “more about himself than the many people he has hurt.”

“When Cassie and other women came forward, he denied everything and claimed that his victims were looking for a payday,” Firetog wrote. “That he was only forced to ‘apologise’ after his repeated denials were proven false demonstrates his pathetic desperation, and no one will be persuaded by his deceptive words.”

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