February 7, 2023

Ijakumo does beautifully but unfortunately doesn’t surpass the average rating. The movie lacks depth and fails to pay attention to details; it is therefore likely to lose the interest of viewers halfway through…

By Blessing Chinwendu Nwankwo

While leaving the cinema, I listened to the opinions of fellow viewers—many saw it as great, while others felt indifferent about the movie. I’m of the latter. With no doubt, Ijakumo has the potential to finish what it started, but struggles not to, as though careful not to offend. The acting lacks depth and the storyline is watered down.

The story in Ijakumo is daring but not new. Over the last few years, religious institutions have been put in rather dreadful positions as a result of unethical behaviour by religious leaders, or other administrative members. On July 3, 2019, Saratu Abiola of Quartz published an article on the COZA rape allegation.

The article highlights the protest organised by Nigerian women against sexual violence in the church. In the same light, on May 5, 2017, Premium Times wrote about a pastor found in possession of human heads, which he claimed he had to bury to drive away thieves (if that’s the story we are still buying). These defaming acts are not only common in Africa.

On November 23, 2021, Dailymail published the story of Megan Peterson, who revealed that she was sexually assaulted by Indian priest, Joseph Palanivel Jeyapaul, in 2004. The list goes on, and Ijakumo tells a similar story alongside the story of a scorned woman who seeks revenge for her broken heart and avenges other victims as well.

(Read also: U-Turn Review: Gabriel Afolayan’s Directorial Debut is a Road Movie Lacking in Attractions)

 As seen in The Mourning Bride, by William Congreve, “Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned.” Ijakumo is a production by Toyin Abraham Productions in collaboration with FilmOne Entertainment, and it follows the story of Asabi (Debbie Shokoya and Toyin Abraham), not any less than it features Olajide (Olumide Oworu and Kunle Remi).

Asabi, the daughter of an ifa priest, gets into a relationship with Olajide; she happens to be his powerhouse, helping him find his feet and leading him to good fortune. She even takes him to her father to make him a charm that will expand his ministerial reach. Her father refuses, seeing the insincerity in Olajide’s heart, and goes on to warn Asabi to stay away from him, stating that the end would not be in her favour, but she is blind to see that Olajide is misogynist as well as self-centred, and does not believe Asabi has any place in his new life.

In his words, “she just doesn’t fit in.” After a few years apart, Olajide becomes the most successful pastor in Lagos, backed up by a group, The Syndicate, he is introduced to in the early days of his quest for success. Asabi is hell-bent on getting back at Olajide, seeing as Olajide had taken from her the one thing that mattered to her the most. After several failed attempts, she hires the services of a professional stripper to bring him down.

In Ijakumo, there is no balance between metaphysics and wealth. Pastor Olajide’s sponsors called themselves “The Syndicate,” but the locations of their meetings suggest a secret cult. The group is far from metaphysical; it consists of influential people who seek power through wealth rather than mystical means. This is probably a good excuse for why their takedown happens so easily.

Adebayo Tijani- Ijakumo

Ijakumo is not an option for Family Movie Day, as the scenes are not advisable for teens below age 18. The nudity in the movie is uncensored and gives no forewarning of any age restrictions; however, I guess the producers left that to the title. Speaking of the title, the suffix on the title is rather misleading. Although Sharon (Okunsanya Lolade), the stripper, is seen on-screen numerous times, it is unlikely that she is our protagonist; hence, the title remains unjustified.

Further, there is an attempt to shift focus to Sharon, but even that does not make any practical sense. Inconsistency and lack of proper grounding has, over time, become a regular description of Abraham’s movies. There is no doubt she is a creative with a beautiful imaginations to make good movies. Unfortunately, most of her productions lack the will-power to stay solid. A clear instance is Ghost and the Tout Too.

Also plaguing her movies is the incessant ingraining of adverts into plots. This has become her MO, as I first observed in The Prophetess for Revolution Plus Property, and now in Ijakumo, where she advertises JTech Crypto Company, Wakanow and a couple others.

(Read also: Kunle Afolayan’s Legacy Endures in Netflix Fantasy—Further Consideration of Anikulapo)

The movie has a little bit of everything: mystics, crime, thriller, romance, comedy, and sex. It has all the necessities to make the best-selling thriller that the trailer sold us. Expectations are understandable given the suspense, sensual engagement, and cast. While Ijakumo gives the audience a few moments of a good laugh and no doubt delivers on its sensuality, the question remains: does it deliver on the audience’s expectations? Ijakumo does beautifully but unfortunately doesn’t surpass the average rating.

The movie lacks depth and fails to pay attention to details; it is therefore likely to lose the interest of viewers halfway through. The film’s cast perfectly portrays their characters, and even though most were cameos, they made the most of their opportunity. Bimbo Akintola graces us with her presence. Akintola makes her way back to the big screen with roles in Far from Home and Ijakumo after what seemed like an interminable hiatus. The movie also features Lilian Afegbai, Tomiwa Tegbe, and Antar Laniyan.

Even if it doesn’t win the best movie award at the 2023 AMVCA, Ijakumo deserves the award for the most relatable movie (if there was any such category) because it got viewers up and about with the “do not suffer with a man” theory,  and seems like yet another movie readily available to aid the ladies in justifying the “men are scum” ideology.

Still, it is not improbable to say that Ijakumo: The Born-Again Stripper is a decent watch. While it has its good moments, the entwining but derailing plot causes a disconnect between the movie and the audience. For a movie with its potential and table-shaking potency, Ijakumo is nothing but average. You can catch Ijakumo in cinemas across Nigeria.

Rating: 2.5/5

 

Blessing Chinwendu Nwankwo, a film critic, beautician, and accountant, currently writes from Lagos State, Nigeria. Feel free to drop your opinion in the comment section below. Connect with her on Twitter at @Glowup_by_Bee and on Instagram at @blackgirl_bee.

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