A story rough around the edges: A review of “Afamefuna”

Afamefuna - Nigerian film

This opening line in the feature film “Afamefuna” directed by Kayode Kasum sets the stage for a narrative with promise, but the execution is, unfortunately, uneven. You’re excited about a story of the Igbo apprenticeship system so you learn something from how multi-millionaires have been made from that system. What you experience first is a murder. 

Notwithstanding, let’s delve into the film’s strengths and weaknesses.

Lost in transition: The jump from a faux football field to an event, then abruptly to a party as the first scenes, is jarring. While the reason for this might be revealed later, this disjointed editing leaves the viewer almost disoriented. 

You’d almost tell the editor, “nọrọ n’otu ebe!” like you were talking to a child.

Afamefuna - Nigerian film

Code-switching conundrum: Segun Arinze’s code-switching (mixing English, Hausa and Igbo) raises questions. The purpose isn’t entirely clear, and the effect feels forced. But, we can say he must have travelled widely as a Police officer, so maybe. 

Emotional disconnect: Afamefuna’s sudden shift to sombre moods while narrating feels artificial. Similarly, Nneka’s (Amaka’s cousin) lack of emotional expression weakens her character. You can even wonder why she was in the story at all. It’s how characters just appear like important spices, then disappear like dissolved salt. 

The emotional disconnect seems to be a common thread – the characters struggle to convey genuine emotions. Thankfully, veterans like Kanayo O. Kanayo and Segun Arinze deliver strong performances, reminding us of their acting prowess.

Storytelling stumbles: Scenes like the woman not checking the wallpaper she was eventually given strained credulity. I mean, there was a fight about the colour before that. Oversight? 

Likewise, the lengthy scene with Afamefuna and Paul strolling through the plaza and the boys’ pointless argument about football stars later feels like an unnecessary filler.

Read also: “Just gunshots and dull dialogue;” The Black Book offers no drama 

In another filler, it’s unclear why Afamefuna is telling the police inspector about his interaction with his father. You’d almost feel sleepy at this point. 

Afamefuna - Nigerian film

Directors need to stop dropping scenes in between like we won’t notice. You have to learn the art of weaving stuff together. 

Afamefuna and the Igbo narrative

The Igbo apprenticeship system, also known as “Nwa Boi,” is a rich cultural tradition with inherent drama and societal impact. “Afamefuna” dips its toes into this fascinating world, but ultimately fails to capitalise on its potential. 

Here’s how the film could have done better:

The movie briefly explains the system, but it feels more like an information dump than a narrative thread. Instead, the apprenticeship could be woven into the plot. Afamefuna’s journey to success is directly tied to his experiences as an apprentice, no doubt. That adds some kind of depth to his character and the story, but only bits of that journey are in the story.

The apprenticeship system often creates a unique dynamic between masters and apprentices, who can be seen as surrogate sons. 

This dynamic can lead to conflict, particularly when the younger generation’s aspirations clash with the master’s expectations. Imagine Afamefuna, eager to strike out on his own, butting heads with his traditional master who believes in following the established path.

The system isn’t without its grey areas. Stories abound of apprentices being mistreated or cheated out of their due rewards. The film could explore these moral complexities. 

Does Afamefuna witness or experience such exploitation? Does he grapple with the ethical implications of the system itself? These conflicts could add layers of intrigue and spark conversations about the system’s relevance in the modern world.

The film could showcase the system’s potential for fostering entrepreneurial spirit and financial security. Perhaps Afamefuna uses the skills and network he gained during his apprenticeship to launch his own successful business – notwithstanding the gargantuan support he got from Odogwu, creating a sense of accomplishment and highlighting the system’s positive aspects.

The apprenticeship system is deeply embedded in Igbo society. The film could use it as a springboard to explore broader social issues. Does the system perpetuate social inequalities? How does it adapt to a rapidly changing economic landscape? By tackling these questions, the film could offer a nuanced commentary on tradition, progress, and social mobility within the Igbo community.

“Afamefuna” could have transcended its current limitations. It could have presented a compelling narrative that entertains, educates, and sparks meaningful conversations about a significant cultural tradition.

The murder, while not entirely unexpected given the setup, doesn’t offer much surprise. However, weaving the apprenticeship system throughout the story is a positive aspect.  

And, the quote “Wherever you go and you do not see an Igbo man, you should run. There’s nothing there,” holds a certain charm.

Diction: The use of the Igbo language all through is perfect! And should be a recurring theme producers should adopt. 

Meanwhile, the writer could have capitalised on the recent Fisayo Soyombo exposé to shed light on the true, often corrupt nature of customs officials, a story that deserves telling. Not all stories are created equal, and filmmakers have a responsibility to present narratives with honesty and purpose. 

But, Fisayo’s story came out in February, so, we move. 

Afamefuna - Nigerian film

Technical glitches: The slow-motion effects and scene transitions feel clumsy. According to Filmmaker Tools, with slow motion, directors can create an effect that is both visually striking and dramatically potent. On a purely aesthetic level, slow motion can add a sense of grace and beauty to a scene. But, we’re instead seeing Afamefuna and his mom walking through a park in slow motion. 

Also, the mid-narrative switch in the narrator is jarring. However, the camera work shows promise.

Lessons learned: The film emphasises the importance of fostering peaceful relationships – with family, neighbours, and friends. Also, highlights the consequences of blackmail…you can’t survive it. 

A glaring plot hole: The fact that Amaka doesn’t recognise Lotanna as Paul’s son is quite interesting and raises questions about paternity fraud and the role of both genders. Thankfully, Afamefuna’s forgiving nature salvages the scene.

The Intriguing detail: The presence of a non-Igbo crew behind the scenes adds a layer of unexpected diversity.

Final Verdict: “Afamefuna” has its moments, but a lack of narrative cohesion, underdeveloped characters, and questionable story choices hold it back. With tighter editing, stronger emotional connection, and a more nuanced portrayal of the Igbo experience, this film could have been a compelling watch.

Score: 4/10.

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