REVIEW OF THE MOVIE IYORE
BY CHIMUANYA AMARACHUKWU
It is a 2014 Nigerian drama film set in the Benin kingdom. It was directed by Femi Arase. It stars Rita Dominic, Joseph Benjamin, Bukky Wright, Yemi Blaq and a host of others.
Initial release date: May 8, 2015
Director: Frank Rajah Arase
Screenplay: Frank Rajah Arase
Producer: Frank Rajah Arase
Cast: Rita Dominic, Joseph Benjamin
Camera movements: internal, horizontal, and vertical movements
One would think of iyore as Rajah Arase’s own inception, an epic, mind blending, time travelling film within a film.
Iyore (The Return) or as I like to call it “Playing with Reincarnation” is a twisted tale of love transcending from one lifetime to another and growing stronger each time it is reenacted. It tells the story of Osarugue (Rita Dominic) a married Secondary school English teacher in the 80’s who is in love with a crown prince of Benin Kingdom Azuwa (Joseph Benjamin) but it is forbidden for she already belongs to another man Osas (Yemi Blaq). The Prince Azuwa is to be married to Ajoke (Okawa Shaznay) a Yoruba Princesss who might be a Reincarnation of Amenze on of the scared Virgins of the ancient Benin Kingdom who had an affair with Edosa the warrior and had to elope with when rather than be buried alive with the dying king.
The movie opens with an aged Joseph Benjamin and a smooth faced Rita Dominic who apart from her clothes hasnt aged at all. They are lovers reunited again after a series of tragic events that would hunt thier love affair from the beginning till the end. Dominic’s character narrates the story to her whiny teenage son.And this shocking, bittersweet tale of hers spans generations and continues even up till the present. Employing a series of time shifts, flash backs and forward cuts, Rajah Arase juggles multiple story arcs in the air at the same time, zig-zagging through time and space.
There is the aged lovers, Osarugwe and Eweka, (Rita Dominic and Joseph Benjamin), then in a series of flash back scenes, the origins of their romance is traced to when big haired Osarugwe was a young wife, teaching History at the local high school, and married to another. By some stroke of genealogy, Mr Benjamin (Eweka) becomes the crown prince of the entire Benin kingdom, but is also engaged to another. Both Eweka and Osarugwe were childhood sweethearts and now, Eweka resurfaces and wants back into Osarugwe’s life. Custom dictates otherwise though and he is expected to marry a princess from a neighboring Yoruba kingdom (Okawa Shaznay).
This thread bears a striking similarity to events of previous generations, one which has been encapsulated as history and which Osarugwe narrates to her eager students. In this narration, a maiden queen shares a forbidden passion with a foolish warrior that ends in bloodshed. In yet another narration, occurring much earlier, an act of betrayal leads to devastating consequences. Somehow, all of these story arcs are related, somehow they must add up.
At its core, Iyore is a tale of 2 star crossed lovers, doomed by fate to remain eternally apart and this central romance, as well as what becomes of the lovers, is interesting enough to power a much more disciplined and reflective film.
As such Iyore quickly finds itself succumbing to the director’s excesses. Too much is going on at the same time, too many plot swings and time jumps, but not enough time to follow anything to a satisfying conclusion. The arc between Osarugwe and Eweka especially suffers short shrift and the tension explodes prematurely instead of igniting to a slow burn.
Rita Dominic is a movie star, While Dominic is dependable as usual, she does not quite disappear into the role of a Benin maiden. Her movie star looks constantly get in the way and it probably would have helped, if she had learnt a few lines of the local dialect.
Joseph Benjamin has built a career playing boring second fiddle to famous co- stars. He is at it here again and while his hard work shows, he is still overpowered by his more famous co-star. Cameroonian Okawa Shaznay plays multiple roles that are essentially the same but raised on Rajah-Arase’s style of rushed film making, she finds herself overpowered by the demands of her roles. Paul Obazele has a brief but scenery chewing role as a powerful Oba.
The picture is crisp, with plenty to look at in terms of fine scenery and colorful period costumes but the locations, even those from the pre-colonial days have a contemporary feel, not quite convincing of their authenticity. Some noticeable energy is put into staging the fight scenes, but Iyore, like most Nollywood films still has more than its fair share of dialogue. The work of the make-up team shows so much that Rita Dominic looks more like a Zaron cosmetics model than a frumpy school marm. Special effects do fine work until they have to stage a lightning scene that just comes off silly.