The Lost Okoroshi, a film by Abba Makama, one of the few directors at the frontier of the new wave of disruptive and unconventional cinema in Nigeria was recently released on Netflix and it was almost brilliant.The movie is centered around addressing the disconnect between ancient traditional beliefs and the modern world and the story follows a married man, Raymond Obinwa, played by Seun Ajayi, who becomes Okoroshi an ancient masquerade.
The movie had a lot of technical flaws especially with editing and was a bit slow at the beginning, only kicking into gear in the second act, however, Abba told a somewhat familiar story from an uncustomary angle, and in a style only he could pull off.
One thing The Last Okoroshi had in abundance was symbolism which were important to the story but could easily be missed. The significance of these symbols, how they foreshadowed, put things into perspective and generally drove the plot forward, showcases Abba’s brilliant mind, attention to detail as well as his deliberate writing and directing.
We’ve picked out these symbols and analysed them. Enjoy and share your thoughts.
1. Anyone can be called
The first thing we learned from this film is that anyone can be called by the ancestors. Raymond Obinwa and and more especially his wife, played by Judith Audu are established to be good Christians with the crucifix and rosary by their beds (which Abba emphasised),and the constant calls by the latter for a visit to the pastor.
2. Smart phone and internet madness
At the beginning of the movie there is a scene where Obinwa and his colleague try to greet incoming visitors to the building where they work, but no one responds as their heads are all buried in their phones. This indicates how people have drifted from reality and become more invested in the virtual world becoming more or less zombies. Obinwa emphasises this when he calls them slaves.
3. The gods do not make mistakes
The gods simply do not make mistakes, Obinwa’s dreams and his encounter with Okoroshi was not random, but deliberate. This can be buttressed with the story of the woman who kept seeing the mask of Okoroshi in the river while others were seeing fishes. Obinwa was chosen by the ancestors and there was nothing anyone could do about it.
4. Okonkwo was a spirit all along
For sure it couldn’t have been a coincidence that Okonkwo, played by Chiwetalu Agu was the one who advised Obinwa not to run when chased by the masquerade and also the one who gave him the mask of Okoroshi. This simply underpins the earlier point that the ancestors had it all planned all along. Okonkwo was simply put there to prepare Obinwa for the work that was to come.
5. Morality and judgement
Okoroshi was said to bring a lot of good but also punish those who do evil. In a scene when Doris, a prostitute, played by Ifu Enada is being strangled by a client who refused to pay, Okoroshi appears and deals with the strangler, who coincidentally is his boss. This brings the question of morality and judgement into the fore. The normal world as we know it would be quick to judge Doris for being a prostitute, but Okoroshi didn’t see it that way and in fact became friends with her.
6. “All na packaging”
In one scene, when Okoroshi, Doris and Willy Willy are in a bar, willy willy shows him a meme of Thor and Sango with a caption that reads “The difference between sango and Thor is Packaging”. This narrative has been sounded a lot and it has begun to come to the realisation of a lot of people that these glorified superheroes are no different from our often vilified legendary figures. Abba also tried to show us that our traditions can be made attractive, with Okoroshi becoming an internet sensation, his leg work in the club and the fact that IPSSHRR made mention of opening an instagram account to make him more accessible.
7. Graven image
All through the movie, there were symbolisms that tried to put Okoroshi or our traditional gods in the same light as the western gods and figures. This was shown in two particular scenes: one where Okoroshi passes by and stares at a statue of Mary and another where he sits among sculptures of European historical/ mythological figures.
8. The struggle among the IPSSHRR
In the last act of the movie, Okoroshi is kidnapped by a group known as IPSSHRR which stands for Igbo Peoples Secret Society Of Heritage Restoration And Reclamation. In one scene, a serious argument breaks out among the members of this group about where Okoroshi should reside, whether Lagos where he was found or to the east where he is originally from. This points to the disunity and clash of ideologies among even those that belong to the same tribe.
9. Police is not your friend
Art should always be used as a tool for social change and The Lost Okoroshi fully embodies this thought. Away from the main theme, the film also delivers a subtle but resounding protest against the police and the menace they have become to the society. Abba brilliantly did this with writings around the police station that read “pigs”, “419”. Quite ironical and powerful.
10. Decay in the land
At the beginning of the movie, Ichie, while talking to Obinwa, described how decay has taken over the land causing the spirits and ancestors to stay away from us. This point is revisited later towards the end, first with the argument among the IPSSHRR, then Doris having sex with a man by the corner of a busy road and finally the physical pollution all over. This also answers the question as to why Obinwa/Okoroshi became powerless–Okoroshi had simply seen enough and couldn’t stand it.