Movie Review: ‘Amina’ fails to hit bull’s eye

Movie Review: 'Amina' fails to hit bull’s eye

Movie title: ‘Amina’

Running Time: 1hour 45minutes

Based on: Queen Amina (the history of the first woman to rule the Zazzau empire in the 16th century )

Director: Izu Ojukwu

Producer: Okechukwu Ogunjiofor

Lead Cast: Lucy Ameh (Queen Amina), Ali Nuhu (Danjuma), Yakubu Mohammed ( Barde), Victoria Nweke (Mero), Abu Chris Gbakann (Sarki), Dan Chris Ebie, (Galadima), Usman Tijani (Ibrahim) Clarion Chukwura (Zumbura), Ummi Mohammed (Zaria), Godwin Ogaga(Kabarkai).

Date of release: November 4, 2021.

‘Amina’, the long-anticipated historic movie, which took the producer about 25 years to execute, is currently streaming on Netflix.

The movie, which was originally shot in 2015, has garnered so much buzz on social media because it is being hailed as the comeback movie of the veteran Nollywood producer, Okechukwu Ogunjiofor.

Originally scheduled for release in 2017, the eponymous epic movie tells the untold story of Queen Amina of Zazzau.

Plot

The movie begins with a duel scene between Zazzau’s unbeatable champion Kabarkai and Danjuma. The former had magical powers, which he had obtained from his mother, Zumbura, the priestess of the Oralce Tukur Tukur. The magic made him undetectable in combat.

The magic that made his body inpeneratable for any weapon.

However, Danjuma, an Igala prince and slave in Zazzau, tactically threw sand at Kabarkai, in combat, which destabilised him.

Danjuma, taking advantage of Kabarkai’s unsettledness, threw his spear at the contender’s right eye.

Unfortunately, Danjuma couldn’t crown his victory by killing Kabarkai, and ultimately gain freedom, because the Sarki stopped the combat to save the Kabarkai’s dignity.

The young Princess Amina, who had witnessed the combat, began to develop an interest in acquiring military skills, which at the time, was a taboo for females in Zazzau.

The Madawaki was a strong opposition to Princess Amina, and a threat to her father, Barkwa Turunku, the Sarki. As she grew into a fearless warrior entangled in love with the enemy, every other major plot revolved around Amina fulfilling her destiny and ascending her throne in Zazzau.

PROPS

Amina is a feature film made with collaborations that spanned three continents of Africa, Europe and America. In the period drama, the director employed a linear narrative . This means that the events are largely portrayed in a chronological order, that is, telling the events in the order in which they occurred. So, we see a plot that pretty much begins from the 16th-century when the young Queen ruled the Zazzau empire.

Although the storyline is simple, with the use of English, Hausa and Igala languages, the movie is action-packed and succinctly depicts the incredible life and times and of course, beauty of Amina, a young and fearless warrior princess.

Although she was born in a highly chauvinistic society, she conquered the Zazzau empire and became the first and outstanding female Sarki in Nigerian history.

According to Ogunjiofor, the cast was engaged in pre-production training where they were first camped for three months and trained on how to ride horses, and use swords to fight on horsebacks, before commencing shoot proper.

Furthermore, the filmmaker ensured that every character gained mastery of different skills like horse riding and the use of swords and shields.

Ogunjiofor deserves some accolades, as the producer of the movie. I mean managing over 1000 cast and crew members, and overseeing the entire production process, which took 25 years to complete, is by no means a mean task

One of the things the film gets right is the production design, especially in scenes set in the bygone era, with tastefully-done recreations of the 16th century.

Queen Amina

Moreso, several ancient buildings made of muds and stones were constructed on the location, to look exactly like Queen Amina’s palace, as was applicable in the 16th century.

The movie ‘Amina’ should be applauded for its top-notch technical, visual presentation and nuanced performance. The costumes and locations were also another amazing highpoint of the movie that is commendable because they showcase the historical background of the movie.

Moreso, the soundtracks were apt to every scene used. It further reinforced the fact that Nollywood has evolved technically and soundtrack-wise,I mean, gone are the days when soundtracks narrated the entire movie. Think 1990s Nollywood. The best thing about ‘Amina’ is its premise.

Lucy Ameh (Queen Amina)

Despite some sloppily-written scenes the producers got the characterisation of Queen Amina of Zazzau played by Lucy Ameh right.

Lucy Ameh (Queen Amina)

Ameh, a native of Benue State, was born and raised in Kaduna but schooled in Plateau, and Kaduna States respectively.

The Nollywood starlet has featured in some Kannywood movies like ‘Braids on a Bald Head’, ‘Bariga Sugar’, and many others. She was, however, a class act in the movie which was demanding and required her pulling several stunts.

In an interview with Bella Naija, the actress narrated how she was flung off her horse one time on set and fell headfirst into the ground. As she crashed to the ground, she was not sure she would survive. The accident delayed shooting for three weeks, but she was resilient about her role, she said, ” The first day I went back on the horse, I was traumatised. But at some point, I just got over it and I got into it and Amina came back again.”

Ali Nuhu (Danjuma)

Ali Nuhu (Danjuma)

Nuhu, Who is popular in Kannywood, where he often speaks Hausa language, in this movie played a dynamic role as an Igala prince.

Although his character did not require much dialogue, he was able to portray the role of a lover boy through his romantic gestures towards Amina.

Clarion Chukwura (Zumbura)

Veteran Nollywood actress, Clarion Chukwura, also featured in the movie as Zumbura the priestess of the oracle ,Tukur Tukur, and the mother of Kabarkai.

Not many know that the 57-year-old veteran actress, who hails from Anambra State, is very fluent in Yoruba and Hausa languages.

Chukwura’s performance was outstanding, it reminded us of her role in the epic movie, ‘Egg of Life’.

The veteran actress, who seems to be selective about the roles she plays, played a spontaneous role in Amina, which seemed almost like second nature..

Short-comings

Although the makers of ‘Amina’ have included enough scenes to defend themselves against accusations of not showcasing Amina’s military prowess, it’s not enough. The loopholes are still glaring.

It is believed that there are no perfect movies, however, there are very good and exceptional movies and Amina could be described as one. Cinematically, ‘Amina’ is one of the best movies to come out of Nollywood this year.

However, any good history student familiar with the history of Amina of Zazzau knows that she is the subject of many legends. As with most Nigerian historical figures, the absence of little or no documented information and data,means that not much is known about Amina’s ascension and reign and this is a major flaw in the film.

While some say she killed every man she ever made out with, others disagree that her power was not military competence alone, but assisted by mystical or magical powers.

The movie was somewhat haphazard and did not really state the reality of Amina’s history and reign.

It also did not tell us how she ruled her empire.

Clearly, the producers focused more on making a good movie rather than solidifying a historical tale. If the intention was to tell the intriguing story of Queen Amina, then the tiny fine details like an overview of her reign should have been further explored. Also, the movie focused on how she got to power rather than the exploits of her reign. Just maybe we should be expecting a sequel on her exploits as Sarki.

Conclusion

With ‘Amina’, Nollywood should open its doors to more historical movies. Very little is known about Nigeria’s history, therefore, through movies,the younger generation can gain more insight into the country’s rich heritage.

Rating

7/10

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