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“A Tribe Called Judah” Is More of a Social Commentary Than a Comedy Drama

Funke Akindele’s latest movie joins the recent trend of Nollywood social commentaries hiding under the facade of comedy and family drama.
January 5, 2024
10:19 pm
A Tribe Called Judah

After what Funke Akindele pulled off in “Battle of Buka Street” and “Omo Ghetto: The Saga”–two of Nollywood’s highest-grossing movies – we must have all lost the element of surprise as to how good her films can get, right?




Her latest movie “A Tribe Called Judah” utterly embarrassed DC’s blockbuster “Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom” at the Nigerian box office in a battle of Christmas specials. This is a huge task even for the so-called “new Nollywood.”



As of the time of this writing, the film has amassed an impressive a billion naira in earnings, making it the highest-grossing Nollywood movie of 2023 and, with this accomplishment, it has demolished the record set by “Battle of Buka Street.”


“A Tribe Called Judah” owes these mouth-watering numbers not only to a patriotic audience but also to its adept writers who possess a deep understanding of story structure and pacing. Encased in it are all the essential elements of what makes a story tick in such a balanced diet that ironically makes a movie review almost feel generic and routine. But, like Queen declared, “The show must go on.”


From the beginning, you are quite invested in the offerings of Funke Akindele and Adeoluwa Owu. You meet Funke’s Jedidah Judah (remember that last name. You’ll be hearing it quite a lot), a single mother of five–mostly problematic–sons, all products of her reckless loving. How problematic? Fifteen minutes in, one of her sons, Pere, is on a lynching row for pickpocketing, barely escaping with his skin intact.


We get introduced to the sons of Judah early on with beautifully styled title cards evocative of those used in “Suicide Squad” (2016). Emeka (Jide Kene Achufusi) and Adamu (Uzee Usman), the eldest of Jedidah’s children–and, expectably, her most responsible–are tasked with keeping their rebellious brethren, roughneck Shina (Tobi Makinde), light-fingered Pere (Timini Egbuson), and reckless Ejiro (Olumide Oworu) in line.



Jedidah’s resilience shines brightly, akin to a spot of ink on paper. She deserves praise for not succumbing to the “single mother with troublesome children ” stereotype that the media stamps–to devastating effect–on such a broad and vulnerable demographic.


Coming a long way from her trademark eccentric character, heightened in “Jenifa’s Diary” and “Battle on Buka Street,” Akindele wears her thespian virtuoso cloak to orchestrate emotions we weren’t familiar with, making the movie’s theme of the strength of motherhood sink even deeper.


Ringing loudly through the length and breadth of the movie like a siren on an ambulance – in melodious fashion – is the theme of unity and brotherhood, echoed by the division sowed early on within the Judah family. The constantly brimming chaos under the Judah roof and the golden “Nigerian mum” reactions take us back to our upbringing days, where there’s one in every family.


Resisting the urge to choose a favorite son among Judah’s five seems a herculean task. Tobi Makinde forces us to make that choice with his portrayal of Shina, made even more compelling by his unhealthily liked toxic relationship with Timini’s Pere.


Of all the things failing in the family, it is one kidney failure that proves the litmus test for a family as united as the stonemasons of the Tower of Babel. For this reason, when the brothers embark on a daring mall raid to save their financial status–and indeed their mother–doubts about the operation’s success are palpable not only from the audience but also from the characters themselves.


Typical of recent Nollywood blockbusters, “A Tribe Called Judah” seizes the opportunity to incorporate elements of social commentary – albeit subtly – evidenced mostly by the inconsistency in the “nativeness” of her children’s names.



One doesn’t casually see names such as “Emeka,” “Adamu,” and “Pere,” flying around in a Nigerian household. The film’s clever inclusion of this diversity, which serves as a microcosm of Nigeria’s cultural richness and how it lays the sons – their imperfections and subsequent successes – bare on an exemplary obelisk challenges the audience with the question, “If they can overcome, why can’t we?”


Adding depth to the narrative are the consequences for disunity, which the movie distributes via the opposing team that stands between the Judahs and their prize.


Even the “Japa Syndrome” wasn’t left untouched. When a lowly paid security guard openly – and proudly – confesses that he would do anything to exit Nigeria, even if it means committing the most heinous of crimes, words like “chai” and “it is well” cannot help but escape from our thoughts through our mouthpieces.


But can we blame them? As we can see at various points in the movie, their superiors care less to even hand out loans to dedicated workers in life-threatening situations.


As with any delightful story, a formidable antagonist that challenges and defines the hero (rather than the other way around) is pertinent. Such a dynamic is what makes Christopher Nolan’s “The Dark Knight” (2008) so revered.


“A Tribe Called Judah” fully understands this by penning two interesting antagonists in two of Emeka’s superiors: manager Collette (Nse Ikpe-Etim) and Chairperson (Uzor Arukwe).


Outshining Nse Ikpe-Etim is a feat that few have managed to achieve. Uzor Arukwe joins this list with the way he plays the stereotypical wealthy Igbo “importer-exporter” businessperson (to take nothing away from Nse’s impressive performance). Never does he take his performance overboard in a way that defeats the purpose.



Optimally balancing humor and truthfulness with a bit of the trademark Igbo “L/R” factor makes for one good and fearful baddie – one that knows his good fashion style too. Actors prone to over-frying their characters may want to have whatever Uzor had for breakfast before going on set.


The writers of “A Tribe Called Judah” truly deserve praise for putting forward a cohesive script, parallelling Jedidiah and Nigeria as both in need of healing from her sons. Poised front and center are the question: Would we, like the Judah brothers, set aside our differences for the collective well-being of our homeland? Or would we keep pushing the “each tribe to their own” (or as one security guard says, “all mallam with him kettle”) agenda that has plagued us for decades?


Amidst the unfolding spectacle in the mall, aided by meticulous diligence on the part of the costume designers, these profound reflections on national unity and overcoming tribal divisions may go unnoticed. That was the intentional strategy – a “catch it if you can” approach.


Last year’s “A Bag of Trouble” and “Egun” tried something similar with satisfactory results. But Funke Akindele perfected it. Or as they say locally, she “finished work.”


A tribe called judah poster

Release Date: December 15, 2023

Runtime: 2 hours and 14 minutes

Streaming Service: None Cinematic Release

Director: Funke Akindele-Bello

Cast: Funke Akindele-Bello, Jide Kene Achufusi, Uzee Usman, Timini Egbuson, Tobi Makinde, Olumide Oworu, Nse Ikpe Etim, Genoveva Umeh, Ebele Okaro, Uzor Arukwe, Yvonne Jegede, and Juliana Olayode.

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