‘Ijakumo’: A Tangled Tale of Revenge and Redemption
In the vast landscape of storytelling, religious institutions have often served as inspirations for narratives exploring themes of hypocrisy and moral dilemmas, especially in Nigerian films. Adebayo Tijani’s film, Ijakumo: The Born-Again Stripper, ventures into this territory, aiming to deliver a thought-provoking tale of revenge and redemption within the confines of religious structures. However, despite its audacious premise, the film falters in its execution.
At its core, Ijakumo revolves around the tempestuous relationship between Asabi (Debbie Shokoya, Toyin Abraham), the daughter of an ifa priest, and Olajide (Olumide Oworu, Kunle Remi). Asabi becomes Olajide’s pillar of support, guiding him towards success and even introducing him to her father to acquire a charm that promises to expand his ministerial reach.
However, her father’s astute intuition detects Olajide’s insincerity and warns Asabi to distance herself from him, predicting an unfavourable outcome. Blinded by love, Asabi fails to recognize Olajide’s misogynistic and self-centred nature, an attribute that later leads to their separation. Consumed by a thirst for vengeance, Asabi hires a professional stripper to dismantle Olajide’s newfound prosperity.
While the plot may appear relatively straightforward, Ijakumo succumbs to the temptation of overcomplication, resulting in a convoluted narrative filled with plot holes and loose ends. The film’s title itself, Ijakumo: The Born-Again Stripper, is misleading, as the story does not solely revolve around a stripper seeking revenge. This initial confusion extends to the supporting cast, whose roles within the overarching narrative remain unclear and muddled from beginning to end.
One of the film’s glaring weaknesses lies in its failure to strike a harmonious balance between metaphysical elements and the pursuit of wealth. Pastor Olajide’s sponsors, known as “The Syndicate,” initially appear as a metaphysical force but soon reveal themselves to be a group of influential individuals seeking power through wealth rather than supernatural means. This disconnect diminishes the cohesion of the film, leaving viewers yearning for a more seamless integration of these contrasting elements.
Further contributing to the film’s narrative disarray is its inconsistent progression. Asabi possesses formidable metaphysical powers, which she could easily employ to manipulate her surroundings and retrieve what was taken from her. Yet, the film chooses to convolute her path to vengeance, opting for needlessly elaborate schemes that strain credibility. Moreover, certain plot developments lack tension and significance, trivializing their importance and detracting from the film’s overall impact.
One aspect of Ijakumo that demands caution is its explicit content, which renders it unsuitable for viewers below the age of 18. The film includes uncensored scenes and nudity without adequate forewarning, thereby undermining its accessibility and alienating a potential audience segment. Additionally, the film falls prey to the pervasive practice of incorporating advertisements within the plot, disrupting the flow and immersion of the viewing experience. While Toyin Abraham’s creative prowess is evident, her recurrent inclusion of promotional content hampers the narrative’s integrity.
Despite these shortcomings, the film’s cast manages to salvage some semblance of coherence through their decent performances. Olumide Oworu, Kunle Remi, and Debbie Shokoya effectively portray their characters, injecting much-needed definition into an otherwise complicated plot. Notably, the return of Bimbo Akintola to the big screen adds a touch of elegance, but even the talented ensemble struggles to grasp the depths of their characters’ motivations within the tangled web of the narrative.
Ijakumo, unfortunately, lacks the depth and attention to detail necessary to captivate and sustain audience’s interest throughout its runtime. As the story unfolds, the film fails to explore its potential fully, leaving viewers longing for a more exquisitely crafted and engaging experience. Its untapped potential, however, remains apparent, offering a glimpse of the captivating and enthralling tale that could have been.
One cannot help but ponder the missed opportunities that abound within Ijakumo. The film’s premise holds promise, with themes of revenge, redemption, and the collision of faith and immorality at its core. These themes, when deftly explored, have the potential to provoke introspection and ignite meaningful discussions. Regrettably, Ijakumo falls short of realizing this potential, delivering a narrative that lacks the necessary depth to provoke profound thought or leave an impression.
The film’s struggles with coherence and storytelling begin with its meandering plot, which weaves through a myriad of subplots and unnecessary scenes. Rather than enhancing the narrative, these additional layers dilute its impact and muddle the central themes. The audience is left grappling with an overabundance of loose ends and unresolved character arcs, undermining the emotional investment necessary for a truly immersive cinematic experience.
The titular character, the “Born Again Stripper,” remains one of the film’s greatest enigmas. While Sharon (Okunsanya Lolade) is indeed a stripper in the story, her role fails to align with the expectations set by the film’s title. This incongruity confuses the audience, leaving them questioning the central focus of the narrative and diminishing the film’s overall cohesion. The lack of clarity extends beyond Sharon’s character, permeating the entire ensemble. The relevance and purpose of several supporting characters remain elusive, hindering the audience’s ability to fully invest in the unfolding events.
Moreover, the film’s thematic exploration of metaphysics and wealth fails to find a delicate equilibrium. Pastor Olajide’s association with “The Syndicate” initially suggests a mystical, metaphysical underpinning. However, as the narrative progresses, this notion dissipates, and the group is reduced to a mere assembly of influential individuals driven by materialistic ambitions. This shift in focus dilutes the film’s supernatural aspects and leaves them feeling inconsequential, robbing the story of its potential intrigue and dread.
While Ijakumo stumbles in its narrative execution, it does offer fleeting moments of entertainment. The film occasionally succeeds in eliciting laughter from the audience, with well-timed comedic elements injecting some levity into an otherwise muddled storyline. Sensuality and eroticism are also present throughout the film, though their inclusion feels more gratuitous than purposeful, failing to enhance the narrative or contribute meaningfully to character development.
With its release in cinemas in 2022 and the recent availability on streaming platforms, including Netflix, Ijakumo gathers a talented cast to bring its flawed vision to life. Bimbo Akintola’s return to the screen after a prolonged absence is a welcome sight, and her performance adds a touch of gravitas to the film. The ensemble’s efforts, though hindered by the script’s shortcomings, offer glimpses of their potential, displaying moments of earnestness and commitment to their respective roles. However, their talents alone cannot compensate for the film’s inherent narrative deficiencies.
Ultimately, Ijakumo fails to meet the expectations it sets for itself. The film’s ambition to explore themes of revenge, redemption, and the complexities of religious institutions is commendable but falls victim to poor execution. Its convoluted plot, underdeveloped characters, and lack of thematic cohesion prevent it from resonating with the audience on a profound level. While there are moments of entertainment and glimpses of promise within Ijakumo, they are fleeting and overshadowed by the film’s overall mediocrity.
Release Date: June 23, 2023
Runtime: 1 hour, 57 minutes, 27 seconds
Streaming service: Netflix
Director: Adebayo Tijani
Cast: Toyin Abraham, Kunle Remi, Olamide Oworu, Debbie Shokoya, Bimbo Akintola, Lolade Ogunsanya, Lilian Afegabi, Nojeem Ajala, Kolade Ajeyemi, Segun Arinze, Eso Dike, and Mike Godson