Japa Syndrome: Quest for Better Reality Leads to Deadly Consequences in Kunle Afolayan’s “Ìjọ̀gbọ̀n”
“If you come with me to Canada, we can start our life together. We can start afresh….” These are the words echoed by Jamiu, the unofficial leader and one of the four adolescent friends who stumble upon strange diamonds buried in the soil of their village in Oyo State. Three hopeful eyes are glued on him as he passionately speaks these words to Oby, his love interest.
With solid determination in their mind, they vow to keep their discovery a secret and devise plans to sell the diamonds, leave their village, and “japa” (travel abroad).
Of course, it is easy to judge the youngsters. Accuse them of theft. Accuse them of building their future around ill-gotten wealth. Accuse them of naively thinking that they could leave their village and travel to Canada with no questions asked.
But if you were in their shoes, living in the same conditions that they were, wouldn’t you do the same? That’s the question that “Ìjọ̀gbọ̀n” probably wants you to think about. To condemn from the outside is simple, but the film exposes the true folly of man when he is tempted with what he does not have.
Being tempted with what you do not have and falling for the temptation is not always a walk in the park. Jamiu, Ranti, Oby, and Omo Oba unfortunately pocketed precious stones that belong to people who want their diamonds back and would kill them if necessary to get them.
Another question to ponder over: If someone steals your valuable property, wouldn’t you do anything to get it back?
Two questions. Two sides of the divide. Whichever is right or wrong, “Ìjọ̀gbọ̀n” invites you to decide. The film makes no choice for you as it instead uses its brilliant narrative technique, fantastic casting, and aesthetically pleasing cinematography to draw you in till you conclude using your moral compass.
The casting for “Ìjọ̀gbọ̀n” could not have been more perfect. Using fresh faces in Nollywood is exactly the type of energy the movie industry needs. Nurturing young talents seems to be something that Kunle Afolayan invests in heavily (nod to the KAP Film & Television Academy) and it is so beautiful to see.
Not only do Fawaz Aina, Ebiesuwa Oluwaseyi, Ruby Akubueze, and Kayode Ojuolape Jnr nail their roles as Omo Oba, Ranti, Oby, and Jamiu respectively, but they have successfully proven that they deserve to be mainstays in Nollywood. You could tell just how much hard work and dedication they put into their respective roles.
Adding into the mix Nollywood veterans such as Femi Branch, Gabriel Afolayan, Bimbo Manuel, and Sam Dede brought the film full circle and made it a pleasurable one to watch. What was not pleasurable however was Adunni Ade’s portrayal of a crime boss. Her scenes may have been few, but she could have at least made it memorable by putting an effort. Her character was hardly intimidating and quite frankly, her addition to the plot could have been penciled out.
It is no secret that when it comes to cinematography, Kunle Afolayan is the right man for the job. From “Citation” to “Anikulapo,” he has perfected the craft of outstanding camera work, impeccable lighting, and getting great locations to match scenes in his projects. “Ìjọ̀gbọ̀n” masterfully portrays village life and how it is so different from life in the city: bathing in the stream, cooking with a charcoal pot, mud houses, and tales by moonlight as the source of entertainment for children.
Also, the usage of Yoruba folklore is commendable. The film opens with a woman relating the tale of how the Yoruba god Oramiyan was blessed with incredible wealth in the form of minerals and he hid them in the soil. Men found these minerals and due to greed and anger, they began to turn on each other and kill for a piece of the minerals.
Eager children hang on to her every word and they prove true in the lives of Jamiu, Ranti, Omo Oba, and Oby. The diamonds they found turned the quartet’s friendship sour and at the end of the day, they had no claim to the wealth.
The one fault that can be found in “Ìjọ̀gbọ̀n” is the nagging question on everyone’s mind: What happened to Omo Oba? In the last scene he appeared in, he was fighting for his life in the local hospital so is he dead or alive? Maybe we would never know, but the film’s message is clear: Japa Syndrome (when exhibited the wrong way) has disastrous consequences.
“Ìjọ̀gbọ̀n” is definitely a reflective project and a call for an inward search into the true nature of mankind when people are tempted with what they do not have. It is without a doubt a good watch and is now streaming on Netflix.
Release Date: October 13, 2023
Runtime: 1 hour 55 minutes, and 32 seconds
Streaming Service: Netflix
Director: Kunle Afolayan
Cast: Fawaz Aina, Ebiesuwa Oluwaseyi, Ruby Akubueze, Kayode Ojuolape Jnr, Yemi Sodimu, Bimbo Manuel, Sam Dede, Femi Branch, Femi Adebayo, Gabriel Afolayan, Funky Mallam, Bolaji Amusan, Tana Adelana, and Adunni Ade