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“Orisa” Marries Myth and Mayhem in Messy but Memorable Morality Tale

“Orisa” beckons audiences into a realm where tradition, power, and the supernatural converge, crafting a narrative that seeks to both entertain and enlighten.
February 22, 2024
2:14 pm

In the realm of Yoruba Nollywood cinema, historical epics have long held a special place, captivating audiences with tales of valor and myth. “Orisa,” directed by Odunlade Adekola, emerges as an addition to this tradition, telling a tale of power, betrayal, and redemption against the backdrop of a kingdom in turmoil.


The story begins with a chilling twist of fate as King Adefolarin descends into madness, leaving his kingdom at the mercy of the ruthless bandit, Komokomo. This pivotal moment sets the stage for an exploration of power dynamics, loyalty, and the enduring struggle between good and evil.


The ensemble cast, led by the dynamic performances of Adekola and Femi Adebayo, breathes life into their characters, adding layers of complexity to the unfolding drama.


A cornerstone of “Orisa” lies in its visual aesthetics, a carefully curated narrative that draws inspiration from the vibrant elements of Yoruba culture. The costumes and set designs not only transport the audience to a bygone era but also serve as visual metaphors, enriching the narrative with a profound sense of authenticity.



However, the film’s reliance on CGI, while showcasing Nollywood’s strides in visual effects, occasionally falls short of delivering a seamless cinematic experience.


Navigating the world painted by “Orisa” requires a keen understanding of its thematic undertones. Beyond the surface-level drama, the film delves into profound questions of fate, morality, and the consequences of unchecked power.


The narrative arc, although compelling, unfolds at a breakneck pace, occasionally hindering the emotional resonance of important moments. This narrative urgency, while injecting a sense of thrill, leaves some threads of the plot unraveling without proper exploration; the idea of “show, don’t tell” doesn’t seem to be abided by.


A noteworthy aspect of “Orisa” lies in its comparison to contemporaneous releases within the Yoruba Nollywood genre. Drawing parallels with recent films like “King of Thieves,” “Anikulapo,” and “Elesin Oba,” one observes a renaissance of traditional epics that burgeons within the industry. Each film, while sharing thematic similarities, brings forth distinct nuances in storytelling, characterization, and visual presentation. “Orisa,” in particular, aligns itself as a tragedy.


Despite its imperfections, “Orisa” stands as proof of the evolution of Nollywood, embodying both its strengths and areas for improvement. The film’s exploration of cultural elements, coupled with stellar performances, positions it as a commendable endeavor. Shaffy Bello’s portrayal as the grieving wife stands out, injecting a poignant authenticity into the narrative.



In dissecting the filmmaking style of “Orisa,” Adekola, wearing multiple hats of executive producer, director, and actor, navigates the challenges with commendable dexterity. His performance, though occasionally marred by excessive energy, aligns seamlessly with the overall tone of the film.


Adebayo, in his role as the menacing Komokomo, amplifies the stakes with his vibrant portrayal. Muyiwa Ademola complements the ensemble with a noteworthy embodiment of his character.


The film’s editing, while showcasing improvements in the Nollywood landscape, still grapples with occasional pacing issues. The CGI, a double-edged sword, impresses in most instances but falters in its execution during crucial scenes.


The makeup department, although contributing to the overall aesthetic, stumbles with the authenticity of tribal marks in certain scenes.


“Orisa” may not be without its flaws, but its significance within the larger narrative of Nollywood’s evolution cannot be overlooked. It beckons audiences to ponder the enduring allure of traditional epics and their timeless resonance.


“Orisa” ventured onto the cinemas on July 21, 2023, making its mark in theaters and later got a streaming service release on Amazon Prime Video starting Feb. 2, 2024.



Release Date: February 2, 2024

Runtime: 1 hour and 45 minutes

Streaming Service: Amazon Prime Video

Director: Odunlade Adekola

Cast: Odunlade Adekola, Femi Adebayo, Shaffy Bello, Jide Kosoko, Dele Odule, Muyiwa Ademola, and Eniola Ajao.

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