Movie Review: Ma’ami – A Tunde Kelani Film

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One of the prevalent movie tropes in Nollywood is the single mother struggling to raise her children in the midst of harsh conditions, poverty and sexual predators, but eventually going on to good fortunes via her children who blossom and reward her labor of love. One reason for its prevalence is that this is a trope that easily resonates with the Nigerian folk as it is true-to-life and equally powerful. Nigerians see this scenario play out every day and watching this story unfold on screen till its denouement is a cathartic experience. So it’s a shame that Ma’ami fumbles in the way it handles its subject matter.

First and foremost let’s talk about the major problems with the movie. Plotting and Character development.

The story is told from Kashimawo’s point of view (at least attempts to). The use of flashbacks is not a new one, but this movie makes a mess of this. It seems every five minutes, Kashimawo has a flashback. That’s bad storytelling as it hurts the pacing of the story.

Poor character development rears its ugly head also. Older Kashimawo isn’t a really compelling character. He’s bland, boring and one-dimensional. He seems like someone who doesn’t really have much going on upstairs. This isn’t the actor’s fault – Wole Ojo. He dazzled in Façade so I know he’s a capable actor, therefore my blame goes to the scriptwriter. Lesson number one in screenwriting – do not give your protagonist bad or cheesy lines.

Talking about acting, Funke Akindele overacts. It’s a fact so obvious right now, it seems as though she’s parodying her Jenifa character each time she’s on screen. Her performance in Ma’ami suffered the same fate. Her character was so heavy handed at times that, if I wasn’t trying to remind myself that this is a Tunde Kelani movie, I’d have been rolling on the floor in laughter. Not good, especially as this happened frequently in the more emotional parts of the story. I think her star power is the only reason why she was offered this role because she was a poor fit for the Ma’ami character.

The young man who played young Kashimawo on the other hand was the standout performer in this movie. The kid was phenomenal. Don’t know why I haven’t seen more of him elsewhere but I hope to see him in better productions than this.

From my research, this movie is based on a book by Femi Osofisan. Now, the way this movie tells its story could work as a literary novel but as a movie, it needed a proper visual treatment and translation. For example, the constant flashbacks would be an intriguing element of a novel (stream of consciousness and what not) but here in this movie, it crippled the pacing.

Another thing that bugged me, and to buttress my point that the book ought to have been properly translated into a movie, Kashimawo plays for Arsenal FC. Why wasn’t this rewritten into him playing for a Nigerian club instead? It’s fiction and if properly handled, the Nigerian league could be portrayed as a prestigious one. Just look at Yellow Card. This idea would have been more pleasing than seeing meagerly designed sets and backdrops in a supposed international football match. Instead we never see Kashimawo play for his club (a big disappointment) and even when he “played” for Nigeria, that scene was lacking the mainframe trademark quality production values.

There were redeeming qualities about Ma’ami. As this movie is a Mainframe production, the picture quality is still one of the best in the business. The costumes, especially in the flashback scenes of the 70s and 80s were rock solid and impressive. I just wish these were accompanied by equally compelling storytelling.

I’m not saying Ma’ami is a bad movie. Oh, okay, I admit it, I think this is a bad movie. Note the keyword being ‘I’. My opinion. I was really disappointed. I have enjoyed Mr Kelani’s (and Mainframe movies) productions in the past. Yellow Card is one of my best movies ever. I also enjoyed watching Ole ku with my family way back when. But this was just… bad.

If you’re a Tunde Kelani fan and you’ve not seen Ma’ami, spare yourself. Wait for his next one. It should be better.

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4 thoughts on “Movie Review: Ma’ami – A Tunde Kelani Film

  1. Hey IBK! Was #YELLOWCARD a Nigerian movie?

  2. Nice review… I really was disappointed. I mean this is Tunde Kelani! I expect at least 85% perfection. But let’s blame the
    Nigerian factors

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