Film & Television

Jagun Jagun: Exposing Tyranny with A Classic Cinematic Clapback

Jagun Jagun Poster image


Let’s just start with the fact that I hate violent movies. Generally, I watch romantic comedy and suspense movies. But after seeing the deluge of social media reviews especially from highly respected members of the Nigerian culture community, I knew I had to brace myself and watch. Again, I had to watch for 2hrs 14mins. I could only pray that it’s worth my time. Aside from the beautiful picturesque aerial shot that opens the Jagun Jagun movie, and a few comic scenes, I had no need for the snacks beside me with the sanguinary sights that conveyed the horror story of warfare.

Produced by Femi Adebayo, the movie has an unlikely war hero character- a soft spoken actor without a track record of acting a villain. Yes, I was curious to see the movie as soon as I saw the poster and trailer. I can’t deny that my expectation was very low, considering the roles Adebayo had been boxed overtime. I wouldn’t have cast him for that role. That can only happen in a self-produced film. But did he nail the role?

Of course, he did. Femi Adebayo embodied the persona of Ogundiji, the lead character with a fearsome look and demeanor while the other aspects of the role interpretation such as directing, special effect, sound, costume and makeup made up for the voice- which was the most powerful tool in classical theatre. Gbotija (Lateef Adedimeji) is a well-developed supporting actor role in the script. Perhaps, due to the unforeseen challenge at the location of the movie, the role was given a twist: Gbotija was injured during the prep shoot-out that welcomed the new recruits to the Ogundiji School of Warriors. I have always respected Adedimeji since his portrayal of Ayinla Omowura in Ayinla. He simply soaks in the character and lives it.

But the school is where I had issues with the story. The War school setting, that is the production design, seemed so familiar- reminiscent of The Woman King’s. I didn’t want anything that could pass for a copy and paste narrative. But somehow, Adebayo managed to deliver what seems like an African parallel to the Game of Thrones. One of the most interesting things about the story is the use of language. The script- written by Femi Adebayo and Adebayo Tijani- reflects the beauty and wit in the Yoruba language which was totally lost in translation. If you don’t understand Yoruba language, you would at least hear the rhymes. With the volume of rhymes that I heard in Jagun Jagun, I wonder why Yoruba rappers are so few. Having the legendary Jimi Solanke as the narrator in the story is orgasmic and nolstagic. A master storyteller, he gave a whiff of Storyland for the non-GenZs. In fact, seeing Yinka Quadri taking the role of a wise man is quite fascinating for movie enthusiasts who had seen as Fagbamila, a villain made out of the numerous drama pieces from Afopina Theatre Group. It’s a fair retirement role for a former movie warrior.

A scene from Jagun Jagun

Jagun Jagun is one production that perfectly blended the old and new generation of actors- including renowned comedy skitmakers. The comedian, Yemi Elesho demonstrates that he is more than just a promising actor.  He assumed the persona of Wehinwo, presenting a likeable character right from his moment of entry into the war school and his sad ending. His ‘charred corpse’ is another technical win for this movie. The most intrigue in the story rests in Agemo (Bukunmi Oluwashina)- a character shrouded in mystery, evoking fear. In Yoruba traditional religion, Agemo is a deity among the Ijebus and a servant of the Gods and known as a chameleon. The movie’s interpretation of this role though fictitious is very clever; saying more would mean spitting some movie spoilers. And need I add that Ayo Ajewole is born a clown? Debo Adebayo aka Mr Macaroni is still evolving when it comes to projecting villainy – his strength is still very much in comedy, with no offense.

Adebayo spins a love story into a sadistic war-themed movie laced with a strong political message to the tyrannical ruling class who usurp political and economic powers. And you might also see it as an eye-opener also for those Nigerian youths who are manipulated during elections to cause tribal feuds and electoral violence. That’s why the movie is a classic clapback for all the internet rage over tribal superiority, heated tribal sentiments and a crisis that peels the old wounds of Biafran war for some older citizens.

Women are positioned in Jagun Jagun not as voiceless subordinates but as intelligent allies to men in the face of war. We see this in the character of Erinfunto and Kitan. Women are queens of diplomacy and sometimes, intentionally foul-mouthed. The movie soundtrack has been the talk of the town. Tolu Obanro is credited for the original music cooked in AntHill Studios but who is the world is the super-charged rock star-quality vocalist? And the incantatory poet? And Dolapo Adigun- the movie editor, I hope a luxury vacation treat is part of her contract because she must have invested her soul into assembling this masterpiece with a potential reference in a movie masterclass, raising the bar for Nollywood. Jagun Jagun is made of painstaking effort, time, wide consultation, attention to details and heavy budget. You can’t make a better one without those considerations.



-Written by Yinka Olatunbosun, a culture journalist.



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