ANIKULAPO (2022) is a Nigerian period drama steeped in Yoruba culture and rich in African charm, offering a cautionary tale about desire and hubris. Overall, I liked it but had issues with the pacing and long runtime.
The film is framed as an epic, and it has a strong mythic quality in its simple storytelling and characters driven by primal desires. In what I’m guessing is the 1800s, Saro, a wandering weaver, arrives at the village of Oyo to make his fortune. Just when he really starts to make it, he elopes with Arolake, one of the king’s wives, who is suffering at the palace due to the jealousy of the other queens in the harem. Captured, he is beaten but it given a second chance at life due to a magical gourd that in turn gives him the power to raise the dead. Despite his second chance at life, this power may be his downfall.
There’s a lot to like here. The simple mythic quality, the magical element, the culture, the terrific sets and costumes, and the likeable couple of Saro and Arolake, it’s all terrific stuff. Where it sagged for me was in the pacing and a little in the characterization. The characters pretty much all talk and act like children swept by their desires, they have conversations taking a long time that in Western culture would only take a few minutes, and because it’s very simple to guess where the plot is going, the nearly two-hour runtime feels a lot longer.
Nonetheless, I enjoyed it for its positive qualities and the sheer novelty of it. I’d love to see more like it for sure. The movie is being marketed as GAME OF THRONES set in historical Africa, and it came nowhere near that for me, but goddamn, wouldn’t that be awesome if somebody did make that?