Year Released: 2007
Distributor: Prolens Movies
Running Time: 63 minutes
Rating/Recommended Audience: PG
Related Films/Series: N/A
For Fans Of: Dreams of Dust
-This film is on YouTube in 2 parts.
-Co-directors Eunice Omoregie and Austin Osar Aiyevbomwan also played two of the characters in this film.
-Hilarious in Hindsight: One piece of dialogue cause me to be reminded of a certain 90s band. One character says “I will ignore everything, but the girl.” Think about it for a second. If you don’t get the joke, then here’s some music for you.
-Benin is a country in West Africa that borders Togo and Nigeria. The capital is Porto Novo and the largest city is Cotonou (pronounced Coat-o-new).
Yes, I get to cover a film that’s from one of my “goal” countries on Iridium Eye. This movie deals with the small West African nation of Benin. I’ve had my eye on that country recently for different reasons but researching that nation brought up some interesting things. Did you know Benin has a ton of ancient art that’s in several museums and that country is suing to get their artwork back? Did you also know that it’s the same nation that had one of the first all-female military regiments centuries ago called the Dahomey Amazons and that infantry is literally the main inspiration of those bald female guards in Black Panther? Keep in mind, it was still a patriarchal nation back then, but they were progressive enough to do that in their pre-colonial history. Yup. That’s part of the history of Benin, but I’m going to tackle one of their movies.
Let’s see how good this film is from the former Dahomey Empire.
Ota-Ihenkhole takes place in one rural village in Benin. There are some brothers who have some land inherited from them after their parents have died. The youngest brother is Osayuware (pronounced Oh-Sah-You-Wa-Ray) who got the least of the inheritance and tends to be the most stubborn of the brothers. He falls in love with one of the local women named Osayuki, but both of their families don’t want it to happen due to their reputations and with more inheritances required. Osayuware’s eldest brother who becomes the de facto patriarch of his family constantly berates him for not being as responsible, yet he wants his youngest brother’s share for his own gain. Once the youngest brother plans on marrying Osayuki this causes a plot to harm Osayuware to prevent this marriage from happening. However, this plan backfires in a very unexpected way through some divine hands.
Well, this was an unexpected film, but this is Iridium Eye. This blog forces me to watch movies I would’ve never expected to have watched. Seeing this Beninese film certainly expanded my horizons as I went into this film blind. Osayuware was a character that I certainly got behind after some time. I thought he would just be some slacker guy in the first half, but he certainly matures. It looked like he was supposed to be this loser of a protagonist, but I was proven wrong when he calls out his eldest brother for his selfishness and self-righteousness which shows he’s not the only one who is imperfect. It looked like it would be a straightforward rural drama (well, rural Africa instead of something like Southern Gothic literature, of course), but there was a significant genre alteration later on which goes straight into supernatural territory in a way I didn’t see coming. I do admit that the supernatural stuff actually worked in the context of the story without being too left-field which I do appreciate. The naturalistic setting was nice with the forests and jungle around these small houses in the village. I liked the subplot with the Enogie who is this sick village elder. At first, I thought it was a throwaway plot point until he plays a major role in the latter third of the film which was a nice twist that lead to Osayuware’s redemption arc.
Ota-Ihenkhole does have some faults in the film. The neorealistic filming was fine, but the production did suffer in post. The jump cuts used with the angels felt cheap and the “spiritual” sound effects sounded way too much like noises from 80s video games despite this being created in 2007 which really hampers it. Besides Osayuware, Osayuki, and the Enogie, I had trouble finding out the other characters’ names. This has nothing to do with the characters’ names themselves, but I couldn’t tell who was who when I read the credits and started seeing all these names that may have been mentioned once or twice in passing assuming if they were mentioned at all. The subtitles also had some typos and grammatical errors which got distracting although it wasn’t as frequent as the movie Mano that I reviewed last month. The actor who portrayed Osayuware was alright most of the time, but during the scenes where he’s attacked, he oversold the effects by screaming way harder than any guy would in their situation which felt unbelievable. Look, I’m not the most macho person out there, but I don’t think I would’ve wailed that hard when I was tortured and caned like he was. The traditional soundtrack also got really repetitive for most of the movie which got on my nerves.
This Beninese film was an okay watch, but not a great one. The story itself did keep me interested and Osayuware worked as the main character. I do wish they would’ve improved in the production (visuals and sound) and been more clear with who’s who besides some of the main characters. Ota-Ihenkhole wasn’t a bad film with its potential, but I’d be lying if I said it was an instant classic.
Adjustable Point System:
Add 1-2 points if you like African cinema.
Subtract 1-3 points if you prefer pristine production.
-Osayuware’s character development
-The Enogie subplot
-Role reversal of the brother rivalry storyline (it’s the younger brother that’s wronged)
-Incredibly dated sound effects and visual editing
-Confusing who other character’s names are
Final Score: 6/10 points
Content Warning: This movie would probably get a hard PG if this were rated in America. There are some conversations in passing about trading husbands or bigamy even though nothing happens. The torture scenes with Osayuware get intense with him being caned, whipped, tied to a tree, blindfolded, and having leaves stuffed in his mouth.
All photos used under US “Fair Use” laws. Ota-Ithenkhole is property of Eunice Omoregie, Austin Osar Aiyevbomwan, and Prolens Movies. The screenshot is from YouTube and is property of Prolens Movies.