Movie title: Amina
Release date: 4th November, 2021.
Runtime: 1hour 45mins
Produced by: Okechukwu Ogunjiofor
Director: Izu Ojukwu
Cast: Lucy Ameh, Ummi Mohammed, Ali Nuhu, Yakubu Mohammed, Dan Chris Ebie, Abu Chris Gbakann, Usman Tijani, Clarion Chukwura, Godwin Ogaga, Victoria Nweke, Ogunjiofor Jenevieve
The movie Amina is a historical representation of the Queen Amina of Zazzua (now known as Zaria). I’m pretty sure we must have learnt about heroes and heroines of Nigeria at some point in our lives, such as Queen Moremi of Ile-Ife, Ovonramwen of Benin to mention a few. Since it’s a historical movie, the producers are allowed to be creative with their plot and make it as exciting as they would like it to be, especially because there isn’t a particular document that gives us accurate and detailed information on the type of life Amina lived from birth till death. I mean we are considering an event that happened as far back as the early 16th century, that’s a really long time ago. But I must say that after proper research, I realized that a lot of important information was either wrong or completely omitted. For example, there is a scene where the Madaki said that “no woman has ever sat on the throne of Zazzua”. Well that’s not historically accurate because Amina’s mother, Bakwa Turunku, ruled as Queen before Amina and for this I would have to call out the producers for such a slip that is somewhat misleading. The movie also made no mention of her brother Karami who also ruled before her. In fact, he was completely omitted. If I did not research, I would be completely unaware of his existence. May I also add that considering the date of these events the Sarki holds an office in the movie but funny thing is that it is the British who introduced that office. Technically, the Sarki should not exist, yet he does in “Amina”. What is bothersome is that this movie isn’t one that’s based on fantasy, it is a historical event meaning these people existed and lived actual lives. Therefore, I expect the producers to get their facts right and not bamboozle us with truncated information.
We watch Amina grow up to be a spectacular young lady who challenges the norms of her society and dares to be different. She requests to be trained in the arts of weapons and warfare by a one-eyed Kabarkai even when women aren’t supposed to be involved in such, daring the norms. Such skills eventually came in handy as she defended her family’s heritage from the betrayal of the supposed Madaki (the commander of the military). We see as love and loss take place in her life and cause her to be fiercer than ever. With time she connects with the prophecy that was spoken upon her at birth and now her name is known in all Hausa land. After seeing this movie, I was in utter confusion because of how scattered and unorganized the plot looks. In fact I had to see it twice which I must confess was a struggle for me and guess what’s worse, I am a sucker for historical movies. That brings us to the big question, what went wrong?
DIRECTING AND SCREENPLAY
This movie contains a lot of war scenes, it’s setting should be in the early 16th century when there wasn’t Netflix or bowling alleys, so they often just went to war. This is clearly represented in the movie right from the opening scene, as we see some sort of subtle gladiator game ongoing where slaves are asked to fight the Kabarkai in exchange for their freedom. This scene in particular was interesting and had my attention but as it went on and I started to notice some things that had me in utter disbelief, my interest lost steam. I started to ask questions like why does the blood look like palm oil? Why does the cries of the Kabarkai sound like he wasn’t just stabbed in the eye? Why am I not seeing the blades actually cut the flesh yet there seems to be blood spill everywhere? And in that very moment, they lost me.
It wasn’t just for these reasons that I started to question some things, it’s the fact that the whole movie did not cover the story of Queen Amina as it should. Maybe it might have had a better chance at development if it came as a limited series. The only character we were able to see develop was Amina, the producers seemed to ignore the fact that there were other characters that needed that development as well; such as her sister, Zaria, her lover Danjuma and her slave-turned-friend Amina Ameh. Still in development, we see Amina speak of her inexperience in the matters of love and less than 10 minutes into the movie, Amina is completely head over heels for this Danjuma. It had me confused. The love story had zero development which left me not so in love with their love and had me in utter confusion as well. Fun fact, Queen Amina took lovers in every town she passed, and after a one-night-stand with them they would be secretly beheaded so they do not live to tell the tale of being with the Queen, intriguing right?
The one thing they did get right were the hairstyles. Anyone who sees the characters would know that these are indigenes of a tribe in Hausa land, so I must commend them for that. The Sarki (the King) was costumed properly, he was particularly more adorned than the rest which gave us a clear-cut definition of his authority. The slaves were also clearly distinguished, making them look as shabby as possible was also good as well. Sadly, I cannot say the same for the soldiers. At some point I found it hard to distinguish a Zazzua soldier from and one from Igala and some others that I have no idea where they belong, coupled with the fact that their uniforms looked like a poor combination of calico fabrics, so much for an “elite military”. Plus, why would Queen Amina wear one costume throughout the movie? A royalty? Come on! That’s just a poor representation of her character.
In terms of the performances of the cast, I would give a standing ovation to the child actor that played young Amina (Ogunjiofor Jenevieve), her performance was full of confidence and energy for she understood the assignment. It did not feel soulless and out of clue like some other child actors I’ve seen. No, I won’t call names (FJ in blood sisters). It almost had me questioning her age as she showed interest in the matters of politics and military. Eventually I had to come to terms with the fact that she’s just really good and has a bright future in acting. As for the older Amina (Lucy Ameh) who happens to be the lead, simply could not carry the character past endless scowls and the constant exhausting refrain of “I am Amina, I fear nobody”. She did not have the fierceness to deliver the power required to perform the great Amina of Zazzua. Asides that, I have to applaud the Sarki (Abu Chris Gbakann) for a wonderful performance. He was able to clearly deliver whatever role he was given: a loving father, an outraged king, a mourning man. While I write on performance, I could not help but notice that some actors struggled to fluently speak with the Hausa accent. It felt as though they were urged to constantly undergo such labor and in all honesty, that’s sad.
The directing of the movie was done by Izu Ojukwu. A Nigerian film director who has been in the industry for a while. Some of his latest works being: Power of One (2018), ’76 (2016), Alero’s symphony (2010) to mention a few. I believe that the directing of the movie could have been so much better and from reviews and hearsays, Ojukwu has done much better in the past but this being the first of his works I’m seeing, I can boldly say that I am not particularly impressed. He may conveniently want to have blamed the shortcomings on the lack of archives of past events because most of our history is being passed down in the form of oral literature. Be it as it may, I don’t agree that that is excuse enough.
The producers would have saved a lot of time and money if they had simply redirected us to Wikipedia, at least we would be better enlightened. I have come to a conclusion on what my ratings should be and I would give it a 4 out of 10 because of the historical inaccuracies and facts outrightly omitted, as well as the not up-to-par CGI. If you are truly interested in the life of Queen Amina of Zazzua, I would advise you just google it.