It is not a new film. It was released in 1999 (and, according to the director, was premiered during the inauguration ceremony of at least one state government in Nigeria during the transition to civil rule in 1999). It was however a fresh intervention both as a way to look back at the country and where we’ve been, and as a way to contrast today’s movie production to where the industry had been. That was not the stated objective, of course, of the showing. This is my conjecture, purely. The film was screened as part of an exhibition of films at the annual film festival.
For me seeing the movie again for the umpteenth time, and for my family members who were watching the show for the first time, it was a a trip back into a familiar cultural resource. From the regular folk songs strategically placed into parts of the movie to reinforce particular didactic points, to the copious but tasteful use of proverbs and aphorisms, Saworoidẹ delights in ways that can’t be successfully described to a non-Yorùbá speaker. Even for Yorùbá speakers not fully versed in the oral literature, some appreciation of the work might lack in depth, but never completely. The story is well told, well shot, and very well portrayed by the seasoned actors. It’s sad to imagine native speakers of Yorùbá not being able to fully appreciate all of what the work serves to the viewer.
For someone familiar with some of the actors in the film, the showing was also a drive through memory lane. Now deceased Dr. Lárìnde Akinlẹ̀yẹ‘s efficient portrayal of a corrupt chief was and remains a bitter-sweet treasure. The actor and professor died at 56 from injuries sustained in a motor accident in Ibadan in 2004, but not before appearing in a couple of films by Mainframe, including Ó Le Kú (1998), Thunderbolt Magun (2001), among many others.
One question I forgot to ask the director Túndé Kèlání during the Q&A session at the end was how the casting process was like which resulted in a presence of some of the biggest veterans in Nigerian media in many of his movies. Saworoidẹ was written by Professor Akínwùnmí Iṣọ̀lá, and stars as big as names like Adébáyọ̀ Fálétí, Tóyọ̀sí Arígbábuwó, Lérè Pàímọ, Akínwùnmí Iṣọ̀lá, Bukky Wright, a young Kúnlé Afọláyan and a young Kabirat Káfidípẹ̀, among others.