Movie Review: Omugwo

Director: Kunle Afolayan

Story/Script: Kemi Adesoye

Cast: Patience Ozokwor, Ken Erics, Omowunmi Dada and Ayo Adesanya

Year: 2017

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The birth of a baby In Igboland and other eastern Nigerian ethnic groups means that the nursing mother and child have to be cared for by a very close and experienced female relation. In most cases, the person who takes care of her is her mother.

The grandmother stays weeks after the child is born to care for her grandchild, her daughter, and son-in-law. Bathing the new baby and even the mother, also helping to cook, wash and tidy the home for at least a period of two to three months for post-partum. Traditionally, after the mom leaves, the mother in law then comes to stay for her own Omugwo visit.

There are also special delicacies that the grandmother has to prepare, the food cooked within this period helps the mother regain lost blood/strength and gets her back in shape among many other benefits.  This is part of a highly anticipated phase in the life of many Igbo women. What is described as “Omugwo” happens across other cultures but the name “Omugwo” belongs to the Igbo’s.

Newlyweds, Omotunde, a young civil engineer and Raymond, an Online Radio Personality are expecting their first child. Omotunde experiences labor on a construction site and Raymond receives the news while presenting his regular radio show. He announces to his listeners before zooming off to see his wife. The news travels to his mother, Chimamanda (Patience Ozokwor) and his wife’s mother (Ayo Adesanya). While Chimamanda is consumed by the joy of being a grandmother, Candace loathes the news. One mother represents tradition, the other represents western obsession. To be a grandmother means a signification of old age, which is totally unacceptable for Candace. To be a grandmother means additional blessing for Chimamanda, it is a duty she has been called to life to experience. It is a stage that is inevitable, one that she has prayed for.

The writer, Kemi Adesoye enjoys the exploration of different cultures, in her last collaboration with Kunle Afolayan, Kemi dispatches two strangers to experience the family culture of each other. Akin finds himself in Owerri and Mary in Abuja, I am talking Phone Swap. In Omugwo, Omotunde (Omowunmi Dada) is Yoruba and Raymond (Ken Erics) is igbo.

It is the second time the director has helmed comedy, even though we cannot applaud him for the storyline, it is the job of the writer, Kemi Adesoye. Comedy owns the box-office in Nigeria. Make a good comedy and see how Nigerians buy seats at the cinema. It is incredible to watch Adesoye, collaborate with Afolayan again; they make an engaging film that should give us an hour of escapism, which many of us plead for. The beauty of her writing is the effortless flow of humor, there are lessons to take out of the cinema, and maybe a slang or two created for the sake of humor.

The collaboration between Afolayan and Africa Magic has two targets; the first is to create a critically satisfying film, and then, to produce a commercial success. Afolayan has never been one to concern himself with aggressive marketing; his name does all the talking. This time Africa Magic should help target a new audience for the filmmaker. His collaboration with the giant network was first teased at the 2015 AMVCA and now we get to see it on screen, and it is worth the wait. Africa Magic has a time limit for all films and it is reflected on “Omugwo”, for the filmmaker his wild interest in creating engaging visuals does not go missing. You feel Afolayan all over the film because even in its simplicity, you feel the film’s exceptional direction.

Afolayan relaxes with Omugwo. There are no mysteries in this one. Even Phone Swap has a little mystery. “Omugwo” is purely relatable for mothers and is an exploration of an aspect of a culture. It also takes on Post-Partum depression. After childbirth what is the state of the woman’s mind? The concern of weight, of an incredibly tasking adjustment, of a new demand, all these questions play a part in Omugwo. Adesoye gets totally feminist with this one, probably an inspiration from Chimamanda Adichie, she uses the character of Chimamanda to reprimand Raymond on his role as a new father, in an elevating scene that proves that Omugwo was not made solely for profits, but also, to start a conversation on birth and the role of each family member to the woman and the child after childbirth.

Patience Ozokwor is Chimamanda. The joy of receiving a grandchild and the beauty of coming to take care of it is what keeps Ozokwor active through the film. It is a role she has featured in several times before. It is because of such roles, we have come to love her, but in Omugwo it feels different. Omugwo is for the cinemas and not DVD and when it completes its cinema run, it will be on Africa Magic, the audience that prefers watching films at home will see Ozokwor, in this role, which she has performed before but with the direction of Afolayan, she portrays Chimamanda with mastered agility.

Ken Erics does a good job. There is a ripe excitement that comes with seeing him in such an important role. Ken is a good actor that has been in supporting roles and always does a good job of it. It is his time to shine and he shines well.

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