It was with a lot of anticipation that I went to watch an exclusive preview of Tunde Kelani’s Mainframe Productions latest movie effort, Ma’ami. Though, I was on the set for a few hours during the Lagos shoot, I could barely make out the story from the rushes, but, last Sunday, I found out the movie is a tear-jerker, an emotional story of a young lad, Kashy, (Ayomide Abatti) whose mother has always been the centre of his life, his hope and his mirror but as fate would have it, she leaves him unannounced and the burden of life squarely falls on him. Now, that he longs for his long absent father, he’s crossed between answering a call to serve his fatherland and solving his haunting, emotional problem.
Ma’ami , adapted from a novel with same title written by Femi Osofisan and screen played by Tunde Babalola, takes the viewer through the throes of life of a mother and her unrelenting strive to make a strong personality out of her only son. Her husband, Chief Bamisaye (Olumide Bakare) she finds out, has sacrificed her first child, Korede, in a money ritual and pronto, she flees.
Ma’ami, played by award winning actress, Funke Akindele, takes her off her usual glam pictures and roles to more sober and serious character. “I was right that Funke has an incredible role to play. Everybody think she’s a glamour girl but I’m convinced that she could depict the battles that most of our mothers go through in life. It’s not that Kashy does not have a father but the mother chose to set the young boy on a straight path in life and far from his evil-minded father. In the movie, Funke will be judged more on her creative performance. She exhibited a lot of creative energy and this shows even in her private life.”
Kelani looks at the varieties and the complexities of domestic violence and the conflicting desires for change among women. Ma’ami beams on the veiled reality behind many noveaux riches in our society and interestingly, the politics in our football. Though the movie was conceived to be released before the World Cup in South Africa, it was not to be due to logistics. However, nearly eight months after the mundial, Kelani puts on record the participation of Nigeria at the first ever World Cup tournament in Africa. “It has to be documented that Nigeria played in the World Cup that took place for the first time on the soil of Africa. We have nearly forgotten the World Cup took place in South Africa. You can also see the germane discussion on our football administration and its management. It is cheering now that we have Samson Siasia, a Nigerian at the helm of affairs.”
Shot in Lagos and Abeokuta, the director subtly brings the transformed Lagos as well as the breathtaking, panoramic view of the rock city into shots. Kelani found good locations in his ancestral home as well as the primary school he attended over five decades ago.” It’s like I’m living it. I have lived in every spot the movie was shot. Ma’ami’s room was in the middle of my father’s house, we used his table, his bed. So for me, it’s like going back to my childhood. Infact, the report card young Kashy showed his mother was my younger brother, Wale’s report card. I attended the same primary school.
With his successful exploits at the English Premiership, Kashy, a deadly Arsenal FC striker was invited by Nigeria to play in South Africa. He became homebound and with scores of flashbacks, Kelani told the story of his past in wanton poverty with his mum. His memories of his past are not hazy; the details continue to haunt him. They could not even afford to have meat with every meal. Ma’ami, survived a rapist onslaught and kept silent. She was bruised by the institution that should have regarded and respected her. They seized her wares, detained her and demanded for bribe all in the presence of her son.
Obviously Kashy’s mission to Nigeria is threatened and his aide, Lolade (Tamilore Kuboye) could not help. In his dream, he saw how he flunked Nigeria’s only chance to whip South Korea. Another Kelani’s ingenuity to refresh our memories of Yakubu Aiyegbeni’s unpardonable loss of that golden opportunity.
On the robust list of cast is Wole Ojo, winner of the Amstel Malta Box Office(AMBO) who played elderly Kashy: late Fuji music legend, Sikiru Ayinde Barrister was also penciled to feature in the movie to document his role in Nigerian music, alongside Jazz and soul singer, Yinka Davies. He was reportedly ill during the shoot and died some two months after. Yinka, who crooned her hit song, Owo, rocked the birthday party scene singing alongside Ayinde Barrister’s cousin, Kayode Balogun (Jnr) and highlife legend, Fatai Rolling Dollar. The movie is actually dedicated to the memory of Sikiru Ayinde Barrister (1946-2011).
Though, Nollywood is fast approaching huge budget movies era, Kelani’s Ma’ami is shoestrings. Shot on Red One and HD SLR at 150,000 dollars with Nigerians in the saddle. “Everything, in the movie, he said, was made in Nigeria.”
“I cannot ignore AAMA; the selection will be great for me. Two years ago, I promised other African film makers a tough one at AAMA. Kunle Afolayan proved me right with Figurine. I doubt if any African country can displace the leading position we occupy today. Nigeria is still the pacesetter.”
Ma’ami is a movie that will inspire women across the globe, give an insight into the psychological, social and cultural consequences of abuse of women: depict the spirited fights and struggles they go through to survive with their children. Like many Kelani movies, Ma’ami will inspire social change. It is cheering to note that Kelani has more than any filmmaker in Nigeria used his films positively to create and transform the stories and the perceptions of women. Ma’ami, an incredibly intimate film, is another good example. When it comes to cinemas near you, don’t miss it!