Berlin Critics’ Week, an independent event about film criticism which yearly takes place during the Berlinale festival in Berlin, showed two films on Sunday (23 February). One of the films is The Lost Okoroshi, the second feature of Nigerian director Abba T. Makama, while the other is the Brazilian entry Seven Years in May by Affonso Uchôa.
Set in the sprawling city of Lagos, The Lost Okoroshi is the story of Raymond (Seun Ajayi), who earns his livelihood as a security guard. He’s plagued repeatedly in his sleep by dreams in which masquerades, represented by masked Igbo dancers, pursue him.
Raymond narrates his dilemma to his older neighbour Okonkwo (Chiwetalu Agu), who explains that masquerades are spirits of the ancestors and he should no longer run from them in his dream.
Raymond heeds the advice of Okonkwo and wakes up one day transformed into one of these masquerades, an Okoroshi. However, he is not only possessed with the spirit of the masquerade but also takes its physical form. He cannot take the costume off neither can he talk.
It’s at this point that the film becomes a thriller!
Raymond’s wife Nneka (Judith Audu) seeks all manners of help – from spiritualists to ‘prayer warriors’, to bring back her husband from the spirit world to real life. While Raymond as Okoroshi dances in marketplaces he’s showered with money in the belief that the donors will be rewarded with good fortune. He also does good, rescuing people from criminals with his supernatural power and giving out donations he receives to a needy prostitute.
Raymond becomes of interest to different groups of people for different reasons. Ultimately, he falls victim to a group of criminal thugs and he disappears leaving behind only his garb.
The Lost Okoroshi is a very critical film – comedy, thriller and magical realism all rolled into one, which vividly shows how the old African beliefs clash with the modern faiths in Nigerian society and the frantic efforts of the people to navigate the ensuing contradictions in their lives.
The film also takes critical shots at a society wallowing in moral confusion caused by the contradictions of the mixture of old values and new realities.
The Lost Okoroshi is a delight to watch for its colourful pictures, its humour, beautiful music and masterful acting and dancing. And it was fittingly greeted with much applause by the Berlin audience.
Abba Makama has succeeded in making an arthouse film which will find admirers among film lovers anywhere.