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“Funmilayo Ransome-Kuti”: O God of Israel, This Is Cinema!

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funmilayo ransome-kuti

The beauty of cinema is mainly giving an immersive experience. “Funmilayo Ransome-Kuti” was exactly that, and more.

From the very first scene, the film sets the stage for its central focus: the remarkable life of Funmilayo Ransome-Kuti. Through a captivating and brilliant first impression, viewers are immediately immersed in the world of this iconic figure, gaining slight insight into her story, we first ask this question “How did we get here?”

Funmilayo Ransome-Kuti

Directed by: Bolanle Austen-Peters
Written by: Tunde Babalola
Genre: Biopic
Released on: May 17, 2024 (Cinemas)
Language: Yoruba and English

Story

Simply, as the title implies, it’s a biographical film depicting the remarkable life of Funmilayo Ransome-Kuti, the female Nigerian activist who passionately advocated for women’s rights and challenged patriarchal norms focusing on the Abeokuta women’s revolt.

Plot

Narrated from her hospital bed through flashbacks by elderly Funmilayo (Joke Silva), the film traces her journey from her groundbreaking days as the first female student at Abeokuta Grammar School to her union with Israel Ransome-Kuti. It delves into her career as a teacher, culminating in her courageous leadership of the Egba women, challenging both colonial rule and patriarchal oppression under the reign of the Alake of Egba land.

The Cinema Experience

It was an enchanting journey filled with vibrant visuals, captivating costumes, and authentic language that transported us seamlessly into the past era depicted in the film. There was this immersive experience that fostered a sense of shared connection, sparking heartfelt laughter and creating a collective sense of inspiration.

As the last scene unfolded, abruptly ending like the life of the social icon it portrayed, a wave of inspiration swept over us, leaving hearts stirred, motivated, longing for more as her life still promised.

Technical Aspects

Firstly, the visual storytelling is masterfully executed, striking a balance between elegance and authenticity. The cinematography captures the essence of each scene with breathtaking precision, utilizing carefully chosen landscapes to enhance the film’s nostalgic allure. Some scenes are presented in a documentary style, reminding viewers of our passive role as observers in Funmilayo’s journey.

Despite this objective stance, we are immersed in her experiences, from her school days to her final moments in the hospital, unable to alter the course of history but deeply moved by her resilience and determination.

The visual beauty was further heightened by the strategic use of colour to indicate shifts in the timeline. As scenes transitioned, moving between past and present, the palette shifted, and the once vibrant colours would fade into muted tones. I found myself pondering, “What happened to all the colours?” only to realize with a sudden exclamation, “Oh, we’re in the 1900s!” This deliberate manipulation of colour served as a powerful visual motif, skillfully guiding us through the passage of time and deepening our immersion in the historical narrative in a sensory manner. This meticulous attention to detail not only added visual depth to the storytelling but also enhanced the audience’s engagement with the narrative.

There was so much attention to detail to bring believability to the setting. From the roving cars of the time to the bikes, costumes, and the set; all together create an immersive experience bringing us into the scene of the past.

And the script? Outstanding. It was a good reflection of a properly researched work all integrated into the film script. From witty references to local jokes and slang like “Dundee,” the transformation of a name turned insulted cleverly explained within the narrative, every element was thoughtfully integrated to enhance authenticity and evoke laughter. While certain details were assumed or fictionalized, particularly in dialogue, they were handled with respect and precision, effectively conveying the film’s message with integrity.

Performance

Awesome performance from all the actors. Especially Kehinde Bankole (middle-aged Funmilayo), Joke Silva (older Funmilayo), and Iyimide Ayo-Olumoko (young Funmilayo), it’s impressive to see how all characters play their roles and their character arc is not disrupted at any point. Again, aided by good scriptwriting. They all maintain consistency in character from the beginning to the end.

From young Funmilayo we get the well-portrayed act from Iyimide showing Funmilayo forming the fundamental basis of what she fights for from her youth down to death. And also, Iremide Adeoye’s (young Israel) natural acting.

The chemistry between young Funmilayo and Israel felt so authentic and unforced. Enhanced by good dialogue, their conversation came off as natural and smile-inducing. They both pulled it off with a natural flair. The exceptional performance of the actors can be attributed to the combination of excellent dialogue and impeccable delivery. Each actor embodied their character with believable reactions and precise interpretation, contributing to the overall authenticity of the film.

Final Thoughts

One of the most commendable aspects of this film is its commitment to portraying the unvarnished truth respectfully and authentically. Despite potential biases, the film bravely prioritizes authenticity over sentimentality, even when addressing uncomfortable truths. Throughout, it remains steadfast in its portrayal of Funmilayo’s courageous battle against oppressive patriarchy, never compromising its dedication to liberation and historical accuracy.

While the ending may feel abrupt, it serves as a poignant metaphor for the sudden and unexpected end to Funmilayo’s life. Just as she departed this world abruptly, the film concludes abruptly, leaving viewers yearning for closure. Yet, despite the lingering desire for a more satisfying ending, the impact of Funmilayo Ransome-Kuti’s inspirational life remains undiminished.

Indeed, unlike “The Woman King,” which offers a fictionalized Western narrative inspired by similar historical roots, there’s this uniquely exhilarating feeling in witnessing Nigeria, under Bolanle Austen-Peters’ direction, present the unfiltered and original story of a true Woman King: Funmilayo Ransome-Kuti, the “Lioness of Lisabi.”

Verdict

This film is the true classification of cinema. A truly unfiltered and well-portrayed form that immerses the viewers into its story leaving strong feelings of motivation, inspiration, and rushing emotions as the credits roll. And that’s what films should do! A good 4 out of 5!

Rating: 4/5

Rating: 4 out of 5.
One response to ““Funmilayo Ransome-Kuti”: O God of Israel, This Is Cinema!”
  1. […] film is Directed by Bolanale-Austen, the brilliant mind behind critically acclaimed movies like Funmilayo-Ransome Kuti, Man of God, 93 Days, Bling Lagosians, and Collision […]

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