I wish I could have my 1 hour, 45 minutes back.
When I think of Nigeria’s history, the only thing that comes to my mind is slavery. This has often led me to wonder “what Nigeria was like before the invasion of the British, Slave trade, and establishment of the colonial rule?”. In my quest for answers, I encountered Amina: A Netflix biopic based on the true-life story of one of Nigeria’s most prominent historical figures ‘Queen Amina of Zaria’, who gloriously reigned in the 16th century.
While the mere availability of a movie of notable figures is crucial to maintaining culture and accurate history, the school system fails to provide. The cinematic production this particular historical account is narrated through is flawed. Beginning with the language used in filming.
It’s understandable, the executive producer(s) aimed to maximize commercial success by writing the script in a global dialect like the English Language. But this move only achieved the opposite. The fact this legendary tale occurred before the introduction of English by the British empire shreds a ton of realism and authenticity from this biopic. I speak for myself when I say I’d have preferred to watch that movie in the original Hausa language complemented with English subtitles. Even if Queen Amina was still alive, she would rather watch herself speaking her own language rather than the tongue of a white man.
During its 1 hour 43 minute run time, the film often lost clarity as the plot and subplots constantly overlapped. There are so many things happening at once. Amina is exhibiting her female charms with the Igala prince. The King’s PA is trying to Usurp the throne from him. There’s a neighboring kingdom gearing up for war. On the hills is a priestess foreshadowing imminent doom. All of these bits occurred randomly and weren’t integrated with precision which leaves the audience so confused to the point the only thing clear is that; you just know you’re watching a period piece, not the story it’s actually telling.
The dialogues are creatively written leaving a lot of iconic lines to ponder upon by English speaking actors. Still, these lines could have had a more potent delivery and impact if the characters conversed in their native language(Hausa).
The musical score played through most battle scenes drains the tension from the fights and actually sprinkles humour as I watch life or death scenes that are meant to be serious—[Speaking of fight scenes, makeup, blood effects could do better].
The ‘Queen Amina’ I read within passages of English textbooks during my primary school days is not the Amina presented in this Netflix film. The fearless warrior and queen is the opposite of the vulnerable princess in this flick. Because the script didn’t permit the actual Amina to revel in her intellectual essence and military might. Not one, not twice, not thrice, She declares, “I am princess Amina I fear nothing”. Again, here is a poor case of ‘telling’ rather than ‘showing’. Don’t tell us you fear nothing, Show us!. It further reminds me of Tyrion Lannister’s Lannisters quote from the political thriller series Game of thrones. “Any man who must say I am king is no true king”.
After Amina goes through her defining character arc, the film ends with another round of exposition. This time curated in text as an epilogue, in which the film should have been about in the first place!.
Just like other streamers, I went into the Netflix title with the expectation to see the cinematic portrayal of Queen Amina of Zaria’s exploits, her conquests, her foes, and feminine challenges as a leader in a patriarchal era. But, much to my disappointment, all of these elements were threaded upon too lightly. Maybe because the filmmakers were playing it safe while telling the story of a revered nothern-islamic figure, Or the filmmakers knew nothing of Queen Amina’s real story and just didn’t understand the assignment. Hopefully, a reboot or sequel serves as a supplement to this, and I hope the young girl who played young Amina is recast for her role. She is a gem.
Released six years after its filming. First, let’s consider the fact that ‘Amina’ is a 2015 product. At The time, Nollywood hadn’t peaked at film production, equipment, financing, and cultural liberalism. But how valid is that excuse? Renowned movies centered on politics and culture were made even before then.
Despite Amina’s production and directing flaws, Izu Ojukwu’s courage to tell a story about a legend, so little is known of, is highly applaudable. I believe his history-centered movie will usher in more biopics on notable icons, including Moremi Ajasoro, Funmilayo Ransome-Kuti, Princess Inikpi and dozens of our heroes past that this generation seems to be forgetting by each passing day.
Israel Olorunnisola is a freelance creative. When he is not writing about Film, Music, TV or Pop culture he is telling stories on Wattpad.
Pulse Contributors is an initiative to highlight diverse journalistic voices. Pulse Contributors do not represent the company Pulse and contribute on their own behalf.
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