MOVIE REVIEW: ‘Juju Stories’ and the magic of an anthology | Dailytrust

MOVIE REVIEW: ‘Juju Stories’ and the magic of an anthology

Movie:   Juju stories

Producer:   Oge Obasi

Release date: 2021

Directors:    Michael Omonua, C.J. Obasi, Abba Makama 


Anthology movies are not quite a thing in the Nigerian film industry, and that’s probably putting it mildly. The concept of niche films and arthouse cinema is still one Nollywood hasn’t come to terms with, anthologies fall into that category, and Juju Stories proves that point. From the Surreal16 Collective, this is a movie that approaches a month in cinemas and has barely made a splash at the Nigerian box office.

Juju Stories is a film that contains three parts; Love Potion, Yam, and Suffer the Witch, which was respectively directed by Michael Omonua, Abba T. Makama, and CJ Obasi. Produced by Oge Obasi, Juju Stories premiered at the Locarno Film Festival – where it won the Boccalino d’oro for Best Film – in August 2021, and screened at the African International Film Festival (AFRIFF) three months later. This anthology features Belinda Yanda Agedah, Paul Utomi, Elvis Poko, Bukola Oladidupo, Timini Egbuson, and Nengi Adoki.

There’s something about Juju Stories that sets it as a film keen to make an impression. This is a movie that’s very much interested in showing you that it’s doing it right. With the details and attention to detail; through the nitty-gritty and the of it all. Take your time and see this artisan fix that tyre; listen to this lecturer talks about Economics. Juju Stories very much dresses to impress, reads the fine print, and dots its ‘I’s’ and crosses its ‘T’s’.

But that’s by no means a flaw of the film; because impress it does. Starting from Love Potion, its first chapter, Juju Stories highlights three different stories, which highlight different filmmaking skills from the trio of directors. There’s something about Love Potion that is incredibly imaginatively detailed. We don’t just know and hear of characters’ longings and desires; they are shown to us. We don’t know their fantasies, we witness them; so, when it all falls flat on its face, it brings us down to earth alongside the characters. There’s something about Love Potion that speaks to you, be it the highs and the lows; the desire and the disappointment.

Then comes Yam, a story that takes a commonplace tale of the supernatural in Nigeria and refines it. Watching Yam very much gives the impression of Abba T Makama having grown and made even greater strides since The Lost Okoroshi. The visual effect is improved, and the sound as well. But it’s the story itself that truly takes the cake. The sense of mystery and expectation that this chapter generates is as impressive as they come. You kind of know what’s coming, but this movie makes you wait for how we’ll get there; not to mention the brilliant storytelling technique that was used.

Juju Stories crowns things off with Suffer the Witch, which, in Nengi Adoki as Joy, pretty much produces the best acting performance of the lot. The spellbinding awe that she generates, and the sense of terror she carries with her, despite always seeming so casual; those feats really make the movie what it is. And the way it is relayed to us via Bukola Oladipupo’s character is incredibly brilliant.

What makes Juju Stories such a work of art is the simplicity of it all. The premises of the stories in particular, which to a Nigerian is by no means unheard of; and the fact that everything seems so run-of-the-mill while being so wonderful to watch. It just seems like an unexciting husband-and-wife breakfast, a common encounter at a party, a basic higher institution romance and courting story; yet it’s so much more than that.

Perhaps the only flaw with Juju Stories, if you’re being nit-picky – especially with Love Potion – is the dialogue, which seems a touch too mechanical. It’s quite ironic that that chapter’s insistence on the most relatable dialect and interaction is what makes it seem forced and a touch artificial.

But such is the quality of this anthology, that any flaws seem academic. From great storytelling to great acting. From brilliant sound to incredible cinematography; Juju Stories has a lot. And if there’s a better-made movie than this to come, then we shouldn’t hesitate to see it.

Cast: Belinda Agedah Yanga, Elvis Poko, Don Ekwuazi, Nengi Adoki, Bukola Oladipupo, Timini Egbuson, Seun Kentebe, Sarah Joe, Oluwabunmi Sogade, Okey Michael Ejoor, Uzoamaka Aniunoh, Eric Nwanso, Ebuka Mike Uzoma, Mena Sodje.

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