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REVIEW: Title: ‘Alágbède’ (Blacksmith)

Title: ‘Alágbède’ (Blacksmith) Director: Ogunlade “BLACKKY” Usman Year: 2024 Running time:1 hour, 30 minutes Some people find love and living to be effortless, while others…

Title: ‘Alágbède’ (Blacksmith)
Director: Ogunlade “BLACKKY” Usman
Year: 2024
Running time:1 hour, 30 minutes

Some people find love and living to be effortless, while others struggle to the point of desperation that leads to the brink of death. The latter is the theme of Alágbède, a socially conscious period drama that explores humanity’s relentless pursuit of wealth, happiness, and love—timeless and universal.

Alagbede follows the relationship between Adio (Femi Adebayo) a diligent, illiterate, and honest blacksmith and Omolewa (Kehinde Bankole), a school teacher from a middle-class family. Everyone is against their relationship, especially Omolewa’s mother (Bimbo Oshin) and Adio’s master (Taiwo Ibikunle) who also has eyes for Omolewa. These external forces pressure Adio into money rituals to prove himself a worthy partner.

But there is a problem.

Omolewa, whom Adio did the money ritual to impress and marry, questions the source of his sudden wealth. Adio, eager to impress Omolewa with his newfound wealth, hatches a plan with his close friend Wole (Gabriel Afolayan). The plan involves an act that presents Wole as the financially successful friend, who has gifted Adio some of his wealth. Wole takes advantage of the situation and demands more than expected from Adio, causing a strain on their friendship. The rest of the film follows Adio’s struggles to find a way out of this difficult situation.

Alágbède explores the complexities of love between two people from different social classes in the face of societal stigma. Its exploration of the dichotomy between the rich and the poor, a theme that permeates cinema, is noteworthy. Also, it reflects on the duality of man—half virtuous and half criminal, half moral and half amoral—displayed by Wọlé. When Adio was poor and dejected, Wọlé stood by him and helped him seek solutions to his conditions. Upon Adio’s new wealth, Wọlé decides to exploit his decision to conceal his wealth to fund his lavish lifestyle. He goes as far as blackmail and attempted murder.

Director Usman “Blackky’’ Ogunlade’s vision is grounded in reality. He presents a nuanced perspective that challenges the notion of quick fixes and shortcuts to wealth. Beyond exploring the complexity of love in social strata, and the restless pursuit of wealth and happiness amidst adversity, Ogunlade’s calm but fast-paced, rhythmic editing, and attention to detail touch on betrayal and money rituals, prevalent themes in Yoruba cinema. Unlike older movies that sensationalize the practice of money rituals, such as Ololade Mr. Money, Alagbede avoids being preachy, showing the importance of hard work and patience, even in the face of adversity.

Set in the evocative backdrop of the 1970s, Fimisola Adejuwon’s simple but decent screenplay adeptly handles the character dynamics, thematic depth, and narrative structure. Her depiction of the protagonist’s journeys, from moments of vulnerability to acts of selflessness, resonates deeply. When Wole, driven by greed, betrays Adio despite his generosity, Adio saves him from the wrath of the community chief whom he deceived. Through their interactions, we witness the complexities of human relationships and the moral dilemmas they face. Also, the funny and touching dialogue provides insight into the characters’ inner conflicts.

Adebayo, Bankole, and Afolayan form a triumvirate of excellent talents that drives the film’s exploration of the human condition. Femi Adebayo’s performance as Adio is impressive, and he brings emotional depth to his character. His handling of a vulnerable moment of suicide contemplation is touching. Kehinde Bankole’s portrayal of Omolewa is graceful and beautiful. Her simplistic character has a profound inner beauty, and her gestures and inflections of dialogue convey volumes about her journey of love and resilience. Gabriel Afolayan’s flamboyant and morally ambiguous portrayal of Wole adds humour and complexity to the narrative. His performance not only entertains but also serves as a social commentary on the intricacies of human nature.

Through a lens drenched in nostalgia, Alágbède is a blend of naturalistic cinematography and evocative imagery. Its lighting enhances the mood of each scene, whether it be moments of fun at the bar, confusion between Adio and Omolewa, or conflict between Adio and Wole. Likewise, its attention to detail extends to the costume, props, and set design, which reflect the 70s era, ensuring authenticity and richness in every frame.

Humour is needed to lighten the mood of a film, and provide catharsis. Without catharsis, a film risks ruining the emotional connection between the characters and the audience. While the comedic timing is right, the desire to inject overdramatic humour, typical of Yoruba cinema almost taints the film. For instance, when Adio opens his smithy, he comes to his master’s workshop to take all his workers, promising them better pay and treatment. Feigning loyalty, a worker stays behind and delivers a hammy, fatuous performance in the name of humour. Also, Mr. Macaroni’s attempts at humour to lighten the mood when Adio’s workers abandon the smithy after hearing about his ritual money is forced and humourless. These attempts to crack our ribs almost ruin the severity of these scenarios and disrupt the fluidity of the movie.

Alágbède isn’t just a movie about love, and all its vagaries, and betrayal, it’s a high-concept movie that brilliantly dispels the prevalent and erroneous belief that money rituals can bring wealth and prosperity. It admirably encourages hard work as a solution and inspires us to embrace the path of honest labour and determination. 


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