Everything you need to know about ESIN AJOJI (The Strange Religion) movie

Esin Ajoji

 

Director: Mike Bamiloye, Shola Mike Agboola
Writer: Mike Bamiloye
Producer: All Nigerian Conference of Evangelical Drama Ministries (ANCEDRAM)

Genre: Melodrama- the movie presents two distinct sides, God’s side (as represented by the strange religion) and that of the village gods. After much attempts to suppress the move of God in the village, all oppositions collapse in the face of superior authority.

Plot: King Olasorangbe is in a rage because some individuals are planning on bringing a strange religion into the village of Agbayun.

The missionaries arrive and start to preach in the market place. The king gives the order for Ajigbotoluwa, the leader of the group, to be arrested while the others are shot.

Ajigbotoluwa is beheaded as a sacrifice to the gods along with three prisoners who gave their lives to Christ while awaiting execution.

A hundred years later, King Oladunjoye is on the throne. His son, Prince Olabosipo, who has just arrived from overseas, brings his family home to pay the king a visit.

Unfortunately, there is to be a ritual at the palace that night. The prayers of Olabosipo and his wife disrupt the ritual; hence, a life must be sacrificed for atonement.

Whose will it be? The king’s or his son’s? The spirits decide that all they want this time is an animal sacrifice, only that it has to be brought by Prince Olabosipo.

Of course the prince refused and the king had to endure some heavy beatings from the spirits.

When the king finally realizes that he is about to die, he travels to Lagos in the company of his most trusted chief to seek out his son.

The spirits appear again, probably to finish the work they started on the king, but Prince Olabosipo engages them in a spiritual warfare.

The spirits are defeated and the king not only recovers, but also has a dream in which he sees Jesus and learns more about the history of Agbayun village.

At the very point when the chief priest and the other chiefs are about to commence the arrangements for the coronation of a new king, King Oladunjoye walks majestically into the palace and declares the lordship of Jesus.

Idolatry is abolished and an evangelist from Lagos arrives to conduct a revival.

Theme: Wherever the gospel of Jesus Christ goes, there is light, life, liberation and development

Settings: village setting. Though the king travels to Lagos, we only see the house and not the environment

Main Cast: Mike Bamiloye, Kolade Segun-Okeowo, Sola Mike Agboola, Moses Owoseni, Nike Fashiku, Deborah Animasawun and Wole Olaleye

Country: Nigeria

Language: Yoruba (subtitled in English). The movie is rich in Yoruba proverbs, sayings and poetry

Sound Track: the theme song was written by Gloria Bamiloye

Title Sequence: while the names of the actors were being shown and the music was playing at the beginning of the movie, I noticed that the central image shown on screen was a night sky with half-moon. This became a recurrent image in the movie.

Cinematography:

Shots: various types of shots were used in the movie, medium shots (MS), close up shots (CU), etc. I am however particularly attracted to the use of long shot (LS). Esin Ajoji is what I will call a “crowd” movie. It has a lot of scenes in which there are several actors on set. LS was effectively used to keep us in-touch with the bigger picture. No action was lost.

Angles: the scenes were predominantly shot in mid-angle or eye level. However, a high angle shot was used for the missionaries when they were dancing into the village. I also noticed that most of the market scenes had elements of high angle in them.

Transitions: the most common transitions in Esin Ajoji are “cut” and “fade”. I however appreciate the use of dissolve in some specific areas.

Dissolve allows two separate scenes to be placed one on top of the other, such that the superimposed scene is transparent so that the previous scene can still be seen.

For instance, when King Oladunjoye was narrating the history of Agbayun to his son, dissolve was used to shuttle between the flash back and the present. This helped to keep the audience in touch with the two worlds.

– Camera Movement: A high-angle dolly out was used at the scene where the masquerade attacked the missionaries.

The camera was on the missionaries dancing, unaware of the impending danger, and then the camera withdraws and widens up to accommodate the masquerade in the same frame.

This creates a sense of abandonment, particularly when some of the villagers have already run off. It was just as if the people still dancing were left to their fate.

Costume: periodic, day-to-day and special costumes were used

Make up: majority of the actors wore straight make up. Those with character make up include Olasorangbe, and his chiefs (who had beard, tribal marks etc), as well as some of the palace guards with their hair cuts.

Ajigbotoluwa also had a character make up in the prison, with wounds and cuts. Fantastic make up was used for the two spirits, and it was a fantastic job indeed.

Symbolism: the half-moon sky that was shown in the title sequence was repeated from time to time. I find this symbolic because the night represents the darkness that covers the village.

I also noticed that most of the oppressions happened at night; the spirits attempted to attack the Olabosipo at night, the king was first attacked at night, rituals were at night, etc.

Thank God however because He created both light and darkness; some wonderful things too happened at night; the prisoners with Ajigbotoluwa got converted at night and King Oladunjoye’s final deliverance took place at night. So who is afraid of darkness?

Reflections: the covenant King Rinadegbo made on behalf of Agbayun village was not even total.

I noticed that the spirits, after collecting the prince as their sacrifice, promised that not war in Yoruba land will overtake the village.

So what if the war is from the east? Sounds to me like the story of Macbeth who was told that no man born of a woman will kill him.

Who would have thought a man born through CS will do the job. There is always a clause to whatever the devil does.

– Though the village will not be defeated in war, its people will also not excel in anything. What kind of agreement is that? Yet the king agreed to everything out of desperation to escape the present predicament.

– When the ritual was interrupted by the prayers of Olabosipo and his wife, I was expecting the spirits to insist on human sacrifice.

When the priest returned to say that they have settled for less, I knew those spirits had something up their sleeves.

What they wanted was simple; just let the born again prince bring the black goat to the place of sacrifice.

That reminded me of how simple it sounded when the devil offered to give Jesus all the kingdoms of the world and their glories if only he can bow down.

– Also, King Oladunjoye faithfully served his gods for 28 years, then he makes a mistake once and they will never forgive. Thank God we have a loving father who hates sin but loves us.

Finale: the movie ended in a very unique way. As the king sings and everyone present dance with him, the scene constantly dissolves into the scene where Ajigbotoluwa sings the same song with the redeemed prisoners in the cell 100years before.

It was such a beautiful combination because the past and the present seem to merge in that moment. Ajigbotoluwa did not die in vain.

I also saw something that touched me, as prisoners are rejoicing over their salvation; royalties are also jubilating over theirs. Christ is for all. Jesus saved prisoners in the cell and Jesus saved chiefs in the palace, who says he can’t save you?

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