Afamefuna: An Nwa-boi story  is delightful study of Igbo culture in the shadow of malice and malignity – Toni Kan

Who killed Paul?

That is the question that drives Kayode Kasum’s enthralling movie Afamefuna: An Nwa-boi story.

The movie which is currently streaming on Netflix is a slow burn dramatic narrative that unspools over the course of 2 hours.

Deftly directed, sedately paced, and delivered 80% in Igbo (for Oscar considerations?) it is part whodunit and part police procedural beginning from the discovery of Paul’s corpse and Afamefuna’s arrest in the thick of the remembrance party for his father.

It takes the form of an interrogation with flashbacks helping to propel the narrative forward as the eponymous protagonist is harangued by a bilingual detective played by Segun Arinze.

Unravelling in real time over the course of a few hours, it tells the story of Afamefuna; a young boy who moves from Onitsha to Lagos as an Nwa boi or apprentice to Odogwu (Kanayo O Kanayo).

Beginning his apprenticeship, Afamefuna meets another Nwa boi, Paul Ezeilo who takes him under his wing.

Their bond of friendship grows over the years with Afamefuna learning not just the tricks of the trade from Paul but also how to navigate Lagos and deal with the opposite sex. To Afamefuna, Paul is the quintessential player with the gift of the garb and a way with women.

In time, their friendship will develop into something resembling kinship but a decision by Odogwu to “settle” Afamefuna before Paul which upsets the balance of their relationship and leads to things falling apart.

Afamefuna: An Nwa-boi story  is a close examination of the igbo apprenticeship system and a perspicacious dissection of friendship, jealousy, envy, malice and malignity.

Paul has always been possessed of a selfish bent. He is a user with a hankering after quick money which would lead, ultimately, to his comeuppance after he enters into a business relationship with “investors” Odogwu had rejected because he wasn’t convinced.

The malice and malignity is heightened by the love triangle that ensues when Afamefuna, encouraged by Odogwu and tired of seeing her hurt by Paul’s cavalier attitude, makes a play for Amaka’s hand which presents Paul with another reason for his rage against his former friend and brother.

But through it all, Afamefuna remains true to his name, allowing Paul to use and then blackmail him by always referencing the fact that Afamefuna “stole his destiny” and his lover.

Afamefuna is beautifully shot, well plotted with scant contriving and the editing flourishes are remarkable. A case in point is where the young Afamefuna morphs into the older and in the scene where the female police officer asks Amaka a question and Afamefuna answers it in another location.

A slight quibble would be the fact that minor characters are thinly sketched. We don’t see Paul’s mother after that visit to Lagos and we don’t see Lotanna but for a brief interlude. What happened to the celebration of the birth of a son by a rich Igbo man?

The female characters are few and far between, except for Amaka, making this a man’s film and as it should because the igbo world of apprenticeship is a male-dominated one.

When Odogwu’s niece asks: where are the women?

He laughs and tells her that women are not part of the system.

Afamefuna: An Nwa boi story  is remarkable as a celebration of the rich Igbo culture; the “Igbo amaka” ethos and as an exposition of and masterclass on the oft cited and well-studied Igbo apprenticeship system.

It also takes a political turn as a commentary that shines some light on the deprivation suffered by the Igbos on account of the civil war.

But it is all the more remarkable when you take note of the fact that the director is Yoruba same for the producers and some executive producers even though the screenplay is by Anyanwu Sandra Adaora, an igbo.

Stan Nze grounds the movie as the rich and older Afamefuna. His acting is controlled and ennobled by the gravitas he displays. There is no iota of over-acting or melodrama.

Kanayo O Kanayo is, as always, a delight. He holds his own as a wise, knowing and ethically-minded Igbo man of means while Alexx Ekubo delivers as the slippery Paul whose lack of scruples and get-rich-by-all means mentality becomes his undoing. There is a particularly painful moment in bed with Amaka that underlines his meanness.

Segun Arinze is a triple threat as CSP Danladi who conducts Afamefuna’s interrogation. He is a delight as his stentorian voice segues from English to Hausa to Igbo.

Afamefuna: An Nwa-boi story is a delightfully helmed movie that presents Nollywood in bright lights.


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