Storyteller, imposter and an unexpected tragedy: A review of Adeoluwa Owu’s “The Griot” — Olukorede S Yishau

It starts with a storyteller captivating an audience with a gripping tale about a man tempted by a water demon: “The long wait had begun to douse his enthusiasm and the dark and scary night clawed viciously at what was left of his patience. ‘Was it all a myth,’ he asked himself. Perhaps it was a drunkard’s imagination which had become a legend, but he would tarry a moment longer for his journey was long and arduous…”

With his soothing voice and descriptive gesticulations, Sanmi continues the story and exhibits his prowess as a griot worth his salt. The audience will kill to have him tell another story after concluding this one, but his attention is soon taken by the sonorous voice of Tiwa humming a lively tune. 

That is the opening scene of The Griot, a movie, which debuted on Netflix on November 18, 2022.

After the opening scene, we meet Lakunle and a secret is let loose: He is the shy friend of Sanmi, who supplies him with the stories that make many see him as the greatest storyteller in the environment.

We also properly meet Tiwa and we realise she is in love with Lakunle, who, however, is too timid to ask her out. Sanmi is soon deployed by Lakunle to help woo Tiwa since he is gifted with oratory. But what we discover instead is Sanmi trying to get Tiwa for himself. 

Every lie has an expiration date and it is not different for Sanmi.  Lakunle discovers his act of betrayal and stops feeding him stories. This comes at a time the king of Wakajaye has made him the Gbobaniyi because of his perceived storytelling prowess. 

Poster for The Griot
Poster for The Griot

A major celebration is around the corner and Sanmi tries unsuccessfully to convince his now estranged friend to supply him another tale to renew his fame. As expected, he turns him down and instead confesses to Tiwa that he is the source of the great stories that brought Sanmi glory and wealth. With Tiwa’s help, he overcomes his timidity and performs at the ceremony for the king and other guests. The fleeing Sanmi is caught and barnised. 

If you think you have been told the entire story, you will be in for a shock when you see it and see what happens after the arrogant, greedy and morally-deficient Sanmi leaves town.

The Griot is a beautiful village-setting story told in a mixture of Yoruba and English. The picture quality is superb and the acting is believable. Funso Adeolu is impressive as the king. Kunle Afod delivers as the babalawo. Lateef Adedimeji is otherworldly as the shy griot. Toyin Oshinaike performs well as Lakunle’s father and Yetunde Adekoya is above board as Tiwa’s mother. And Goodness Emmanuel shows her goodness as Tiwa. She also doubles as the producer. 

The one I will look out for more of his work is Sanmi played by the talented Temiloluwa Fosudo. Watching him reminds me so much of the great Sola Fosudo, a popular star in the early days of Nollywood who is now imparting knowledge as a Theatre Arts professor at the Lagos State University (LASU), Ojo. Their voices, their faces, their mannerisms, their theatrics are similar. It is not surprising to find out they are father and son. 

The younger Fosudo is not just the lead actor. He is also the writer of the thrilling script from which the movie is made. 

The movie is about the power of love, betrayal, the power and importance of storytelling, disloyalty, greed and how with the right support, what appears insurmountable becomes a piece of cake.

This movie directed by Adeoluwa Owu has a literary fiction feel. Its tragic, unexpected end is a twist difficult to foretell.

Olukorede S Yishau is the author of In the Name of Our Father, Vaults of Secrets and United Countries of America and Other Travel Tales.


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