Amidst the many theories regarding who or what this movie may be about, I see it as a satire of the church in Nigeria generally. And in that light, a good job was done.
Man Of God tells the story of a young man named Samuel who suffered abuse at the hands of his father while growing up. His father who is a pastor seems to take the “spare the rod and spoil the child” scripture a little too literally, which makes him hit Samuel at the slightest provocation. Eventually, Samuel swears to leave the house and never return, so when he gets into the university, he decides to never return home. He also refuses all forms of correspondence from home, even from his mother. In school, he becomes a popular artiste named Abami who idolizes the great Fela Kuti. Because he is so swamped in his performing art, he hardly goes to classes. Teju, a family friend tries to help him navigate through school but he is somewhat unfazed by the recurrent carryovers. Time goes by, he meets the love of his life, Joy. They date, he agrees to go to church with her, becomes really constant with it, until she graduates and he realizes that he has been served breakfast. Teju who has always liked him takes this as an opportunity to become the woman in his life. Next, we see they are married and he works in a church but does not enjoy it. Rekya who is a “hustler” and his university best buddy comes back into the picture and makes him see that running a church is a lucrative business, so he starts a church. As expected, he gets more greedy and gets involved in some shady deal and this doesn’t end well for him.
The story can be said to be divided into Samuel’s university days and the years after; this reveals the major flaw of this production—the time frame. During Samuel’s days at the university, communication was done through letters and emails. An old generation monitor was even featured, which suggests to us that the time setting was the late 90s. However, as the plot progresses the most time frame we are given is 9 years, yet it is 2021 already? This does not add up at all. Another time flaw is what we see at the end. Samuel returns home from his jail term and the only thing that has changed is his hair. So please help me here. If someone is convicted for money laundering and human organ trafficking, what is the ideal jail time for them to serve? Because this movie made it look like it was just a few months. His brother and father looked the same, every setting was the same too, only Samuel looked like he had not had a haircut in a few months. There were no real-life changes? How please?
The plot: the plot was just TOO rushed, but unlike many takes online that suggests the movie would have fared better as a series, I think otherwise. A series for this story might have been totally unnecessary. In a movie, many literary techniques exist to tell stories brilliantly. So this is my proposition: the linear/chronological storytelling technique adopted was not the best. In medias res should have been employed— begin the story from the middle where Samuel is facing actual life issues caused by his past and use flashbacks to show us necessary details. That way, you can depict a rich story (if properly executed), and do away with the time details and be forgiven. Then the point where he reconciles with his father should come before his arrest, instead of ruining the time structure further to create some shabby resolution.
Speaking of his father, the biggest problem of this movie was raising too many issues and not being able to resolve them. His relationship with his father was one. How is it that the man who beat him mercilessly and didn’t care whether he returned home suddenly “sat at the gate day after day, waiting for him to return home…” Whatever may have led to the change, we were not told. We only see the “prodigal son” reconcile with his father and no form of repentance from the father’s end. Here we see that there was an attempt to address the issue of child abuse and how it can affect an individual using the characters of Samuel and his father, but how this was done questions what side the story stands with. We see the perpetrator of the abuse get justified at the end, which is typical in the Nigerian society –your parents are always right for hitting you, no matter how brutal they were– and this should not be so. Sadly this movie sells that narrative.
Another example of an unresolved issue that was raised is Jojo, the girl who got pregnant for Samuel and died after she had tried to abort it. We were told this was successful and she even sent proof to Samuel’s house, only for us to find out when her sister comes to the picture that she had indeed died. And no explanation as to what happened was given.
Joy is also another example. After leaving Samuel devastated, she comes back into the picture and does not see the need to at least explain what made her do what she did; as though Samuel and the audience deserved to stay in the dark. I really hope this is not a ploy to create a sequel of this movie because that will be totally unnecessary.
The story had really good potential but lack of attention to these little details ruined it.
Also, the beginning was a little confusing as Abami was referred to as Fela. So some of us (like me) would have wondered if it was the story of the real Fela, especially because of the time that part was set in. But I guess the only resolution of that was us now seeing pictures of the real Fela in Abami’s room. I am also going to ignore how a shirt that hung on Abami’s dressing room (in the late 90s setting) made its way to Samuel’s future in 2021. Lol.
Despite all of its flaws, one thing that was done right in Man Of God was the acting and casting. Each person executed their role intelligently. Akah did an excellent job with Abami and Samuel, Osas did well with Teju, DSF was excellent with Rekya (which was my favourite character, by the way), everyone brought their A-game.
Like I mentioned earlier, I appreciate that this movie is a true satire to the state of the church in Nigeria, or maybe Africa. As it blatantly points out the hypocrisy of church leaders, how the watered down message of grace in circulation has eliminated the need to seek the kingdom of God and it’s righteousness, how the message of prosperity is prevalent, and how extortion is now the order of day.
On a final note…
I’m just thinking out loud. Is it that there is no board in Nigeria that screens the quality of a movie before it is put out? Some of these mistakes have become so recurrent that they are beginning to seem like a norm, when they shouldn’t be.
We should do better. We the audience deserve better, honestly.
That’s all for now. Catch you later!