Right off the bat, Ayamma gives the impression of being promising, especially as its beginning scene is done in the same vein of that of The Sound of Music (1965). However, in no time, it loses its reputation as anything worth the while, as it, almost immediately, also appears to imitate another of this movie’s concept: Mother Superior’s complaints of “how d’you solve a problem like Maria”.
It also becomes increasingly glaring that this filmmaker makes no plans to situate properly ideas that appear to have been adopted from a number of legends.
Ayamma tries so hard to be something great, yet fails to be anything straight. It is so all over the place.
The Myth of Ayamma: It takes a long time for the audience to get that this is an extremely mythical story, other than “kingdom”. Only, it doesn’t exactly pass as one, and so mediates between the categories of fantasy and historical: fantasy being where every unnatural thing that exists in the movie is the free thinking of the filmmaker – this could also include a parody of catchy concepts from legends, and exploring them at the “perfect” opportunity; and historical, where real-life occurrences from the past are explored.
This middle play should allow Ayamma be categorized as a myth. Unfortunately, myths have more relevance and allegorical essence than is explored here.
That said, the myth of Ayamma is not introduced to the audience in any way convincing, especially as there are two almost unrelated Ayammas (Iko, the maiden girl, and the forest beauty herself, Ayamma). There is no proper explanation as to how these two are connected. From what is shown on screen, Ayamma is in Prince Daraima’s dreams and Iko is a somewhat representation of that dream in real-life. Then, all of a sudden, Ayamma exists in the real-life woods to take the deceased Iko’s place as queen? What a complete mess of a wannabe myth!
Kingdom: In this fantasy/mythical story, maidens desire to work in the king’s palace; the elder son is the crowned prince (naturally); the younger son is secretly jealous of him; a princess from another tribe is betrothed to the crowned prince (Coming to America?); there is a form of infidelity in the palace; the king dies mysteriously; and, somehow, a curse is placed on the kingdom from the lips of the crowned prince himself, whose maiden later suffers the consequences.
Even as fantastic as these ideas appear, Ayamma fails in their execution; they just come and go, leaving no fond memories for the audience to relish in later. If one chooses to replicate ideas from history or legends, it is important to properly renovate them for effect.
Love, Friendship, and Betrayal: Unfortunate Iko: nothing seems to encompassingly compensate for/avenge her death. Not even the real-life appearance of her alter-ego, Ayamma. In fact, Ayamma, to some degree, serves as the filmmaker’s betrayal to Iko. Is Iko meant to die so that Ayamma can enjoy? What natural law supports that this is a good thing to happen? How pleased did this filmmaker think the audience would be?
In any case, a number of betrayals of love and friendship happen here and there in this movie, but not anything the audience hasn’t seen before, and so the audience are hardly thrown into shock or experience suspense as they should.
The Power of Music: Music has no genuine powers in this movie, just an idea incorporated to explore the notion of a maiden singing under the full moon to awaken the maddened prince, so it seems. What has music done to the land that makes the Prince ban it till his coronation?
The emphasized singing at the start of the movie launches us into the essence of the movie: beautiful singing of a maiden that saves the day. We occasionally experience this singing along the line, but it would be nice if it was more of the underlying source of conflicts. The movie appears as though dancing and singing are of essence, which isn’t so bad, but makes it a little all over the place. It wouldn’t be this way if the music was better focused. 4/10
Ayamma has a lovely pseudo-plot, even though its story fails it. The movie also appreciably feels like it makes use of the amazing eight-act-structure to some extent with its many plot point and twists.
There is the presence of a sub-plot with Princess Ama, but the audience are not aware this is a sub-plot till much later when she starts calling some shots and somewhat driving her own story, especially as she hand-picks Iko as her personal maid (looks like something from a Disney movie, or is it the Bible’s Moses’ mother, Jochebed, a commoner working in the palace for some special reason?).
This unawareness of the audience about this sub-plot could also be because Princess Ama seems to be the least beautiful in the movie, and lacks the proper carriage of a true princess at her first appearance (even her escort-maid seems more like a princess here than she).
Two other sub-plots should exist with Prince Daraima and Iko’s friend, Itoro, but they fail to be developed even with the many obvious loose strands that could be pulled and fleshed out, especially that of Itoro’s background.
A number of major plot points exist. For example, the prince’s madness, Iko’s shocking death (the audience would expect that she is saved here), the revelation of a betrayer in Itoro; the princess’ promise to sleep with the herbalist (which she did), and some others. However, they feel more like the evil whims of the filmmaker that luckily progress the story.
Was it already mentioned that this movie is all over the place? Allow me to list out a number of other basic concerns:
- At some point, the palace people make reference to someone, asides the king, which they found dead in his room. We never get to see how that plays out.
- Somehow, one would wonder what Ayamma’s got to do with the king and the prince worries about the land. If this is an attempt at sub-plot, then it fails.
- The king’s death means nothing to the audience because he’s not developed and endeared to the audience.
- People start ritualistically throwing things into a bon-fire, and the audience fails to understand the real essence of this. Even if it’s clear it’s a ritual for the dead king, it is an unusual tradition that needs to be clarified for God’s sake.
- The younger prince complaining about Prince Daraima’s renovation of the palace doesn’t seem to progress the concept of rivalry enough, maybe because it looks like it was just mentioned in passing. It also has no suspense effect.
- It is brilliant that most kingdom gatherings are done at night, but the audience would really like to know why.
- When Iko gets frustrated with the maddened prince she caters to, why is there is close-up on her head-beads she throws away. The beads here have no symbolism or progress the story, and only serve as a distraction to the audience.
The worst of them all would be the adopted concepts; a lot of concepts are not properly reformed into the movie, so instead of them appearing adopted, they look stolen. 3/10
Iko is the protagonist and Ayamma is who, the later protagonist? Thankfully, we have our obvious antagonist, Princess Ama, who gets screwed over by the latter protagonist, after the former protagonist has set the pace. Is this story?
Only a few supporting characters do great jobs; the one that seems quite impressive is the princess’ right-hand maiden. She’s my most original character in this movie. Everything about her screams “proud of my job”. If you’re not careful, you’d think she’s the princess herself. There’s this sarcastic look on her face when Iko joins her at work; the best would be when she smiles cockily after the princess orders that Iko be subjected to sweeping the compound. Weren’t Princess Ama already bullying Iko, she seems to be able to achieve worse herself. Brilliant!
Many characters are unnecessarily pawnish, and the most obvious of these pawnish inclusions would be the retard at the end, who reveals that the princess had slept with the high priest. I tried so hard to imagine that he was the drunken prophet we had seen occasionally, but the more I looked, the more it was confirmed to me that he wasn’t the one. What a waste of a character!
Iko’s friend, Itoro, seems to have a trait that the filmmaker doesn’t follow through; her crush on Prince Daraima. It also seems like she is a little jealous when she finds Prince Daraima caressing Iko instead of her in the dead of the night. However, this filmmaker fails to show how that jealousy, the one the audience is grounded in already, could affect the eventual betrayal, and prefers to explore the surprising option of “30 shekels of silver”, which wasn’t clearly hinted that is the friend’s problem in the palace. I wonder also, if there are no other ways of committing suicide than going the Judas Iscariot route.
Speaking of adopted concepts, Prince Daraima, on just waking in the morning, and asking one of the maids to scrub his back while he bathes is a satirical reminder of the prince in Coming to America (1988). Prince Daraima himself does nothing much for the story apart from pronouncing a new decree with no proper foundational cause. He later comes to “claim his rightful place as king”, being that his brother had sent him on “exile”. Is this a sly copy of a concept in The Lion King (1994)? Wait! He returns with a bride he had met in the forest? Does Simba and Nala’s homecoming to Pride Rocks ring a bell?
Oh. I know! Let’s play Concept and First Appearance with Ayamma. We sure would rack up a collection of legends in no time. 4/10
…too pretentious for a Nigerian folklore, and in many ways. A movie with so many native attires and dances is lacking in native language. Ayamma confirms with her statement even, that “my mother is Ibibio”. This alone informs the audience of the kind of language flavour they should be experiencing, but only majority of Queen’s English makes its way into this movie.
A huge number of scenes, if not all, make use of talking heads for delivery of story. Apart from the fact that the audience would really want more action than words, the audio quality of this movie makes it impossible for the audience to make out the message in the long speeches the characters deliver most times. This makes the story a little hard to follow and a lot shocking when the audience is finally able to hear the aftermath of a presumed previous talk. For example, the younger prince talking about the princess being a hard nut to crack, and how he somehow isn’t able to return her home. The audience, here, isn’t sure if they missed this detail earlier or if it is just one of the whimsy inclusions of non-cohesive story.
All characters dialogue in the same pattern and quality, apart from the obvious unique drunken prophet and the retard at the end – which are also annoyingly alike. Because of this, the characters fail to really stand out, but for the intervention of the actors’ acting quality.
Characters in this movie also make use of hideous prosaic language, though the occasional poetic speech ensues – however, these also include clichéd utterances such as “my father taught me to keep my friends close and my enemies closer.
An interestingly naughty dialogue that occurred twice in this movie goes thus: “I wasn’t singing, I was talking in rhythm”. This fondly reminds me of the kind of utterance a mischievous teenager would emit: “I wasn’t shouting at you, I was only speaking loudly”.
Speaking of loudly, a lot of characters in this movie speak in loud tones, and add to the stress of the audience trying to make proper sense of this movie.
The movie is generally too on-the-nose, and couldn’t possibly escape this, as majority of the story is told rather than shown. What’s worse? The filmmaker goes over the top with her imitation of real literature in her prose and poetry mix. 3/10
Satisfactory. Although, the disorderly nature of the plot could make the audience a little impatient in getting to the real gist of the story; it takes a while for the audience to get what this story really is about.
The movie moves quite swiftly but untidily; it is not how far, but how well.
Ayamma only looked like it had a lot of potential in the beginning and when the plot and sub-plot starts to flesh out. Asides these, nothing much else, as critically addressed above. 5/10
Not an authority in playwriting, but Ayamma’s story, because of its lapses, appears to be unbefitting for even stage – which its kind of long, expository, and descriptive dialogues are suited for anyway.
Although, Ayamma seems a little literary in nature, I doubt it could acquire any reputable form of endorsement, as it lacks the proper dose of historical or mythological logic.
Ayamma could try as a parody, but everything in this movie is being taken too seriously to be availed this category.
Ayamma, therefore, is nothing but a hapless case of caricature. 19/50
Isedehi Aigbogun, also known as ISD, is a staunch academic, holding a B.A., M.A., and PhD (in view) in English Language.
She’s a Screenwriter, Screenplay Analyst, Consultant, and Film Scriptic.