FILM REVIEW: Man of God reveals disturbing complexities of religious film
Movie: Man of God
Director: Bolanle Austen-Peters
Release date: April 2022
Autonomy: 1 hour
Review: Aishah Saleeman
This Netflix Man of God movie was released on Friday and directed by one of Nollywood’s brightest, Bolanle Austen-Peters. The plot revolves around a boy from a Christian household – Samuel (Akah Nnani). After years of corporal punishment due to his proven contrary belief in his father’s dogmatic religiosity, he took a different path from his father.
The film opened with Samuel’s father (Patrick Doyle) officiating in his church while Samuel sneaked out to play with friends. Samuel was repeatedly disciplined as his mother could do nothing to stop the beatings. On the occasion of leaving, he swore not to return. This played a major role in Samuel’s life.
While studying at the University of Lagos, he was the leader of an Afro-jazz band performing in shows that replicated the lifestyle of the late African Afrobeat maestro, Fela Anikulapo Kuti. He took one of Fela’s stage names – ‘Abami’ and continued to live recklessly with the help of his friend – Rekya (Dorcas Shola Fapson) with whom he had an open relationship. As he left his harsh religious upbringing to build his own life, his soul got stuck between his new world and the faith he left behind.
While in an open relationship with Rekya, he fell in love with a female pastor from the student community – Joy (Atlanta Bridget Johnson). His feelings for the pastor stopped him from following Rekya to drop out of school for pushing. He quit his recklessness due to his feelings for Joy and started attending fellowships. Joy graduated, leaving him in school due to some deferrals he had. A few months later, having heard nothing from Joy, he discovered that Joy was married to Pastor Zach (Mawuli Gavor) who was in charge of the graduation organized for her during her studies. Teju returned to his old life with a broken heart.
Nine years later, they were shown married and in church. Samuel became the musical director who had to endure the excesses of the bishop’s wife.
He decided to make a fortune by founding a church when Rekya returned to his life. With Rekya’s insistence and encouragement, one night he woke up and said to his wife, “I just heard from God. He called me three times. Just as Samuel was called by God in the Bible, this call began his journey into ministry. From that moment, his life takes an unprecedented turn for the better before hitting rock bottom, as expected.
With the intervention of Netflix, we expect no less in terms of production quality, especially with the panoply of talents available to the director.
The characters of the film brought their ‘A game’ to this production, they did well to deliver their roles. It was exciting to see Eucharia Anunobi back on screen. But the characterization could hardly help when the plots are muddled.
Likely in an effort to deliver a blockbuster movie, the producers ended up shooting themselves in the leg with the multi-layered storylines that could be individually explored in another movie sequel. This makes the film feel like others before it have made the mistake of bundling activities into faith-based films as the producers try to solve multiple problems in a short period of time.
The scene of the sister trying to find justice for her sister who allegedly died while aborting a pregnancy for Samuel was incomplete. The excesses of the general overseers have been brushed aside but not explicitly interpreted. And a lack of continuity in Samuel wearing the same fabric nine years after leaving the University of Lagos. A pastor from a youth community openly frolicking outside the college library and other places is a far cry from reality. It is also hard to believe that Samuel married Teju considering the relationship between the two families, but Samuel’s parents were not present.
The film explains the sacrifices humans make to earn money and how they sell their conscience just to be called “rich”. It tells with Rekya as she is pictured selling drugs and human trafficking.
Here, religion is not a way of salvation or anything like a belief. It’s a simple matter for Samuel. Initially, he was reluctant to get involved in church affairs, but after realizing how much power he could gain or how much money he could earn, he got more and more involved in these matters of religion. . Once inside, the church was unable to bring her the desired wealth, fueling her greed, thus joining Rekya in the drug trade.
In the first week of release, the film ranks first among viewed films in Nigeria on Netflix. The soundtracks and music rendered in the film are top notch, as well as a fine collection of African fabrics that helped the characters in the film.
Man of God is Bolanle Austen-Peters’ first Netflix-branded film.