Alakada as a Reflection of Nigerian Society
by Yasmine Dehghani
When I was first given the task of creating a video essay on Alakada, I can truthfully and safely say that I was completely stuck in terms of deciding what lens to analyze it through. I was intimidated by the fact that all of the video essays I had been exposed to analyzed more artsy films whereas my film was the complete opposite: it was a low budget, comedy film, and I had convinced myself that there was no way I could find anything of substance to discuss. Looking back, I remembered that one of the reasons I had chosen to work with Alakada in the first place was that it was deemed one of the most Nigerian films ever made in the Nollywood industry. There had to be a reason for this, I thought, and that is where the research began to come in.
One of the things I discovered was that Nigerian film tends to focus greatly on more superficial, suspenseful, and over the top themes, such as barbarity, wealth, and duplicity, rather than more nationalistic themes that show off Nigeria’s industries and historical landmarks. Of course Alakada was a perfect example of this phenomenon, as the main character Yetunde dupes her way through life, faking a wealthy lifestyle by soliciting money from others in order to buy flashy clothing for example, and finds herself in various physical altercations through her provocation of others. Within the beginning of the movie the viewer is already exposed to two different fights that Yetunde gets herself into. What I also found interesting was the idea of the “get rich syndrome” (Olugbenga and Ayinla) that both Yetunde and Tunji obviously have, and its prominence throughout Nollywood film.
What I ultimately decided to focus on, what stood out to me the most, were the values that seemed to permeate Nigerian culture. Reading about these values immediately reminded me of Alakada; right when I read that Nigerians tend to respect the elderly, for example, I was reminded of a scene in the film when Yetunde begins insulting an old man who lives in her village. When I read about Nigerians’ emphasis on truthfulness, I laughed to myself as I thought of the many times Yetunde and Tunji both violated this sacred Nigerian value. What pushed me to finally pursue this path though was the revelation I had as a result of my research: that these values are oftentimes corrupted by those who chase affluence. There it was: that right there, I decided was what I was going to discuss. It was like my film was being described to me right there on the paper.
Something fascinating that I discovered throughout my research was that Nollywood films tend to showcase both corruption of Nigerian values as well as adherence to them, and that the inclusion of the corruption is meant to encourage growth and “development” (Olugbenga and Ayinla), in terms of character, in the audience. I was able to come to a similar conclusion in my analysis of Alakada, when I inferred that Yetunde and Tunji’s downfalls served as moral lessons for the Nigerian audience. By the time Nollywood films end, most of the issues that ensue as a result of this corruption are also straightened out. Alakada did not have this fate though, as the film ended with Yetunde and Tunji being stuck in a relationship they were unhappy with as a result of their dishonesty to each other. There was no silver lining at the end for either characters, as it is implied that neither character truly loved each other throughout the film and merely wanted to line their pockets with the other person’s money.
What I briefly touched upon at the end of my video essay was the humor throughout the film, which I believe further contributes to the extent to which Alakada represents Nigeria. Nigerian humor is playful in the fact that it makes light out of serious situations and tends to focus on the mocking of others’ plights, both of which occurs in Alakada. Yetunde actively lies, cheats money out of others, toys with men’s emotions in order to achieve her goals, and is physically aggressive toward people who anger her. The situations she finds herself in are so exaggerated, however, that it is impossible not to crack a smile. When she lies to her roommates that her uncle is British Prime Minister Tony Flair and that he gets shot by terrorists, her character’s awful exaggerated tears, which accompany this outrageous story, are enough to make anyone laugh. By the end of the film, it becomes hard to even sympathize with either her or Tunji because the viewer is made to feel as if it is their fault for putting themselves in such ridiculous predicaments.
What I had firmly believed would be the most difficult assignment I will ever take on throughout my entire academic career, mostly due to my inexperience with Premiere Pro but of course the genre of the film played a glaring role as well, turned out to be much simpler once I began familiarizing myself more with Nigerian culture. The Nollywood film industry is a vibrant, intelligent, and creative commentary on Nigerian society and culture, and I anticipate that my video essay will be an adequate representation of just how Alakada is able to showcase this.
- Anwuluorah, Patricia Ogugua and Asike, Jude Chinweuba. “Nigeria Traditional Moral Values in the Context of Globalization: Approach of Justice and Responsibility.” African Journals Online, 2015.
- Bekee, Yira-Eeba. “Memes: How Nigerians Make Humor Out Of Serious Situations.” Leadership Nigeria Newspaper, 25 Feb. 2018.
- Okubor, Festus. “Nigerian humour.” The Naked Convos, 2018 Mar. 18.
- Olugbenga, Elegbe and Ayinla, Fadipe Israel. “Promoting Cultural and Social Values in Yoruba Nollywood Movies.” Africology: The Journal of Pan African Studies, vol. 10, no. 2, April 2017.