A review of Mokalik by Debola Ogunshina

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I wanted to hate Mokalik, I really wanted to, but, I find myself still struggling to. I had heard cruel and scathing reviews and concluded even before watching that it’s most likely going to be bad. But sadly, or not so sadly, my thoughts are far from the negativity I had consumed before viewing.

Mokalik is a simple film about artistry or artisanship that may fall flat to a “layman”. For people like me familiar with Mushin and the artisanship lifestyle that’s rife in the area , Mokalik is bound to be a good watch. I have observed many a rookie on their first day at work and the associated drama that accompanies the novelty. I have seen how the carpentry workshop in my house works. I have watched with keen interest how the fashion designer- sorry Tailor- in my house treats his apprentices and how the Oga is the god. I love that the film is a simple story about the artisan’s life, an idea that is alien to us, especially, now,  with the mainstream emphasis on escapist cinema. Parties, jamboree and fanfare have taken over our screens and this film is a much needed breath of fresh air with a patient gaze on the not so privileged.

This is a different world, a world where inhabitants don’t have much and said lack isn’t necessarily the all in their lives . A world where they rub shoulders and bosoms on and with cars they might never own in their lives but care for them as if they do own them; a world where the tiniest lapse in judgement from the mechanic and he could, later, find himself pleading for mercy before the gnarly jaws of highway armed robbers.

Another positive from the movie is the acting. I have always cherished the talent and durability of most Yoruba film actors and in here is a reminder of how good they are. Most times, there’s the tendency to wander into slapstick rendering or bland expositions but here, thanks to Kunle Afolayan’s directorial chops, the foibles are bridled and the deliveries are clean and  clear like an infant’s bone. Even the erratic Charles Okocha has his volatile, sometimes unfunny theatrics well guarded.  A few people have complained bitterly about the young boy, Ponle, but I believe his dispositions are just about right here. The boy is from a wealthy home and he finds himself in a mechanic workshop; the much berated cluelessness and passivity is exactly what is expected from him.

However, Mokalik would have been better served with a bit of attention to story structure, because at several points the beats got repetitive and the usually dependable orature of Yoruba actors struggled to rescue the dreariness. The documentary styled filming also comes off as problematic in patches, with Ponle the rookie as our interviewer helping us to get into the world of a mechanic. He repeatedly asks unimaginative questions like a bored newscaster out of tune with the presentations of a teleprompter. Mokalik is a good movie that could have been great with better attention to the story. If all that happens in the film is just a boy asking questions in a mechanic village populated with quirky characters, then we, the viewers, are better off visiting one ourselves and are most likely guaranteed the same memorable experience.


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