The short answer is “No, it’s not ‘Netflixable.'”
The novelty of sampling the work of “Nollywood,” Nigeria’s lively film industry, of seeing the rare film (in the West) that looks at the country from an insider’s point of view, wears off far too quickly in this tale of a demonic diety possessed statuette.
“The Figurine” as it was titled for export, “Araromire” for domestic consumption, is a 2009-2010 slow-walk soap opera masquerading as a horror film. It finally gets around to supernatural violence — only hinted at in a long prologue — in its final act.
It is too little too late.
The tale follows two friends, Sola and Femi, played by actor and sometime director Kunle Afolayan, and Ramsey Nouah, who stumble across a wooden idol in a hut when they’re doing their young Nigerians’ national (civilian-ish) Youth Corps training.
Sola hasn’t been able to land a job because he’s put off doing this service. Femi seems destined for greater things in the world of Lagos finance.
But the moment Sola steals that statuette, both of them have a change of luck. Sola impregnates and marries the coquettish Mona (Omoni Oboli). He lands a plum job.
Femi? He doesn’t exactly fall on hard times, but he is left unhappily alone.
What we’ve been told in the prologue, which nobody in the story figures out until late in the second act, is that the “figurine” is of an ancient spirit, “Araromire.” We’ve seen how she was summoned by a native priest almost 100 years before. Her rep? She is the goddess “of luck and good fortune.” She bestows it upon her master for seven years.
But there’s a catch. At the end of those seven years, “It takes it all away!”
The pacing, and the almost punishingly roundabout way Kunle Afolayan’s film sidles up to “the plot” will be a turnoff to many.
And whatever the maturity of Nigeria’s film industry, there are things First World films and film fans take for granted that “Figurine” stumbles over. Actors talk off-mike (No looping?). Takes go on too long, after their payoff. That leads to scenes that meander.
The few exteriors liven the picture up, with only one set really giving us the feel of the place, how people live and decorate their lives there.
Contrast this with the comparitively over-produced “Half of a Yellow Sun” with Thandie Newton, Anika Noni Rose and Chiwetel Ejiofor, a period piece that felt more like “real life” despite the “Hollywood” casting and design touches.
The face-slaps and corny dialogue (in English, and Nigerian pidgin) — “Don’t tell me you believe such superstitions, too!” — do the players, who aren’t bad, no favors.
In the U.S., only the exceptional film from a culture not known for film as an export typically merits a showing. “Araromire/The Figurine” isn’t exceptional in any way — a pedestrian horror plot, timidly and languidly acted, filmed and edited, its only recommendation being “Well, it’s not EVERY day we see a ‘horror’ movie (even a soapy one) from Nigeria.”
MPAA rating: Unrated, violence, sexual situations
Cast: Kunle Afolayan, Funlola Aofiyebi, Ramsey Nouah, Omoni Oboli
Credits: Directed by Kunle Afolayan. A Golden/Netflix release.
Running time: 2:01