Dr. Yusuf Bangura PhD: Sierra Leone Telegraph: 17 April 2022:
I’ve just finished watching a deeply engrossing film, The Man of God, produced and directed by Nigeria’s Bolanle Austen-Peters (Photo above).
The film, which was realeased on Netflix today, promises to be a box office hit. It’s one of the best Nolywood films I’ve watched in a long time. Cerebral, vibrant and thoroughly engaging, it exposes the complexity and unpredictability of human nature and life choices.
The film is a powerful critique of the evangelical church or prosperity Christianity, which has turned many pastors with questionable backgrounds and predatory practices into super rich people.
The lead actor, Sam, rebelled against the strict upbringing of his religious father, who was a famous pastor in Lagos. When he left home for university, he decided to live his own life and vowed never to return to his family. He became a freewheeling, anti-religious, Afrobeat musician and playboy with intimate relationships with three girls whom he met at university.
Two of these girls were deeply religious and constantly pressured him to attend church service with them. He was torn between their religiosity and his new life as a socialite.
His third female friend lived life on the fast lane, loved money and was involved in transnational criminal activities. She got him to understand that there was more money to be made in the church than in oil and gas or politics.
The family and pastor of one of the two religious girls, who was Sam’s favourite, married her off to a young, flamboyant pastor in Abuja to end her relationship with Sam, who was deemed unworthy and wayward.
Sam was shattered by that experience and decided to marry the second religious girl, who was ambitious and clearly understood the value of the church as an easy pathway to prosperity.
Reflecting on the advice of her worldly girlfriend to use religion and get rich, he told his wife that he had received a call from God to serve the people. Sam decided to become a Man of God, built a huge church, became filthy rich and lived in a gorgeous mansion.
However, Sam’s life came crashing down when his money laundering business with his worldly girlfriend was discovered by the police and he was arrested. He hated his new wealth, wanted to live a normal life again and flee the country. He later returned to his family and joined his church as a prodigal son.
I find the transition from his arrest to his return to his family too sharp and foggy. I may need to watch the film again for clarity.
This is a truly superb film. Bonlale Austin-Peters (Photo) did a remarkable job of building layers of complexity in the characters of the cast. Sam and his three girlfriends are amazing performers—confident, well-spoken, stylish and unpredictable. The cinematography and Afrobeat soundtrack are of the highest quality. Watching this movie, it is safe to say that Nolywood has really come of age.
There are several subplots, which are nicely woven together to produce an entertaining and masterful critique of the monetisation of religion without rejecting religion itself. Sam, after all, went back to his father’s church.
Bonlale Austin-Peters owns arguably Nigeria’s foremost movie and theatre company, BAP Production. She’s very creative and versatile, having trained as a lawyer and worked in UN agencies before venturing into theatre and film production.
Her other film 93 Days, also on Netflix, told the story of the Ebola outbreak in Nigeria. She’s the owner and director of Terra Kulture Arena, a 400-seat state of the art performance hall in Lagos, believed to be the first privately owned theatre in Nigeria. Kudos to her.