Anikulapo: The making of Netflix most watched non-English film
The movie produced by Kunle Afolayan was set in the 17th-century ancient Oyo Kingdom and premiered on Netflix on September 30, 2022. A week after its premiere, it became the most-watched non-English film on Netflix, with a cumulative 8.7m streaming hours.
‘Anikulapo’ journey started six years ago and was aimed to tell the African indigenous story so that people could truly connect with them.
According to Afolayan, he grew up watching a lot of indigenous films and TV series on television in the 1980s and early 1990s, and he wanted people to reconnect with those things back.
So he used technology to make those indigenous and original stories more appealing and to give them a more universal appeal.
The movie which stars Kunle Remi, Bimbo Ademoye, Sola Sobowale, Hakeem Kae-Kazim, Taiwo Hassan, and others narrates the story of Saro (played by Kunle Remi) who has recently arrived in Oyo as a stranger and a traditional textile weaver who uses the “aso-ofi” loom and technique.
Saro has an illicit romance with Queen Arolake (played by Bimbo Ademoye) who was in an unhappy marriage because she is hated by the King’s wives and is also uninterested in the king, but it is her duty to lay with him.
She falls in love with Saro as they plan to elope, but the king learns of their affair and sentences Saro to death.
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Based on the mythical Akala bird which wakes him from death, Saro, through the astute actions of Arolake, gains the power to resurrect the dead through a gourd stolen by Aroloke, and earns the name, Anikulapo (Aníkúlápó), which means the “one that holds death in his purse.”
As Saro becomes popular in their new village Ojumo, he sets amorous eyes on other women and betrays Arolake. His excessive pride is his hubris as he begins to make inordinate demands from the villagers before he can raise the dead. When Arolake hears that Saro has asked for the king’s daughter before he can restore life to the king’s heir, she undermines the source of his power and deserts him.
Saro fails to resurrect the prince and discovers he no longer has the power to tame death.
Afolayan went on to say that the film was originally titled ‘Odu the Parable of Tails’ and was intended to be a series, but after pitching to Canopus and Netflix, it was only approved by Netflix but as a film rather than a series.
Speaking of the film’s location and casting, he stated that they were critical to the film’s success because it is a language film, which means that everyone involved must be fluent in the original language.
He stated that the script called for a good-looking guy who is also good with the Yoruba language and dedicated to playing the role of ‘Saro,’ so he cast Kunle Remi, and for Bimbo Ademoye, she was so good with deep Yoruba speaking and was so natural.
According to him, the filming took place in Oyo for 6 to 7 weeks and involved approximately 300 people. The entire production set was built from scratch.
He also stated that except for color correction and grading, which were done in the UK, post-production was completed entirely in Nigeria, also the production value was not compromised because he wanted it to appeal to a larger audience.