Tuesday, February 24, 2009

How narrow is the path?: A review of Tunde Kelani's 'The Narrow Path'

Produced and directed by Tunde Kelani
Year of Production: 2006.

Narrow Path is one movie that will not stop haunting me in a short time. Like most of Tunde Kelani’s movies, it focuses on an issue that the society likes to keep in the dark; in this case repressive culture and its effects on women. The movie, though an adaptation of Bayo Adebowale’s novel The Virgin, brings with it a unique beauty that can only be achieved when a good script is actualised by actors who know their onions, and by the expertise of a director like Tunde Kelani.

The story has its roots in the cultural practice of virginity tests among the Yoruba people. Awero, the main character is torn between her love for three different men—Dauda, her childhood friend and randy city boy; Lapade, the rich goldsmith; Odejimi, the hunter who finally stole her heart away. The conflict arises when she is raped by Dauda, who sees sex as a compensation for the city gifts she had received from him. Awero is torn between three worlds: cancel the marriage, confess to Odejimi, her betrothed or let the marriage continue. She chooses the last. On the night of the wedding the secret is laid bare: Awero is a broken pot, an empty carton, her husband did not meet her at home—she is not a virgin. The conflict gets knottier as Awero refuses to mention the person that deflowered her. She is given two options: Confess and get married to the man or dance round the village naked. It is now that she is unbridled; she finds her voice and is willing to dance round the village because she is already naked. This heaps more shame on her family and vexes the husband, his kindred and village, they were short changed, they thought. This fuels a war between both villages, and gives Awero, the image of Helen of Troy. The dénouement comes when Awero stands between the two troops and makes a remarkable speech of reconciliation that reveals the folly of the men and ends the war. The movie also has a subplot that is skillfully intertwined into the whole story.

Narrow Path is one movie that you will enjoy for many reasons: good story, the beauty of the costumes, good actors, well arranged scenes, properly delivered dialogue, suspense, the incorporation of music and dance, etc. Beyond these; it has very strong feminist leanings which are not usually seen in most Nollywood movies. However, there are still some lessons to be learnt. The conversations of the movie are executed in English; however, the translation is also in English, is this not mere repetition? It would have been better to have the translation in other languages, say French, Ibo, Hausa or even pidgin. How would that be, translations in Pidgin English? Some of the characters tried a bit too hard in their efforts to speak English, and you could hear the tension of being torn between two tongues in their delivery.

Timelessness is one important quality every work of art should possess. That is why I think this movie should be in every house, at least as a heritage of the past, yet with the beauty of the present. Perhaps, this is Narrow Path’s greatest beauty.

NB: Tunde Kelani's latest movie Arugba is screening in local governments in Lagos state, so watch out, the movie may be in your neighbourhood soon!

Visit the Mainframe Website here: http://mainframemovies.tv/


  1. hey..check out this Nigerian pidgin english dictionary and translator. http://www.pidginguide.com

  2. The Narrow Path is a real exposé of some of our rich cultural heritage – the bathing of the new born baby, the wedding preparations, submissiveness of the women and ability to hold the household in peace and love and even the gossip amongst the womenfolk – beautiful!
    The lessons in the film are not lost. Women have always been suppressed and not given a voice. Through no fault of Awero, she began a torture the moment Dauda defiled her for a gift of talc powder! One would wonder why she never confided in anyone through it all till the wedding night when her shame was exposed. That is the point! Women continue to harbor a lot of shame over indignity visited on us by the men. Shouldn’t it be the other way round!
    Tunde Kelani is one of the masters of contemporary Yoruba stories, which remind us of the past religion wants to take from us.
    The Narrow Path did something to me when I watched it. It is gripping and awe-inspiring. I think I found myself suppressing the tears building up when Awero went to stand between the two warring groups and delivered her ‘speech’.
    I will always remember the feeling that film brought. It will always be for me a narrow path to reality about us … about the suffering and triumph of the womenfolk.