Nigerian Historic Epic ‘Elesin Oba’ to Become First Yoruba-Language Movie to Premiere at TIFF

Netflix historical drama “Elesin Oba, The King’s Horseman,” will become the first Yoruba-language film to premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival.

Produced by Mo Abudu’s EbonyLife Films and Netflix, the film — which will play in the Special Presentations section — is based on real-life events in Nigeria in 1943, and set in the Oyo Empire, in which the King’s horseman, Elesin Oba, must commit ritual suicide to follow his deceased king into the afterlife.

However, his best intentions are derailed by his sexual desires, which leads to catastrophic consequences and ends in a deadly clash with the British rulers of the day. The horseman is unable to fulfil his ultimate commitment to the king, leaving his spirit to roam the earth, spelling doom for the land and its people.

The film is based on the stage play “Death and the King’s Horseman,” which was written by Wole Soyinka, who won Africa’s first Nobel Prize for Literature in 1986. It is the first of Soyinka’s works to be made into a feature film. The screen adaptation was written and directed by Biyi Bandele.

The film stars Odunlade Adekola as Elesin Oba, Shaffy Bello as Iyaloja, and acclaimed musician Olawale ‘Brymo’ Olofooro as the Praise Singer, making his screen debut. They are joined by Deyemi Okanlawon, Omowunmi Dada, and veteran actors, Jide Kosoko and Kevin Ushi. Also featured are Jenny Stead and Mark Elderkin as Jane and Simon Pilkings, Langley Kirkwood, and a special appearance by acting legend Taiwo Ajai-Lycett and Ajoke Silva.

TIFF CEO Cameron Bailey said: “It was a pleasure to see Soyinka’s words and his mastery of tragic drama transformed into cinema. Odunlade Adekola gives a grand, impressive performance.”

EbonyLife Group CEO Abudu, who is also executive producer of the film, added: “In filming Elesin Oba, we chose to stay close to the original work, which is already well-known globally as a great example of African drama. It’s an honour to see this compelling introduction to African thought and tradition on screen. Its interweaving of European and Yoruba ideals to depict universal themes of cultural responsibility has never been more important than now.”

“Elesin Oba, The King’s Horseman” will premiere on Sept. 10.

Check out a poster for the film below:

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