The film adaption of Wole Soyinka’s Death and the King’s Horseman will premier at the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) in September. EbonyLife Media Team made the announcement earlier today on their social channels. The film is titled Elesin Oba: The King’s Horseman and will be showcased at TIFF in the Special Presentation Category, alongside the likes of Steven Spielberg’s The Fabelmans and The Banshees Of Inisherin starring Colin Farrell.
A record-setting event, this will be the first time that a Yoruba language film is featured at TIFF. This premier officially kicks off promotions for the film, which will be released on Netflix Naija later this year. The film’s director Biyi Bandele is a novelist, as well, and has extensive experience with the stage. The line up of actors is star-studded featuring Odunlade Adekola playing Elesin, Shaffy Bello as Iyaloja, Deyemi Okanlawon as Elesin’s son Olunde, Nigerian musician Olawale-Brymo Olofooro as praise singer, and a host of others.
With blockbuster productions like Wedding Party and, more recently, Blood Sisters (also directed by Bandele), EbonyLife has brought African stories to the world stage. But, for those of us who are avid lovers of African books, this production hits different. [See full credits here.]
Of Soyinka’s 30 plays written in the last 60 years, Death and the King’s Horseman stands out as one of the play most beloved by readers and scholars. Set in 1940s Oyo, it tells the story of a Yoruba horseman named Elesin Oba who fails in his duty to die by ritual suicide, setting off a set of historical forces that send the Yoruba world into metaphysical crisis. With EbonyLife bringing the play to the screen, a new generation of viewers around the world gets the chance to experience Soyinka’s powerful anti-colonial story centered on the re-imagination of Yoruba royalty.
Based on the trailer (see below), there’s much to look forward to. Whereas Soyinka’s play is written in English, Bandele’s film is delivered mostly in Yoruba. Elesin Oba is a period film, and it looks from the costume and the set design, that the film will be a time warp, taking us all the way back to mid-20th-century Yoruba world. Death and the Kings Horseman is an epic political drama, an anti-colonial saga. It captures individuals caught in the middle of powerful historical forces. But it is also about the pomp and pageantry of royalty, the clash of powerful personalities, and a touch of romance. We can’t wait to see how Bandele channels all of that to the big screen.