Do you ever wonder why you’ve never met anyone who speaks “Nigerian”? Easy. Because the language spoken in Nigeria is actually called Yoruba.
Spoken by nearly 50 million people, Yoruba is a pluricentric language, mainly spoken in a dialectal area spanning Nigeria, Benin and Togo. However, all you have to do to find interesting content in Yoruba is turn on your TV and open your favourite streaming platforms.
The Nigerian film industry is one of the biggest and most prolific movie scenes in Africa. Sometimes referred to as Nollywood, it produces around 200 films and TV series a month, many of which can be found on platforms such as Netflix and Amazon Prime with subtitles.
Watching Yoruba films is an excellent way of learning about the diversity of the Nigerian language and the people who speak it.
If you like seeing engaging entertainment with a pan-African perspective, here is a short list of Yoruba films that you won’t want to miss.
1. Love in Vendetta (1996)
Starring Zack Orji and inspired by the 1987 Kano riots, one of the most violent incidents between Christians and Muslims in the 1980s, this is one of the best Yoruba movies for those who like learning history through film.
Love in Vendetta is a loose adaptation of Romeo and Juliet. As in Shakespeare’s classic, the film presents two lovers: a Hausa girl and an Igbo boy.
The young couple dream of getting married although both their families strongly oppose their union and seem willing to do whatever it takes to separate them. Eventually, they discover that their families’ opposition is the consequence of open wounds left by the 1987 Kano riots and the violence that affected their entire generation.
Will this love story end on a tragic note, or will it deviate from Shakespeare’s play and offer a glimpse of hope at the end? Well, you’ll have to watch it and find out.
2. Code of Silence (2015)
Adanma, a young and promising medical student, is sexually abused by a local politician and his assistant while she is coming back home from college.
Although her family shows her their support, she’s afraid to report the abusers to the authorities due to her low social standing. She is afraid that these men will use their power to further ruin her life.
As a result of this awful experience, she suffers severe psychological and emotional consequences. Soon, the traumatising event takes over her whole life.
Code of Silence has been praised for its brave stance against sexual abuse in Nigeria, and for sensitively addressing the terrible effects that rape has on its victims.
3. The Figurine: Araromire (2009)
This Nigerian supernatural thriller is one of the most acclaimed Yoruba movies in recent times. It follows the story of two friends who come across a mysterious sculpture in an ancient shrine in the forest.
The problems start when they agree to take the figurine home. It turns out the artwork is a representation of the “Araromire”, a goddess who is believed to bestow seven years of good fortune to those who find her. However, after this time has passed, it’s followed by seven years of misfortune.
Indeed, at first, the fate of the two friends starts to change for the better. They set up a successful business and become wealthy entrepreneurs. However, seven years later, things start to slowly take a dark turn as everything they hold dear seems to vanish into thin air.
This film features spiritual themes spiced with Hollywood-esque drama-thriller elements. It’s an engaging story about friendship, devotion, treachery and death. It’s also a reflection on the lingering effect of curses, whether or not we believe in them.
4. October 1 (2014)
Looking for a Yoruba movie that is dark and a bit disturbing? Then you can’t do much better than this psychological thriller film set in Colonial Nigeria.
It tells the story of Danladi Waziri, a policeman who is sent to a remote village in Western Nigeria to investigate what lies behind the recurring female murder cases in the town and solve the mystery before October 1, when the national flag is raised to celebrate Nigeria's Independence Day.
The movie, however, is not so much a “whodunit” but a study on how people react to acts of unspeakable violence. Ultimately, it’s a film about the resilience and courage of a community.
5. Cry Freedom (1981)
A fictionalised take on the events leading to Nigeria's independence in 1960, this Yoruba movie follows the story of a Nigerian guerrilla fighter who leads the struggle for freedom from British rule.
A strong-willed and fearless leader, this man will defy both the colonialists and his fellow compatriots who adhere to the British government. Even though he has very few guns and is at the front of a rather weak organisation, he will not rest until his country is free from its tyrants.
Whether you know some Yoruba or you’re a complete beginner, these Yoruba movies will give you hours of entertainment and exposure to the vocabulary and sounds of this fascinating language.
Once you’re done with our list and feel ready to get some real training, visit our website and explore our courses taught by native Yoruba tutors. They will help you boost your speaking skills much faster than you would in traditional courses. Send us a quick enquiry now and we’ll send you detailed information about our tailor-made, one-to-one lessons.