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Oka! (Blu-ray Review)

10 Nov, 2013 By: Ashley Ratcliff

Well Go USA
Box Office $0.02 million
$24.98 DVD, $29.98 Blu-ray
Not rated.
Stars Haviland Morris, Will Yun Lee, Peter Riegert, Kris Marshall, Isaach De Bankolé.

Based on true events, Oka! is the intriguing story of one American’s fascination with the music of the Bayaka pygmies of Africa. Refusing to let a doctor’s diagnosis of liver failure stop him, an undaunted, impassioned Larry Whitman (Kris Marshall) makes his return to Yandombe in the Central Africa Republic.

The tall New Jersey native stands out in the primitive land but immediately is welcomed back by the villagers, who affectionately refer to him as the “White” and eagerly await knick-knacks he’s brought them from the Western world.

This trip for Larry is different than the others. He’s determined to find a rare instrument, the molimo, during his extended stay, and finds this once-familiar place rife with unwelcomed changes. Larry sees this firsthand with corrupt Bantu mayor Bassoun (Isaach de Bankolé), who has no qualms with kicking the Bayaka out of the rainforest and cutting down trees, essentially forcing them into an uncomfortable new way of life.

The story intensifies when Larry, against the mayor’s orders, heads back into the rainforest with his recording equipment to find Sataka, a revered Bayaka elder. Meanwhile, Bassoun is setting in motion a plan that will permanently remove the pygmy people from the land that they love.

Oka! at times has a documentary feel, and despite it being a re-dramatization of events, its impact isn’t diminished. Seeing the rainforest and its exotic creatures in their pristine state, and hearing the music of the Bayaka people work in tandem to draw the viewer in deeper to the already enthralling story.

With so many questions, it’s too bad the disc is void of any bonus material to provide additional details about Louis Sarno, the man on whom the film is based.

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