Nigerian film ‘Ife’ goes online to avoid censors
The Nigerian lesbian film Ife is set to to go online via an on-demand platform to avoid being censored by its own government.
A deeply religious country with LGBTQ people risking stigmatization, family rejection, and even stoning under Sharia law, Nigeria also has a 2014 law that criminalizes gay relationships with 14 years imprisonment.
Likewise, a 2019 survey by the Initiative for Equal Rights (TIERS) advocacy group showed that 75 percent of Nigerians support this ban on same-sex sexual activity.
Ife to be released online
Ife is Nigeria’s first lesbian feature film and the title means “love” in the Yoruba language. Since the trailer’s upload in YouTube, it has been watched thousands of times.
“In Nigeria, there has never been a film like Ife,” said its producer Pamela Adie, who is one of Nigeria’s most prominent LGBTQ activists.
Because the Nigerian film board might not approve Ife for distribution, Adie told Reuters that they plan to release it on an online on-demand platform this year.
She said, “Anyone who wants to watch will be able to do so from anywhere in the world.”
She further told said that, “No film has had the impact it will have, or already has in Nigeria.”
“The reception to the poster and the trailer has been mad. We expect that it will be madder when the full film is released,” she said.
Views on LGBTQ changing in Nigeria
Nigeria has arts and entertainment as its major cultural exports with a multibillion dollar film industry called Nollywood. However, in most of their films, LGBTQ characters are shown as mentally ill or possessed.
Likewise, in these films, spiritual leaders try to deliver them from the “demon of homosexuality.”
In response to this, TIERS has been producing popular LGBTQ films and TV series. Their male teenage love story We Don’t Live Here Anymore by Nigerian filmmaker Tope Oshin has won awards.
This has softened attitudes among Nigerians such that 30 percent say they would accept a gay family member in 2019 versus 11 percent in 2011.
Adie believes the media can help in changing hearts and minds in the country. She further said that by making Nigeria’s first lesbian love story, she can help other women struggling with their sexuality.
“This is one for us,” Adie said. “It will bring immense joy to the hearts of many of us who would be seeing people like us centered in a Nigerian film for the first time.”
Ife on LGBTQ love in Nigeria
The film Ife is about two Nigerian women: the titular character (Uzoamaka Aniunoh) and Adaora (Cindy Amadi). The two fall in love after a three-day date.
This was written and directed by first-timer Uyaiedu Ikpe-Etim. It was released in collaboration with the Equality Hub, an LGBTQ nonprofit organization in Nigeria.
The trailer shows scenes familiar to LGBTQ viewers, from the process of coming out to parents to the couple in bed talking.
Adie said the relationship in the film is “not an an exception.” She added: “It’s actually one that’s really common, and that’s the reason why it should be told.”
However, Adedayo Thomas, executive director of Nigeria’s National Film and Video Censors Board, told CNN that they “are monitoring the progress of the movie.”
Thomas said that “if it goes against the law by promoting homosexuality, we will be forced at some point to go after the producer and executive producer.”
Check out the trailer of the movie below: