Written by Aisha Salaudeen, CNNLagos, Nigeria

Two ladies lay in mattress in a good embrace, one is stroking the opposite’s hair and whispers that she is in love along with her.

These intimate scenes would not be misplaced in a Hollywood film, however in Nigeria’s movie trade, Nollywood, they’re close to taboo.

However Nigerian filmmaker Uyaiedu Ikpe-Etim says she is tackling the topic head-on in her new movie titled “Ife,” to create house for queer characters within the nation’s prolific film trade.

“Ife'” means love within the Yoruba language, spoken in West Africa, and most prominently in southern Nigeria.

LGBTQ characters are described poorly in Nollywood and are seen in problematic roles that encourage violence or judgment from viewers, Ikpe-Etim says.

“I am queer so ‘Ife’ is expensive to my coronary heart. I wished to signify LGBTQ characters in a distinct mild than how they’re proven in previous tales, to alter how heterosexuals view them,” she defined.

Homophobia in Nigeria

The story facilities on two ladies Ife and Adaora and the uncertainty surrounding their relationship. It’s created in partnership with Equality hub, an NGO in Nigeria targeted on preventing social injustices towards sexual minorities.

“They arrive into issues when they aren’t sure of the way forward for their relationship contemplating that these two ladies reside in Nigeria which is a homophobic nation,” she mentioned of the storyline.

Within the West African nation the place homophobia runs rampant, Ikpe-Etim is an advocate for the nation’s lesbian, homosexual, bisexual, trans, and queer (LGBTQ) group.

Homosexuality is frowned upon in Nigeria. The Identical-Intercourse Marriage (Prohibition) Act of 2014 says anybody discovered responsible of same-sex marriage faces as much as 14 years in jail.

A 2019 survey by The Initiative for Equal Rights (TIERS), a Nigerian human rights group, discovered that 75% of individuals within the nation assist the continued enforcement of the anti-gay legal guidelines.

Censorship of queer movies

Ikpe-Etim, 31, says “Ife” has no fastened launch date but however might be out earlier than the top of the yr.

What is for certain is that it faces an uphill battle with Nigeria’s movie censors, who’ve mentioned they could “go after the producers,” in the event that they discover that the movie promotes homosexuality.

The Nationwide Movie and Video Censors Board (NFVCB) is the federal government company set as much as regulate movies and movies in Nigeria.

Adedayo Thomas, government director of the NFVCB, informed CNN the board won’t approve movies that promote themes that do not conform with the nation’s “structure, morals and traditions.”

“We’re monitoring the progress of the film, and if it goes towards the legislation by selling homosexuality, we might be pressured sooner or later to go after the producer and government producer,” he added.

Based on Thomas, Ife was by no means submitted to the NFVCB earlier than its trailer was launched, making it unattainable to categorise or censor the movie.

Actor Cindy Amadi is one of the lead characters in the movie.

Actor Cindy Amadi is likely one of the lead characters within the film. Credit score: The Equality Hub

“We have a look at the content material of the movie and we have a look at the top. For instance, in a film that glorifies fraud, we have a look at the way it ends, did the fraudster meet their waterloo? How the film ends will decide our censorship. You would not watch your child to observe a movie that glorifies fraud,” he informed CNN.

“Ife’s” producer Pamela Adie says companies like NFVCB suppress the creativity of filmmakers.

“If there’s a demand for movies like Ife and if individuals need it, and the censor’s board doesn’t approve then it means they’re not directly stifling the artistic powers of filmmakers. To disclaim a movie merely due to queer characters is discrimination,” she mentioned.

Stereotyping queer characters

Nollywood has all the time had a problematic relationship with its queer characters, portraying them as mentally sick, beneath the affect of witchcraft or troubled.
In Emotional Crack, a 2003 movie, one of many lead characters, Camilla falls in love with Crystal, a married girl who suffered home abuse from her husband.

Each ladies kicked off a relationship that finally ended when Crystal grew to become uncertain of remaining in a same-sex relationship.

Whereas the movie was one of many nation’s early introductions into LGBTQ relationships, it repeated damaging stereotypes like branding Camilla as violent, predatory, and prompt that Crystal’s lesbianism was because of being mistreated by a person.
Equally, in a 2010 movie, “Males in Love,” the affair of the lead couple was tagged a “robust satanic bond.”

Adie informed CNN that she needs to problem different filmmakers in Nollywood to create extra nuanced queer tales devoid of the standard stereotypes.

“My hope is that Ife shapes issues up, and mainstream Nollywood begins to consider tales that painting the truth of LGBT Nigerians,” she defined.

The 36-year-old added that “Ife” is certainly one of few movies with a give attention to lesbians in Nigeria, “loads of illustration has been geared in the direction of homosexual males,” she says.

Actor Uzoamaka Aniunoh plays the role of "Ife"

Actor Uzoamaka Aniunoh performs the function of “Ife” Credit score: The Equality Hub

Outpouring of assist

Nigeria shouldn’t be the one nation with strict guidelines relating to movies with robust LGBTQ illustration.

In April 2018, Rafiki was banned by Kenya’s Movie and Classification Board (KFCB) due to its intent to “promote lesbianism,” within the East African nation.

Regardless of the challenges round creating queer centered movies in Nigeria, Adie says there was an outpouring of assist for “Ife” from audiences within the nation.

“It’s one thing that’s groundbreaking. We’ve obtained assist, from after we launched the poster to the trailer. It looks like individuals did not know they wished this sort of content material until now.”

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