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Ife: Producers Of Nollywood’s First Lesbian Movie Risk Prosecution

Producers of Nigeria’s first lesbian movie Ife are going ahead with the project, ignoring calls for their arrest and imprisonment.

The Nigerian Film and Video Censors Board (NFVCB) says the movie violates the country’s strict laws on homosexuality and those behind it risk jail.

Producer Pamela Adie and director Uyaiedu Ikpe-Etim are, however, determined that Ife (meaning “love” in the Yoruba language) reaches a Nigerian audience.

To get around this, Adie and Ikpe-Etim are planning a surprise online release to catch the regulators off-guard.

They are organising a private screening in Lagos at the end of the month, for which they believe they do not need to get permission.

Ife will also get an international premiere in Canada in October.

Adie said the aim of the film was to show an accurate picture of lesbian and bisexual women in Nigerian movies.

If a lesbian woman does appear in a standard Nollywood movie they are often portrayed as being possessed, influenced by bad friends or forced into homosexuality and always needing “saving”, she told the BBC.

“You rarely see stories about LGBT people, especially about queer women that speak to the realities of our lives.

“Ife was made to bridge the gap and to get the conversation going in Nigeria.”

The feeling of being sidelined and the need to challenge beliefs that homosexuality is immoral is what inspired director Ikpe-Etim to take on the project.

“Before now, we have been told one-sided stories. What we are doing with this film is normalising the queer experience, we are normalising the LGBT romance.

“It will begin to erase that shame that LBQ [lesbian, bisexual and queer] women face,” she told the BBC.

The NFVCB is diligently monitoring all digital platforms to prevent the movie from getting out.

According to NFVCB boss Adebayo Thomas, Adie and Ikpe-Etim could be jailed for promoting homosexuality in a country where same-sex relationships are forbidden and can carry a 14-year sentence.

The legislation outlawing same-sex relationships was passed in 2014 and built on the colonial-era prohibition of sodomy. Police in Nigeria have cracked down on people suspected of homosexuality, forcing most into hiding.

“There’s a standing law that prohibits homosexuality, either in practice or in a movie or even in a theatre or on stage. If it’s content from Nigeria, it has to be censored,” Mr Thomas told the BBC.

“As long as it’s Nigerian content, we will pull it down because we have collaborations with Google, YouTube and other key players.”

But that has not deterred the producers and Adie says her team will continue as planned, as they believe they have done nothing wrong and do not plan to seek permission for an online release.

Gregory University Uturu, Abia State
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