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The second day of The Annual Film Mischief 2023 expands on the social consciousness of Day 1. Shooting the culture can also be described as stoking the embers of topics we like to run away from or think of as controversial. The place and significance of the female gender in the Nigerian society continues to be a consistent preoccupation, so is the ever widening economic disparity that sees the poor plunged further into poverty. Nwamaka Chikezia’s My mama na Ashawo, screening virtually, addresses the duplicitous treatment accorded to sex work in Nigeria. A young boy called Tejiri is excited to complete his class essay on his parents occupation and has no reservations against sharing it with the entire class. The only issue is – his mama na ashawo, a local prostitute, and Tejiri doesn’t see anything wrong with sharing this piece of information with anyone who cares to hear it. But we see the people recoil and judge the supposedly forbidden word.
My Mama Na Ashawo exposes us for what we (most of us, anyway) are. While the world judges Tejiri’s mother “sacrilegious” occupation, we still see several dozens of people line up at her door for her services. We see proceeds from her thriving business – the fat bundles she brings home every day. Nwamaka Chikezie is not new to storytelling on the page and screen. She carefully gives us a fresh perspective into a despised profession from the eyes of a child. It adds a certain tenderness and innocence to the tale. Hearing little Tejiri (Annointed Emmanuel) describe his mom with so much love reminds us that sex workers are, first of all, human beings with complex combinations of needs, fears, wants and flaws. My Mama Na Ashawo is an important film, a decent watch, and would certainly go places.
Chiemeka Osuagwu’s Samaria tells the story of a girl whose life is about to be upturned by poverty when the rent expires and her single mother decides they should retreat to the village. In the middle of the chaos, Amara (Ifeoluwa Eninla) finds comfort in a stranger, Victor (Baaj Adebule), and his promises.
On the surface, there is nothing inappropriate about this union. We insist that it is innocent, even when Amara’s mother blows hot. Mothers will be mothers, the film makes us think. Yet, we only know and judge what is available to be known. This is the message Chiemeka Osuagwu preaches in his directorial debut. It is a story carefully written and directed, leaving us with bare clues until he opens the door for us to step in and only then do we realize any error in judgement.
Samaria does not keep you at the edge of your seat with its contemplative pace. What it does is leave you with a thoughtful sigh, the one that subtly agrees with its point of view – that the world is more grey than the black and white we like to think it is. The film shines a fresh light on the ever-looming danger of abuse and the meticulous tactics of deception predators use. Samaria has gathered its accolades, from an award at ‘My First Short Film Festival’ in Stockholm, Sweden to Best Short at Toronto and two nominations at Real Time Film Festival and it looks like it is headed for more.
Ese Ariremu’s Prey discusses a fragile theme using the delicate topic of the sexual assault of the boy-child. Of course, this is not rare in today’s society but it is rarely acknowledged or reflected in film and this is Prey’s undeniable appeal. In Prey, a young boy hawks to feed his family at the command of his mother and to make his mother happy with the sales, he goes into the home of a predator who buys everything off him including his body.
ELCA graduate, Ese Ariremu, is not new to filmmaking and storytelling and it shows in the quality of his work. It is simple, straightforward but with a lot of ambition. There are no twists or no tight endings. Prey only seeks to bring its message to light and leave you with your emotions rattled. Prey blends in with TAFM23’s theme Shoot The Culture and while we are not proud about it, this topic is a frightening reality in our society that is not talked about enough.
Gold by Charles F. Solomon expands the dialogue into the intersection of sports and politics. The year is 1996. An eventful year, politically and sport-wise for Nigeria. Ken Saro Wiwa has been compelled into permanent silence. Those who share the parallel urge to be vocal about the military regime aere constantly arrested and silenced with unjustified imprisonment. James(Eric Obinna), like most Nigerians around this time, bears the scar of intimidation and repression. The military government with its numerous foot soldiers are relentless with their whips and guns. These are tough times. This is the historical background of Charles Solomon-directed sport-inspired Gold.
The film which occasionally employs the documentary style of filmmaking relies on historical football-related excerpts. Within its short timespan of 26 minutes, Gold leaps into the audience’s attention one of the often ignored aspects of sport: escapism. The family of James, which the short film focuses on, is a miniature of Nigeria. The political tone of the country is gloomy. This inspires a lack of enthusiasm for entertainment. But for sport lovers, the 1996 Olympic games, which inspired the title of this heavily historical short, football offers not just a 90-minute escape from the political turmoil in Nigerian society, it offers something else: a modicum of hope.
This makes it my third time seeing Adesola Oni’s short film, Gbese. The first time was at the indie-focused film festival, S16. The second time, Oni entrusted me with the link to watch his film for an interview I scheduled with him. Now, I am seeing it again. On each repeated viewing, the film leaps to the fore of mind with the distinctly detailed effort that went into making the film. Adesola Oni’s homage to Quentin Tarantino surges forward. The short film’s soundtrack, though similar to Obongjayar’s Message in a Hammer, is distinct. The Tarantino-influenced filmmaker’s film replay value subtly articulates a century-long view about appreciating art. Good art, in any form, should be appealing to its viewers at different points in their life.
Njoku S. Kehinde’s She was not at War, I was is deeply reflective and passionately confusing. The title bears the burden of the short film’s message. The title is one of the things the film got right. Shot on Techno Camon 19pro, the film pays homage to the site of a national tragedy event- the Owo Massacre. The film attempts to document the aftermath of the gruesome event. What does grief mean to the victims? Who defends the families of soldiers defending the country? Who offers solace to aggrieved people? The soothing balm of the church or the hollow words of politicians? These are questions the short interrogates.