Nigerian filmmaker, Uyaiedu Ikpe-Etim threads a delicate path as she tackles lesbianism head-on in her new film titled “Ife,”.
The film maker said she intends to create space for queer characters in the second largest movie market in the world.
The 31-year-old producer has no fixed release date for ‘IFE’ but suggested it will be out before the end of the year.
Meanwhile, Nigeria’s film censors body said they may “go after the producers,” if they find that the film promotes homosexuality.
The National Film and Video Censors Board (NFVCB) is the government agency set up to regulate films and videos in Nigeria.
Adedayo Thomas, executive director of the NFVCB said the board will not approve films that promote themes that don’t conform with the country’s “constitution, morals and traditions.”
Thomas declated that: “We are monitoring the progress of the movie, and if it goes against the law by promoting homosexuality, we will be forced at some point to go after the producer and executive producer”
Thomas disclosed that ‘Ife’ was never submitted to the NFVCB before its trailer was released, making it impossible to classify or censor the film.
The producer argues that LGBTQ characters are described poorly in Nollywood and are viewed in problematic roles that encourage violence or judgment from viewers.
In her words: “I’m queer, so ‘Ife’ is dear to my heart. I wanted to represent LGBTQ characters in a different light than how they are shown in past stories, to change how heterosexuals view them”. The story hinges on two women Ife and Adaora and the uncertainty surrounding their relationship.
She hinted further on the storyline: “They come into problems when they are not certain of the future of their relationship considering that these two women live in Nigeria which is a homophobic country,”
Ikpe-Etim is an advocate for the country’s lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, and queer (LGBTQ) community.
The movie is created in partnership with Equality hub, an NGO in Nigeria focused on fighting social injustices against sexual minorities. “Ife’” means love in the Yoruba language, spoken in West Africa, and most prominently in southern Nigeria.
Nigerians are highly religious people and largely non-receptive to this kind of ‘queerness’ being thrown in their face.
Homosexuality is illegal in Nigeria via a Same-Sex Marriage (Prohibition) Act of 2014 that says anyone found guilty of same-sex marriage faces up to 14 years in prison.
A 2019 survey by The Initiative for Equal Rights (TIERS), a Nigerian human rights organization, found that 75% of people in the country support the continued enforcement of the anti-gay laws.