B for Boy

A FILM which hopes to raise awareness around issues of religious and cultural injustices against women is screening at the Durban International Film Festival (Diff).

B For Boy, set in Nigeria, makes its South African premiere at the festival at a time when the country is about to commemorate Women’s Month next month. But as director Chika Anadu explains, the subject matter is not just confined to an African issue, but a worldwide problem.

The film tells the tale of Amaka, a successful career woman enjoying life in contemporary Nigeria. But tragedy subverts this apparent freedom when patriarchy in the guise of tradition infringes on her happiness and she finds herself desperate for a son. In order to salvage her relationship with her husband who is duty-bound to perpetuate the family name, Amaka goes to extreme lengths.

According to the film’s synopsis, B For Boy examines the choices of a middle-class Nigerian woman in a culture caught between tradition and modernity, and the pressure on women who may or may not fulfil the expected roles of wife and mother.

Commenting on the subject matter, Anadu said: “People always say you live with your first film your whole life and that’s why it’s your first film, and this has always been ‘normal’ for me, growing up and seeing these things happening to people I know. It’s always been something that has happened around me and I always found it to be both fascinating and sad,” she explained.

Anadu said she thought it would be interesting to show the issue in such a way as to make people think about what it does to these women who are under this pressure.

“And for them to think about whether this is fair. It’s not just a women’s rights issue, it’s a human rights issue. But it was important for me to show that, without judging the other side. Culture is very powerful. All culture relates to something that was made by someone, laws that were made by someone and therefore they can change.”

Asked if she felt that this kind of cultural pressure on women is a uniquely African problem, Anadu said she thinks these kinds of injustices are prevalent everywhere: “It just manifests in different forms. For us it’s this idea of a male child. But that’s also the case in India and China.

“In Western countries they are having to make laws for women to have equal pay (to their male counterparts) for equal work. Who would think that in 2014 they would be debating this in the United States Senate, isn’t that funny and sad?

“Sadly, it’s universal and it’s important for me that people see that and not just see this as a Nigerian or an African issue, but this is about a human rights issue and a worldwide issue that must be spoken about. Because when we talk about things there is more awareness and more of a chance for change,” she said.

But it’s a message that is not just targeted at a male audience: “One of the main things in my film is that these injustices against women are actually perpetrated by other women, that’s the irony… It can change with us (women) not trying to perpetuate the status quo. With us trying to protect ourselves instead of oppressing each other because it’s sort of a case of ‘I went through this, so who are you not to go through this’. It shouldn’t be that way, there should be a solidarity where women say, ‘actually, this is not okay’. We need to be our own saviours and stop the insanity.”

• You can catch B For Boy today at Cinema Nouveau at Gateway at 6pm. For more info see www.durbanfilmfest.co.za.