TWO NIGERIAN filmmakers face prison if they release their film about a lesbian couple.
Pamela Adie and Uyaiedu Ikpe-Etim could be sentenced to up to 14 years in jail if they publish Ife.
Ife, which translates as “love” in Yoruba, follows the story of Ife and Adaora as they navigate their relationship.
It was produced in collaboration with Equality Hub, a non-governmental organisation focused on fighting social injustices against the Nigerian LGBTQ community.
Homosexuality and the promotion of homosexuality is forbidden in Nigeria, and punishable by up to 14 years in prison.
The Nigerian Film and Video Censors Board (NFVCB) has warned the filmmakers against the release of Ife.
Despite Adie and Ikpe-Etim’s efforts to ensure the film reaches a Nigerian audience, the government film agency announced they will not approve the release of Ife due to its violation of the country’s strict laws.
In an attempt to defy regulators, the filmmakers are planning a private screening in the capital, Lagos, at the end of the month. However, the NFVCB is doing all that they can to prevent the film release.
The filmmakers have also announced their intentions to stream a surprise online release and there will be an international premiere in Canada in October.
Executive director of the government Adedayo Thomas told CNN the film doesn’t conform with the country’s “constitution, morals and traditions”.
He added: “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.”
Adie and Ikpe-Etim are both advocates for the country’s lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and queer (LGBTQ) communities.
Adie said the aim of the film is to portray an honest perspective of lesbian and bisexual women in the Nigerian film industry. Adie told the BBC, a lesbian woman in Nollywood is typically depicted as “being possessed, forced into homosexuality” and needing “saving”.
She added: “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.”
Nigeria’s LGBTQ community has been deeply affected by homophobia for many years. A 2019 study by The Initiative for Equal Rights found that though acceptance of LGBTQ individuals has gradually increased in Nigeria, 60 per cent of Nigerians would still disown a family member who was LGBTQ.
Ikpe-Etim wants to continue to bring visibility to LGBTQ communities across Nigeria.
“As a member of an under-represented group, you are constantly at the mercy of people who don’t understand what it means to be queer. I knew if I wanted the society to view LGBTQ people in a different light, I had to tell the full story,” Ikpe-Etim said.
Despite the tumultuous journey, Adie said she has received an outpouring of support for Ife from audiences.
“It is something that is groundbreaking. We have received support, from when we released the poster to the trailer. It feels like people didn’t know they wanted this kind of content till now.”