Film festival organisers were on a collision course with the Zanzibari “thought police” after the island’s censorship board put restrictions on the screening of the Nollywood movie Mother of George. The edict was to either “black out” the film’s sex scenes or have the screening halted. Festival organisers cowered leaving a sour taste in the mouths of festivalgoers. Yet this is one of the better offerings from Nollywood if, like me, you have been put off by the low production values of much of the cinematic offerings from Nigeria; you know the Chineke-oh, melodramatic juju-plot-driven ones with derivative titles like Beyonce vs Rihana. Not so with the delightful Mother of George in which Adenike and Ayodele, a Nigerian couple living in Brooklyn, are having trouble conceiving a child. The problem defies cultural expectations and leads Adenike to make a shocking decision that could either save or destroy her family. Spoiler alert; she has sex with her brother-in-law if anything to keep the DNA in the family. It may be a no-no in modern times what with all the IVF alternatives around but it is the sort of subject that gets under people’s skins.
Uganda’s cinematic flag was flown by King’s Virgin, which raised more questions about whether the subject of the period film was still in practice today. Pity the director was not around to answer. A king is out to expand his harem by taking on a virgin bride. The chosen maiden doesn’t care about the elevation of her family to the status of in-laws to the king. Her affection is for her boyfriend who deflowers her just before her wedding night. The film raises issues around seemingly archaic practices like virginity tests and despite its low production values a la inconsistent audio and bad acting, it created resonance with the absolute monarchical situation in Swaziland where King Mswati takes a new bride every year at the reed dance.
One country that is visibly showing off its cinematic credentials is South Korea. Two short movies were enough to win festivalgoers over. Sit and Go takes us into the seedy underworld of Seoul where a brother has to beat a crime don at a high stakes poker game to rescue his sibling from the yoke of a chocking debt. It is a brilliantly executed movie; big on story and camera work that takes you to the underbelly of Seoul’s crime world. There was something of a homoerotic feel to Two Boys and a Sheep, the other South Korean short of the day, what with its Brokeback Mountain-esque cosiness of two teenage lads that lay on the hay in a tin outhouse belonging to an estranged middle-aged couple. The husband is a bunch of nerves and has growingly become more affectionate with his sheep than his bossy wife. He cannot even muster the courage to read her a love letter, the clever twist in the tale when the police show up to arrest the intruder lads. After Samsung, Hyundai and KIA, South Korea is definitely set to conquer the cinematic world too.
Text: MOSES SERUGO (firstname.lastname@example.org)