Two Nigerian filmmakers face the prospect of imprisonment if they ignore the stern warning of the authorities and proceed with the release of a movie about a lesbian relationship.
The dramatic face-off with the regulators – the Nigerian Film and Video Censors Board (NFVCB) – is worthy of a film itself.
Producer Pamela Adie and director Uyaiedu Ikpe-Etim are determined that Ife (meaning “love” in the Yoruba language) reaches a Nigerian audience, but the NFVCB says it will not be approved as it violates the country’s strict laws on homosexuality.
To get around this, the filmmakers are planning a surprise online release to catch the regulators off-guard. The NFVCB, however, is diligently monitoring all digital platforms to prevent the movie from getting out.According to NFVCB boss Adebayo Thomas, Adie and Ikpe-Etim could be jailed for promoting homosexuality in a country where same-sex relationships are forbidden and can carry a 14-year sentence.
They are organising a private screening in the commercial capital, Lagos, at the end of the month, for which they believe they do not need to get permission.
Ife will also get an international premiere in Canada in October.
Adie said the aim of the film was to show an accurate picture of lesbian and bisexual women in Nigerian movies.
If a lesbian woman does appear in a standard Nollywood movie they are often portrayed as being possessed, influenced by bad friends or forced into homosexuality and always needing “saving”, she told the BBC.
“You rarely see stories about LGBT people, especially about queer [sic] women that speak to the realities of our lives.
“Ife was made to bridge the gap and to get the conversation going in Nigeria.”
Lesbian Equality and Empowerment Initiative, a non-profit organisation, has dragged the Corporate Affairs Commission before the Court of Appeal over the refusal to register it.
Pamela Adie, an LGBT activist, had in 2018 sued the commission for refusing to register the organisation but lost the case.
However, the activist disclosed on Twitter that she had filed a notice of appeal on the judgement delivered by the Federal High Court.
“Notice of appeal has been filed in the case of Pamela Adie V CAC. As some of you may be aware, I applied to register a non-profit called Lesbian Equality and Empowerment Initiative but was denied by the Nigerian government agency, CAC, because it said ‘lesbian’ was offensive.
“If you haven’t come out to yourself, it’s difficult to come out to [other] people … At first, it might look like a difficult task, like something that’ll never end or something that’ll keep going on but once you get over it, you’ll see that you have your whole life ahead of you.”
Pamela Adie’s words describe her documentary, Under the Rainbow, a film that serves as a ‘visual memoir’ about her personal journey of coming home to herself. Walking us through her experiences, the documentary, which is the first lesbian documentary from Nigeria, points to the realities of some sexual minorities in the country, particularly black lesbians who are often left out of conversations about equal rights.
Throughout her story, for every tablespoon about pain, there are three about comfort.
Her awareness and discomfort with the fixation with pain when it comes to narratives that centre queer experiences challenged her to share how rich queer people’s experiences are, to encourage people to look beyond the pain in the moment and to increase the visibility of multidimensional stories told by black Nigerian lesbians.
A federal high court in Abuja has dismissed a suit seeking to register a lesbian advocacy organization in Nigeria.
Lesbian activist Pamela Adie sued the Corporate Affairs Commission after her application to register her organization, Lesbian Equality and Empowerment Initiatives, was rejected on the grounds that the name was misleading, offensive, contrary to public policy and in violation of the Nigerian law prohibiting same-sex marriage.
The organization’s primary objective is to advocate for the rights of sexual minority women in Nigeria.