Lagos, Nigeria. The African International Film Festival (AFRIFF) is gearing up to showcase some of the most compelling and thought-provoking films from across the continent, and one of its official selections, ‘Tì ẹ Ńbọ̀,’ is already making waves. Directed by Chinazaekpere Chukwu, this five-minute short film offers a poignant glimpse into the lives of LGBTQ individuals in Nigeria, where being gay remains a criminal offence.
‘Tì ẹ Ńbọ̀,’ is produced by NKA Pictures, Gelax Chatroom, and Run8 Factory in Nigeria. The film takes viewers on a 5-minute journey into the life of Feranmi, a 19-year-old boy grappling with his feelings for his friend, Tolulope. In a society where homosexuality is stigmatised and illegal, Feranmi’s father becomes the embodiment of societal prejudice, going to extreme lengths to force his son to conform to his vision of “normal.”
Chinazaekpere Chukwu, the film’s director, shares her inspiration for ‘Tì ẹ Ńbọ̀:’ “I once stumbled on a picture of religious conversion therapy online, then I went on Facebook and asked about stories of gay people who had suffered conversion therapy. I got a lot of messages and decided to tell one person’s story because it was gut-wrenching.”
Chukwu’s film doesn’t shy away from the stark realities faced by LGBTQ individuals in Nigeria. She explains, “In Nigeria, being gay is a crime. But that’s just one part of the story. There are worse fates than the 14-year jail term promised by the government for being caught in the act. For Feranmi, his fate is having to deal with his homophobic family, especially his father, who found out about his sexuality and put him through all sorts of torture to ‘cure’ him.”
The film incorporates elements of true-life stories from gay people in Nigeria, offering a glimpse into their struggles and the urgent need for change. Chukwu’s directorial approach is a daring attempt to shed light on the harsh realities faced by LGBTQ individuals in the country. She emphasises, “Telling this story, for me as the director, is making an attempt, not the first, to put the realities of gay people out there, because my first advice to another gay person in Nigeria will be ‘run.'”
The character of Feranmi’s father, Papa Feranmi, is pivotal to the story, representing the entrenched societal views that LGBTQ individuals in Nigeria must confront. Chukwu explains, “Papa Feranmi is a religious Nigerian man who does not understand what is happening with his son. He is sad, frustrated, and disgusted and seeks to change him because he wants his child to be ‘normal’ again.”
The film’s title, ‘Tì ẹ Ńbọ̀,’ holds significant meaning, rooted in the Yoruba language. Chukwu clarifies, “‘Tì ẹ nbọ̀’ is a Yoruba saying meaning, ‘Your own is coming.’ It is a message for Tolulope, subtly passed on by his mother. To warn him, what may have happened to Feranmi would come for him too.”
Chukwu also reflects on the evolution of the film during production, acknowledging that the first cut differed markedly from the final product. She shares, “Between the first cut and the last cut, I watched a lot of Wong Kar Wai films, and I learned again, from scratch, that film is made in edit.”
‘Tì ẹ Ńbọ̀’ offers a powerful and emotional narrative that underscores the challenges faced by LGBTQ individuals in Nigeria. It’s a must-see film that promises to leave a lasting impact on its audience, shedding light on an important and often silenced issue.
The film’s official screening at AFRIFF is a significant step towards raising awareness and promoting discussions on LGBTQ rights in Nigeria and beyond.