I can’t be the only one who cringes when we see certain topics being treated as the subject of a film. LGBT issues, sexuality and gender, often when these topics are tackled in film, it is always skewered to appeal to certain audiences instead of showing the reality of the situation. I am pretty much a walk cringe when the film tackles sex work, and when the industry doing the tackling is Nollywood. There have been some pretty horrible movies about sex work in Nigeria. Who can forget Domitilla, and all the many iterations of call girls that exist in Nollywood films to advance the plot.
So when I saw the trailers for Nigerian short film Bariga Sugar by Nigerian film maker Ifeoma Nkiruka Chukwuogo, I was both hopeful and apprehensive. Tina Mba is in the film, and she is seasoned in humanizing sex work as she actually became famous because of her role in the old tv serial sponsored by Nigerian Agency for the Prevention of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP) so that was something. The film’s young leads seemed charismatic and interesting enough that I wanted to see what stories they wanted to tell about them.
The film was finally given a public release on the 23rd of February and it has been a long time since a Nollywood film impressed me and made me feel, Bariga Sugar did that. It had a grittiness that wasn’t forced, it didn’t try to sugar coat the living and lived experiences of sex workers in Lagos, but it also humanized them and the main players who often get sidelined in portrayals; the children. Seeing sex work through the eyes of children was a welcome change and the fact that the story’s tragedy wasn’t as a result of some religious or social consequence of being a sex worker was refreshing.
It’s a film everyone should see.